Swimming shorts: Simple, tasteful, flattering

Wednesday, July 19th 2023
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I haven’t written about swimming shorts for a long time. Other than a passing reference on our regular ‘holiday snaps’ articles, it’s been over a decade since they were covered on PS.

Even back then, it was a pretty short article about Orlebar Brown. I took the time to interview the founder, which most bloggers wouldn't bother to do, and it went into some technical detail about the make and pattern cutting. But there wasn’t much general guidance. 

My feelings about swim shorts haven’t really changed in the 12 intervening years. I still feel that what suits most men is a simple style in a comfortable, often slightly shorter cut, with a good make and minimal detailing. 

No logos or ‘funny’ patterns, no prints of a Slim Aarons photo or, worse, something James Bond-related. Why would you want to reference James Bond by wearing something he would never go near?

Anyway, I thought I’d take the opportunity of being near a pool this summer to illustrate these thoughts on what makes good swim shorts, and give some recommendations. 

In terms of cut, swimming shorts should be roomy - not baggy, but usually the danger is more the other way, with a certain guy wearing skin-tight swim shorts in the same way he wears skin-tight casual shorts, or stretch chinos. There is the idea that this is more flattering when I’m not sure it is. 

Swim shorts also look good with a fairly short inseam - perhaps five or six inches. Of course the proportions depend on height, but these are sports shorts and my rationalisation is they look better when they give the impression of freedom of movement. Mid-thigh or thereabouts. Those pictured are five inches. 

This leads onto points about colour and pattern - style. I like this kind of length because it’s moderate, unremarkable. There is no attempt there to make a style statement, by wearing tiny stretchy shorts or at the other extreme, knee-length board shorts. 

Pattern is similar. Nothing wrong with a little micro-pattern if you want, but the aim is not to make a statement. No bold zigzags or little dancing bananas. 

Which in turn leads onto colour. While brands will often offer a swim short in something classic like navy, most of the other colours are usually bright - scarlet, pale blue, lemon yellow. 

These bright colours certainly look better on holiday in the sun than anywhere else, but that doesn’t mean they suit most people even then, unless they have a strong tan. 

Given most men will only have one pair of swim shorts, it also makes sense for them to be versatile. A bright-yellow linen shirt can be lovely in the summer, but if you only had one shirt, it wouldn’t be yellow; chances are it would be white. 

There should be more sophisticated colours out there - tobacco, dark brown, olive, not just navy and black. I know these colours are harder in synthetic materials, but it is possible - it’s the reason I impulse-bought the (definitely overpriced) Hermes ones pictured; they were such a great colour.

Lastly, make and material. I’ve tried perhaps a half dozen brands and materials in the past decade and the biggest difference I’ve found is weight. (Readers, please do chip in as always with your experiences.)

The polyesters and nylons don’t vary that much in feel, but if the material is too light, and there is a drawstring or elasticated waist, they quickly look like boxer shorts. It doesn’t help if you’ve gone for a ‘jazzy’ stripe that could well be the colour of your boxers too.  

We want something that looks like regular shorts rather than boxer shorts. Details like a drawstring rather than elastic help, as do pockets, but the weight makes the biggest difference. 

On the subject of make, I’m no longer much of a fan of the Orlebar side-adjusters style. It looks a little fussy for a swim short, but a little cheap for a proper short: I’d rather have one or the other. 

In fact, I should go through an update some of those earlier posts about Orlebar polos and swim shorts - if indeed readers still find them through search. Let me know. 

A last style point: I’d always avoid logos and branding. You wouldn’t have it on your normal shirts or shorts, so I don’t know why it’s necessary here. 

Here are a few other brands I’ve tried over the years. Once more, do let me know which you like and why - there are a lot out there.

