I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that with casual items like T-shirts, polo shirts and shorts I like simple designs, clean lines and plain colours. I first became interested in Orlebar Brown because I wanted swimming shorts that met all of those criteria. I remained interested because of the technical and craft aspects of their shorts.

Most swimming shorts are made out of two identical panels of material, stitched together, with a one-piece waistband running around the top. You make them fit with a drawstring.

Orlebar Brown swim shorts have a four-piece waistband. This allows the pieces to be curved, ending up higher at the back and lower at the front. The main body of the short is also cut in two pieces at front and back (again allowing the shape to be different) and the back pieces are darted above the pocket, to help that fit above the rear.

This isn’t rocket science – it’s how any half-decent pair of trousers is made, bespoke or not. But few companies bother to do it with swimming shorts. The shape you can achieve with these panels also means the line of the leg can be better controlled.

“I’m over 40 now and rather more hesitant about taking my clothes off in public,” admits founder Adam Brown. “When I do, a short that fits like this through the back and rear, down into a clean leg line, is great because it’s more flattering. That applies to anyone, fat or thin, whatever age.”

You can see his point. The draw-string model, which tends to be rather shapeless and bunch all the cloth together around the waist, is hardly becoming.

Other nice aspects: the fly is constructed in the same multi-panel way, producing a short that you can wear to a café or restaurant without the risk of popping out; the side pockets are angled forward and contain good, deep bags; and there is a strap-and-buckle on each side to get the fit just right.

Having tried other products in the range, I can also attest to the T-shirts and the long-sleeved polo shirts. Both are cut to curve slightly downwards in the front and back hem, meaning they look good untucked but don’t bunch at the sides. It’s much more practical than the polo model with one long tail at the back and a short one at the front.

My only criticism of the polo shirt at the moment would be that the collar is a little short in the stand, and unstructured. This makes it too floppy to wear with a jacket. Adam tells me the next iteration of the shirt will change this though. Nice to know.

The swimming shorts are all made of a polyamide, like any short, but in an unbrushed version that gives them a nicer, cotton-like handle. They are all made – and the various pieces of cloth and hardware come from – various places around the EU, including France, Italy and Portugal.

To see aspects of the construction, have a look at the ‘Inside OB’ video here.

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Richard Ginsburg

Coincidentally I ordered some Orlebar Brown terry-towelling polos this Spring… Not their main line of business, but the polos are really comfortable and I think look fantastic!


Just curious as to your thoughts on the fit for these swim trunks. I’m a tremendous fan of the construction of the trunks, but they are so low cut in the front as to border on obscene (the “abercrombie” approach, if you will). Certainly not classic styling, in my view.


In advertisements, they are worn by all models significantly below the hip bone in front. When I’ve had opportunity to try them on, I’ve also found this to be where the front waistband falls. Is that not the case when you’ve tried them? Are there specific models that can be worn at a more natural point in the waist (for those of us who don’t want their pelvic muscles on constant display)?


Good call… theyre shorts, not nipple warmers.

Peter B

Hi Simon, sorry to bring you back to an old post, but I’m in the market for some good swim shorts. Do you still use Orlebar Brown’s? And how does the polyamide perform? Thanks in advance.

Peter B

Thank you!


Dear Simon,

I understand your preferences, I’m too a loyal customer of Orlebar Brown, but: what do you think of other alternatives? I’m thinking about those of Fedeli (and Fedeli for Drake’s) and Vilebrequin, classical beach styles but colorful. Do you consider other alternatives? Sundek? How many swimming shorts for a week do you usually pack?

Best regards


Thank you, Simon for your kind answer. Talking about colours in swimming shorts: which ones you would consider? Obviously talking about Orlebar Brown palette.


Pastel blue or pink?

Giovan Battista

After a week of intensive use of two pairs of swim shorts, I can confirm that design and materials are very good. They even withstood sandcastles and baths with my young daugther!

The only thing that puzzles me is why they don’t make size 35. Since I’m not in perfect shape (and far from being a greek god like the models on the website), size 34 fits very slim. It’s still ok for moving and swimming, but not for keeping my hands in the pockets or sitting for a long time.

And of course size 36 is very comfortable but too loose and roomy in the fit, and a bit baloonish (for PS readers / sartorialist madmen like us).

I guess I’ll need to get in shape and answer myself next summer…


While the post is 10 years old, I have just tried OB boardshorts. It is certainly a quality item, corresponding to a price tag. This is the second boardshort I’ve bought outside the mainstream. I live north of Sydney and a standard choice is something like a Ripcurl for around $100AUD. I have an issue with a fit. The short are low rise sitting well below the waist. It might be all good for hanging around the pool but not swimming in the Pacific ocean. When your shorts are that low and there is no string around the waist to keep them extra tight you risk to come out without the short fro the water. I don’t mind the side adjusters, but the rise is not practical.