  • Hemingsworth: Like the Orlebar Brown style, but better. Expensive (£200) but with nicer side adjusters, a mother-of-pearl button and other details. 
  • Patagonia Baggies: The versatile go-anywhere option. Big fit, great maker, nothing luxury about them but good value (£60).
  • Mr P: As with a lot of Mr Porter’s own-brand range, good make and good value. A cleaner style than the Baggies for a similar price of £65. 
  • Ripa Ripa: A start-up (you get a lot in this area) with some nice touches. Clean fit, rope drawstring and some fairly sophisticated colours including olive; €105. Shame about the branding on the back.
  • Orlebar Brown: They’ve become steadily more expensive over the years, and Hemingsworth is better made, but if you like the style they have a really big range including different lengths. 
  • Fedeli: The Italian maker’s swim shorts are sold quite widely, but they’re a little expensive (£160) and too light a material for me.
  • TIMO: Sold at Trunk, a very simple make but with the advantage of a nice olive colour. Shame again about the logo on the back. 

Note: These are shorts for holiday, for the beach, for the holiday pool. Not necessarily actual sports shorts for swimming 30 lengths every day. 

Other clothes shown: Black Nonpareil polo, Rubato; ‘Californian’ sunglasses, EB Meyrowitz.

Photographed at the COMO Castello del Nero hotel and resort, Tuscany, by Milad Abedi.

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A recent mistake I made was to pick up a pair of The Real McCoys cotton drill swim shorts in red. Although I think the shorts look fantastic as a softer visual to the polyester/nylon blends they simply don’t dry in a reasonable timeframe. Anderson & Sheppard currently provide my less beach/more pool side pair with a simple small repeating geometric print and I can recommend.


Hahaha oh dear, you may be right.

It’s not best clear on their site….. hmm!


very miss leading if they are called swim shorts. The description on the site doesn’t confirm either way. It may have been lost in translation but id say its rather poor either way. Should be clearer.


I think they are definitely not. They even make a corduroy version, which are definitely not fit for swimming.
They also make “climbing shorts” in a hefty denim, which you would never want to climb in…


I’ve only just seen that they do a corduroy version so yes I agree with Simon and your comment; I went for the appeal of the look and hoped for the practicality, which wasn’t how they were evidently designed.

Regarding the climbing shorts… I do actually boulder in their climbing shorts. Not the denim ones but the style is actually consistent with climbing attire hence the name.

Aaron L

Somehow it feels strange that it’s all synthetic. I suppose there are good reasons. I vaguely recall something about pool hygiene. Any thoughts on the topic?


I have a several pairs of Polo Ralph Lauren seersucker swim shorts and board shorts that were bought half-price in summer sales over the last decade. The former are 70% cotton/30% polyester and their price has been hiked to £99. The latter are 100% cotton but no longer available. The swim shorts dry as quickly as polyester but, being 100% cotton, the board shorts naturally take a bit longer. Due to the mid to high rise and lightweight fabric, PRL’s seersucker swimwear is very comfortable and ideal for very hot weather.

100% cotton seersucker shirts and shorts have been offered recently by several other well-known brands, e.g. Private White VC, John Simons, William Crabtree, Hartford, and Portuguese Flannel. They don’t have logos if that’s a deal-breaker for some. I’m sure others will be able to recommend seersucker garments from other brands as it’s obviously in fashion at the moment.

Eric Twardzik

Recently Vilebrequin put out a pair of trunks in Super 120s wool. They actually perform quite well, but they are indeed slower to dry.


In fact, I should go through an update some of those earlier posts about Orlebar polos and swim shorts – if indeed readers still find them through search. Let me know.”
I for one definitely do – after your top 10 post including Patagonia Baggies I wanted to remind myself of others you’d previously recommended.


I will admit this is something that I have never thought about spending more money on. I bought my current swim shorts more than three years ago at H&M for what now would be the equivalent of 12 pounds. Navy, drawstring, two side pockets, maybe a back one (I am not sure as I never use it), a length just like this one, internal mesh. They look great with the linen shirts I usually wear to the beach. After a lot of use (and washes) they don’t have a single loose thread, the drawstring is perfect like the first day (something I can’t say about my Adidas tennis shorts that costed three times the price, for example). Usually H&M is terrible quality but I can’t say a thing about these shorts.


i think its often worth remembering that whilst this site focuses on the niece/ luxury, cheaper options are always available and aren’t always necessarily inferior on balance. Not everything needs to be exclusive. Indeed the best dressed people i know would include items such as you describe in their day to day wear. There’s nothing more tiresome than someone who must have every garment from somewhere luxury, unusual, niche or otherwise. To much good taste is vulgar.


The need to flaunt luxury goods is vulgar, and what’s more it looks like you’re trying too hard, but I don’t think there can ever be “too much” good taste. For what it’s worth, good taste is the opposite of vulgarity.

Anyway, back on the subject of swim shorts, I disagree that a roomy cuts necessarily looks better. As far as I’m concerned, the best-looking swim shorts I’ve seen are those sported by Paul Newman in this picture:comment image
I also think bright teal or turquoise is a great color, even when you don’t have a tan (though it obviously looks even better if you do).


from what i can tell, the Orlebar Brown Setter is closest to this


These shorts do look great but i think allot of that is the Paul Newman looks great. A man with that physique and those looks would look great in all but the most horrible shorts. I agree though that the tighter fit is great and very complimentary for anyone with a slimmer or more athletic physique.

With respect to having too much good taste the thing that is vulgar is that it can make others feel uncomfortable and it can be intimidating. Allot of the rules, dress codes, expectation of decorum etc are designed not to make those in your company not feel uncomfortable or to put them in an uncomfortable position. To much good taste can do this. Whilst some find good taste easy and are comfortable in there decisions, others don’t. I have witnessed this with people in know. My wife is a designer and we both have an interest in this field and that of clothes. When we bring friends along who are outside of this world into a situation with us and others we know who are like minded you can see there is a self-consciousness or an intimidation on the part of those outside the so called ‘world of good taste’. I believe Ethan Newton has touched on this before, or though i cant recall for certain.


Of course it helps that it’s Paul Newman. But frankly even he wouldn’t look so great in swim shorts were he overweight, no matter how short or roomy the cut was.

And it seems to me you’re really conflating good taste with ostentation. Usually it’s so subtle hardly anyone notices. It’s a bit like saying you shouldn’t be too intelligent for fear of making people feel bad about themselves — which is totally different from being an obnoxious know-all.

Here’s another example of swim shorts that look good:comment image
The rise looks a bit too low on those however for my taste (a topic that hasn’t been touched on in this post).


Couldn’t agree more!


haha, caveated just in time! i was going to mention that these are very much casual beach/ pool shorts assessed purely on style. A couple of points i would note being a regular swimmer. I have had a pair of Orlebar Brown trunks and they have help up well with little to no fading in spite of being used in a chlorinated pool on a regular basis. I would say tough that i find the style somewhat stuffy. They feel a little up tight and not very louche. I have also had some cheaper pairs in recycled nylon which have basically disintegrated in Chlorine. They begin by fading allot and then the fabric became brittle and tared very easily. I would avoid cheaper recycled fabrics on this basis but would also say i swim several time a week so if you a couple of time a years kind of guy it would probably be fine.
I have actually switched now to speedo’s – in the sense your imagining when i say that word – i.e tight fitting briefs. Tis was partly performance based [less drag] but also style driven. Indeed this form of swimming attire is very common across a lot of Europe but has been neglected in this article. I agree there not for everyone but i actually really like them so wouldn’t rule them out for others. Often these things become out of bounds due to the connotations – every in the UK knows the joke about speedo’s in a sort of you wouldn’t dare/ you’d look ridiculous way – which ends up stifling the available style options and closing down the options. Long live the banana hammock!


For an even more budget friendly option (£35), I can recommend the navy swim shorts from Arket. I’ve had mine for three years now. No logo, flattering cut (shorter inseam like those discussed above) and inside key pocket. They have an olive colour too.


A last style point: I’d always avoid logos and branding. You wouldn’t have it on your normal shirts or shorts, so I don’t know why it’s necessary here.” In the photos at the top of Monday’s article on Sartoria Ripsense, Andrea Luparelli was wearing a Polo Ralph Lauren shirt with a green polo logo. Did you discuss that point with him? If so, what was his view?


I had forgotten that Manish wrote the article. I asked the questions because I snapped up a couple of PRL authentic bleeding Madras shirts in my local TK Maxx for only £50. PRL’s RRP for Madras shirts is now £189 upwards so they were a real bargain. The logos are the same as the background check, so discreet and therefore not a problem.

If anyone is interested, PRL has offloaded a lot of old and recent stock, e.g. plaid OCBDs, to TK Maxx. They’re not available online so you have to search through the racks which is a real pain. The big savings, however, may justify the time and trouble.


Im very fair and so pale coloured shorts look awful on me, but dark colours wear hot to the touch in bright sunshine in my experience. I’ve enjoyed wearing Bulldog model from OB for years (in a colour that suits) and agree the price is now steep. I don’t like drawstrings on anything I would wear, so always on the look out for a flat waistband with a popper and a 6 or 7″ inseam.


I tried OB a few years back and didn’t like them. I found the fabric slow to dry and the side adjuster annoying. I guess I should have been surprised since don’t like side adjusters on trousers, so don’t know why I expected it would be OK on swim trunks.

I’ve been using Fedeli now for a few years. The Madeira model is a nice length, the patterns tend to be subtle, the colours are summery without being too loud, and the fabric dries pretty quickly.


Hi Simon! I can confirm that Mr. P. has some good stuff. I’ve got one of their seersucker swim shorts and they tick all the boxes you mention above. Tasteful colours/patterns, good moderate cut and they dry reasonably quickly. Good for the beach but also for a beachside restaurant for lunch when combined with a polo or linen shirt.


I wear my second Fedeli swimming short after using the first one during 5 years. Colours stayed stable . I appreciate the quickness to dry and I love some of their sophisticated not too showy patterns.


You can actually see James Bond wearing swim shorts in several movies. I have a pair of dark blue Orlebar Brown Goldfinger inspired from 2019 that is fantastic.

Simon, there’s one thing that you didn’t mention that is important in my view: the mesh inside the shorts. In my experience, Orlebar Brown makes the best since the holes are not big. They certainly feel more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time when you are sitted.


Maybe Simon was referring to this type of thing.

Ian A

Yes, they look awful like something a teenager would wear on his first Club 18-30 holiday!

Chris G

I appreciate the versatility of the ‘smarter’ swimshort, but I have been disappointed with the quality of my Orlebars. The zip and the button have broken after not much use. So I’m interested in investigating the Hemmingsworth option.
Vilebrequin is another luxury swimwear brand. It is much more colourful in style. It isn’t for me but I don’t have a problem with it. A lot of ‘permanent style’ menswear eschew patterns and overbold colours, but surely on holiday, swimwear is an area where men can experiment and have a bit more fun?

Peter Hall

Moncler swim shorts are fabulous often having a fly, ,waist band and pockets. They usually have a button rear pocket. Made of a tough nylon .

They are very expensive,but last forever.

Stephen B

Simon, I love to read your articles but had yet to comment. However as a swimmer I perhaps felt I should write something for this one.
I am a fan of OB as whilst expensive they have lasted and the closer fit means you can both swim in them without feeing like you are being dragged down by the bagginess and look good at the bar and on the sun lounger. I would never train in them as that is for Lycra jammers.
I do feel there is a place for more daring colours by the pool though. Perhaps not the jazzy patterns but something more exuberant for the sun and holidays. I reread the article about pink yesterday and thought some pink swim shorts could be in order.


Dear Simon, You did not mention VILEBREQUIN, did you never try them? I know they have all kinds of bold designs, but also sell a classic model. Always interesting to read your blog.


Hello Simon, there are some nice Vilebrequin merino shorts, in flattering grey and blue. They pretty relaxed, really different from the nylon ones and are nice to wear.


The do have a nice olive color made from virgin wool. I am very interested to try them, they claim wool would be perfect for swim trunks… Shame they are branded in the back as well as many others.


Thanks for the article Simon, as always. You are probably right and it looks like many readers agree with you but I like my swim shorts with a cheery colourful pattern. I have several Villebrequin ones that perform really well and are spot on in terms of length and shape. And some nice colour combination such as mid blue and orange and navy and green. I have some plain shorts as well but they never leave the closet, just too plain / boring. Sunshine, swimming and the fact that you wear them with nothing else or just a simple shirt or t-shirt on top calls for a bit of colour and pattern in my view.


Absolutely. Thanks for taking the time to respond, as always


Great post and I would agree to your point about Orlebar haven’t gotten more and maybe even too expensive by now. One thing they do great however for versatility are their pockets. Besides having proper side pockets making them function quite well as real shorts when close to the beach, the little back-pocket with a zipper has become a must for me now. Living close to the water, I can easily go out and go swimming without leaving behind my house key or credit card unobserved. Likewise it makes it possible to go running on a holiday without having your room key or phone jump frantically up or down as they will in many front pockets (although the pocket is not big enough for many newer phones, it should be added.


Simon, how did you find the Rubato polo compared to other similar knitted polos? And what size did you go for?




Simon I have to disagree with you on this one my friend.
I think knee length board shorts are a better choice. When seated they ride up to a modest length. The short shorts only look good whilst standing up.
Also I would advice readers to get some buggy smugglers/jockey shorts/triangular swimmers to wear underneath their board shorts for modesty. No one wants to see your genitals silhouette through your wet board shorts. Simon has thankfully spared us in the photos.
The board shorts with an interlining of underwear are good in a pool or a placid ocean, but if there’s churning sand from waves they just fill up with sand and are a drag to clean.
I buy PRL boardies with or with or without small logos. I prefer madras ones, but I think boardies are a place to let loose if your so inclined.
The elegant choice is to wear a short or long john swim suit and not board shorts. Trying to find elegant board shorts is like trying to catch smoke with your bare hands.


I own a pair of Ripa Ripa shorts and recommend them – the tag on the waistband can be unpicked in about 5 minutes, which I’ve done. The pattered varieties fade nicely with use.


Hello Simon
I used to wear Orlebar Brown swimming shorts but since the lifestyle-factor is now obviously reflected in the price I have been searching for alternatives.
I bought a pair of Hemingsworth shorts and I like the quality and their understatement, also as mentioned by you they are somewhat expensive.
As an inexpensive alternative I found these: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08ZYV6JQ2?ref_=pe_27063361_487360311_302_E_DDE_dt_1
They company is called Aventrus and at £43.00 they are quite good value.
They come with side adjusters, strong press studs, a sipper back pocket and – important for me – no branding except a little tag that can be cut off.
There is a nice olive colour available too. The make is good also obviously not on par with Hemingsworth.
On the down-side I have found that they are slightly narrow at the hem, which can be annoying when they are wet and that they are made in China.
I wonder what you make of them.
Best regards


Hi Simon,
Pretty much agree with all your points. I tend to go for plain navy or red as easy to match with tops, although I have to compliment you on the tobacco colour. The length is important not just for styling, but also as one doesn’t want a tan line lower than on regular short! Weight is also important as I find if too lightweight they:can cling or ride up around the upper thighs. As you say these are for dips in a holiday pool or the sea.
For information should readers be interested, for swimming as a workout, I would recommend Speedo v-cut thigh length jammers.

Eric Michel

Fedeli for me for thé reason you do not like them: they are very light and then dry very fast. Available in all colours and patterns. Always have 2 or 3 of them when in summer holidays…


I second Fedeli as a good go-to. The lightweight material has an unexpectedly nice hand feel and dries very quickly, even the less conventional colors are attractive, and the micro patterns are generally tasteful and are basically imperceptible from any reasonable distance. They’re not cheap but also not extravagantly priced. The fish-shaped carabiner feels at first like an eccentric frill, but is actually nice when it comes time to hang the shorts to dry.
The one downside is that the lightweight material makes them less versatile than some other choices — e.g. it’s harder to imagine wearing them around a beach town for the afternoon pre- or post-swim without feeling a little exposed.


Thanks for great article Simon, I’ve thought about some of your points in the past but never articulated them!
Being from Australia swim shorts are a must have item. Boardies (non elasticated and usually longer shorts traditionally for surfing, usually low rise and in flashy patterns) are fine in a tanned fit surfer but really unflattering if the wearer is not, nothing worse than low rise boardies with a pot belly and bum crack poking out the back (pls excuse the image!) There has also been the in vogue too tight too short look which I’ve tried and is so uncomfortable in the midst of hot summer when trying to relax. Worse still are ‘budgie smugglers’ or basically low cut briefs/undies, blokes should just not wear this stuff.
Anyway, pre kids, my wife and I stayed at a very luxe resort in 2016 and from their gift shop I bought a pair of plain navy ‘Mazu resortwear’ shorts in navy and despite having many other swim shorts these are still my go-to pair. Perfect mix of not too baggy not too fitted and decent quality


I have two pairs from Mr Marvis (Netherlands), one in navy and the other one striped (see links). I like their make and I also like that they have a hidden metal zipper for the pockets. At EUR 100 resp. EUR 110 they are good value, I believe.


The colour on those from Hermes is quite nice and unexpected. Makes me think maybe I’ll consider a more interesting colour when my current shorts wear out.
What size are you wearing in the Rubato, by the way?


Hello Simon,
In the comments on this post you mentioned you took a small in a Rubato polo. Is this the same polo?
Don’t mean to contradict you, just wanted to confirm!


Paul H

You piqued my curiosity with the Hermes shorts. On reviewing, I don’t see your color on the site. Are they are a prior year model? If this year’s, are they the “H Fantome” model? That model has an interesting feature/branding approach! Lastly, how you find the sizing of the Hermes shorts?
Many thanks!


Quiksilver Everyday 15 inch (5 inch inseam) swim shorts in Navy are my go to pair – great value!

I’m in Canada so not sure availability in UK/EU.


Sunspel is selling swimwear in “hunter green” (which sure looks like olive to me). I generally also dislike wild patterns, but I do like relatively subdued tonal patterns that almost appear to be mononchrome from a distance (after all, if there were ever an appropriate place for wearing something with an interesting pattern, then it must be the pool). Here’s an example. https://us.sunspel.com/products/men-s-swimshort-in-seaweed-tropics-print-mshr3705p-gnft.


The Rubato polo looks great. Did you go for a medium?


From my personal experience (and taste), I confess I still consider the OB Setter as my ultimate swim shorts, despite the inflated price tag from the first ones I bought some 10 years ago.
They have the perfect length to me.
I consider they are much more comfortable than shorts with elasticated waistbands which can leave some marks on the skin.
I tried Hemingsworth (through Fox) and find them too long (similar to OB Bulldog) and the fabric is not as good (I end up ironing them as it is less creaseless and stiff than the OB fabric).
Also tried Ripa for their nice prints but the colors faded almost immediatly.
So I always end up coming back to the Setter for different plain colors.


For stuff like swim shorts and other simple summer/beach garments I would just go for one of the bargain chains we have in Scandinavia/Norway such as HM or my preferably Cubus (which is usually somewhat better quality than HM).

Swim shorts such as these are great value:



Charles B

Hi Simon, on your comment about updating old articles: I’d be against that, I think a small blurb at the top stating you’ve changed your views or covered it more extensively in a new article and linking to it would be fine, but anything else would be rewriting history.


Last summer I purchased a pair of E.Marinella swim shorts. They are a sky blue with the rear pocket flap having a geometric pattern. Only one summer old but they performed well; quick drying and a great leg shape. Much cheaper than my older Orlebar Brown ones and as good quality if not a touch better

Kettle Broth

I would love to wear the posh version of the Orlebar Browns you mention – but I can not imagine wearing anything with a mesh lining for more than an hour – they aren’t great looking but I just spent a week in corfu and lived in a pair of of trunks from Amazon with a sort of cycle short style lining. Swim, lunch, swim – so comfortable.

Kettle Broth

Fair Harbour – is the brand – honestly they are brilliant to wear – maybe not so to look at.


I purchased a pair by Orlebar Brown. I wasn’t put off so much by the hefty price tag, but I was by the fact that they quickly faded and stretched out.

in general, I think they do a good job with creating an image, but the quality doesn’t match the price point. I’m looking forward to trying some of the other brands that you mentioned.

Ian A

Yes that’s been my experience! They are all hideously expensive for the quality even when heavily discounted. Which is not something you could say about Private White VC outerwear for example, particularly at discount.


I normally agree with most of your opinions but I disagree here that swim shorts should avoid prints and patterns because it feels like one of the few times you can get away with wearing something bolder. The only pair of swim shorts (indeed the only pair of shorts) I own have a navy base with a tropical bird print. I impulse bought them from M&S several years ago and have not regretted it. The quality has also been solid, looking none the worse for wear after swimming in the sea and sitting on stony beaches.

Most of my clothing is very conservative in style and colour (90% of my wardrobe is grey and blue), so I like having a very occasional statement piece and swim shorts feels like a fairly safe way to do it given that I only wear them at the pool or the beach. Maybe it’s also because the print feels authentic on me because I actually have multiple pet parrots.


Hi Alan, I was thinking (almost) the same.
Much like ties, swimming shorts would seem to be a garment where a splash of color is traditionally accepted. And much like on a tie, a print or pattern could be beautiful or awful. I would argue it’s hard to categorically describe the types that fall in one or the other category.
More generally, the problem with arguing for or against a certain type of swimming trunks by how “flattering” it is, is that swimming trunks are a rather standalone piece that are necessarily framed by your body rather than vice-versa, as clothing would usually. In other words: they are neither going to make you look good or bad.
As regards color, what matches will depend on your skin tone. Among the readership of this site, I think it would also be hard to make a general statement in this regard.
So i.m.o., here it’s mostly about personal preference and associations. And perhaps more than in any other situation, what makes you comfortable will make you look good.

Randy Ventgen

I’ve had a pair of trunks from Paul & Shark for a long time; beautiful mid-blue, comfortable.


Thanks Simon, very interesting! I noticed you also recommended patagonia of which I am a big fan, but they do use logos/branding, albeit small and discreet. Can you please comment on where you draw the logo line?


I’ve never paid much attention to swim shorts until you wrote about Peplor a while ago. I bought their M29 Swim Trunks and absolutely love everything about the shorts particularly the fit.
Since then i’ve always wanted to get a pair of shorts in a similar fit but made in lighter materials. Can you recommend any shorts that fit the bill here, Simon?


Thanks Simon – thought so myself re: army shorts design so was going to get the Real McCoys “swim” shorts myself until I saw the responses to the comment above!

Pedro Vidal

I love my Peplor trunks, I’m constantly rotating between those, some Patagonia baggies, and vintage Polo RL pleated shorts (6” inseam) all summer.


Lovely, thank you. What about toweling solutions? A Terry cloth shirt? A robe? Just a towel? I’m moving to a building with a pool so I’m searching for something that will allow for a covered and dry, yet minimalistic, transition through the lobby and elevator. Less of an issue in the lovely photos posted here.


Ah, perfect. Just what I needed. Any experience with bath robes, by the way?


I’ve had a few pairs of OB shorts – some hits some misses, I bought a discounted photo-print pair which I’ve hardly worn and found another pair that faded not long after wearing them. Though to their credit they did replace them as it fell within their 5 year guarantee.Their prices have crept up over the years and I purchased a pair of Hemingsworth’s gurkha waistband short which I love. Yes it’s a bit fiddly but I do think they look elegant and do a better job of embodying OB’s original selling point of smart shorts to wear in and out of the pool. Still they’re not cheap, and it would be nice if they had a wider range of colours.
I’m all for a subtle print but the OB ones all seem too loud – a faint check or herringbone (if possible with the fabric) would be lovely.
How are Hemingsworth faring? I was under the impression that they might have gone under and merely selling remaining stock as the website doesn’t seem to have been updated, and I had no reply from customer services about a query.


I’m super happy to see this post. I’ve been trying to avoid plastics as much as possible and wondering what kinds of swimwear and athletic shorts people wore before synthetics. Every time I look for brands, I see tons of options for women and basically none for men. The best you typically see is recycled plastics which is admittedly an improvement as far as sustainability goes. But I’d still like to avoid plastics on the skin as much as possible. Any thoughts?


Thanks again for the Patagonia recommendation. They are incredibly useful throughout summer (beach, pool, workout, with the kids, just at home after work and a shower) and the cut of the 5 inch version is a dream. I find the pale pink color extremely versatile, although my girlfriend was not supportive with that choice.

george rau

That brown color next to white skin makes you look very unhealthy. I second the gentleman who posted about the green seersucker striped trunks. I much prefer lighter brighter colors, anything that looks like it should live in the water seems right to me


Did the shorts cost like 500? ?


OK that justifies it then when one seeks the best 🙂

Marcus Smith

Sorry, may have missed somewhere— but what are your brown shorts in the article Simon?

Bo Wright

Did anyone mention Birdwell Beach Britches yet? These have all the right stuff. I prefer the classic mid-length Surfnyl 310’s, but also have the Surfstretch 807’s. Can’t lose either way.

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I thoroughly agree with your point about prints and funny patterns. For me these are all a big no-no too.
I have several pairs of OB swim shorts from the early years and still like them. At the current prices I am not sure I will buy any more but I do find the variety in available legnths a plus point (I prefer the Bulldog, mid legnth).
I like to pair them with good quality polos which I usuall buy in Italy but last year I purchased to fabulous knitted linen polos from Timoth Everest which are exceptional quality and very comfortable to wear, looking equaly at homer when worn with the OB swimshorts or with tailored linen trousers.


How about CDLP and their limited selection of swimwear? There is some subtle branding on the back, but they look great and well made (particularly the “Deck Shorts”), assuming the quality is similar to CDLP underwear.


Interesting suggestions although im very difficult in swimming shorts. I grew up in Greece and i used to swimm 100 days a year on the long summer. I have tried so many of them i cant even remember and i reached a time i had 10 so i started reducing. What was left was only swimm stuff from sport brands. You cant win a speedo or nike one if you have luck and find one without contrast branding. I do sports and most shorts look good on me and thats the most important here for me, to be in a good form, if you are fat you wont feel good at all on the beach. Thats also the place where you see who has trained all the year and who didnt and i cant remember seeing a fat guy with a nice swim short. Simon, could you suggest some flip flops or something similar for the beach and some island walks( and only for that) ?


Living in Australia, sea swimming a regular activity.
The best trunks I’ve found, bought in London, are Stone Island – expensive, but worth it .
‘Regenerated’ nylon fabric – crisp and quick drying. I chose an iridescent dark navy/indigo.
Subtle logo on right leg, and inside, (hidden) drawcord- much the best. Back zip pocket.
Ben Frankel.


I have several OB Bulldog swimming shorts. As other have commented, they can take forever to dry once wet, and that’s not so comfortable ( soggy bottom ! ). I have on occasion brought 2 pairs for a day by the pool/ sea/ lake, and changed to a dry pair after swimming ( as I live in Czech Republic, nobody looks twice if you wrap your towel around you and shrug down the wet pair, and discretely on with the dry pair. This is the land of women topless sunbathing in the local park, and nudist portions of the beach at any swimming lake )
Again as others have commented, OB products have become increasingly expensive relative to the competition ( this accelerated after Chanel bought them out ). I wouldn’t buy them now (even their shirts and jackets don’t come with a spare button. That’s just being too cheap). But as shorts for a beach focused day/ holiday they are great ( good pockets, and dressy enough to pair with a linen shirt/ polo shirt ). Just make sure your sun cream is well absorbed into your skin before wearing them, or you can get a yellowing at the hem.
And yes, swim shorts seem to occupy the same space as ties and pocket squares. Many start ups chancing their arm at very high mark ups for small, lightweight, easily warehoused items in the local lock up (that’s how OB started). On the quality front, buyer beware …
I don’t like elasticated waists as they get a bit scratchy after a while.
For proper swimming, even established brands like Speedo have lowered their quality. Where heretofore the crotch was double lined, even in budgie smugglers, they are all just single layer now, and so are not so comfortable, as the fabric has to be more elastic/ tighter.
I think beach wear should be in “beach” colours. If your beach is cloudy / stony, that probably means a different choice from say, white sand, bright blue sky of a Med beach.
Note : I know nothing


Have been wearing Orlebar Browns for the last decade or so, and still happy with them. Their Bulldog fit is perfect – both for swimming and for lounging. The fabric feels great and dries quickly, the patterns are great. I had one pair where the colour faded, contacted customer care, and they fixed it. You can wash them at 50 degrees Celsius if needed. Just all around great shorts. I’ve even gone so far and bought OB Bulldog twill shorts, which I have been wearing a few times a week in summer time as general shorts.

Alternatives are (for me at least) Drake’s with their lovely old-school colours and fits, as well as Ralph Lauren which are cheap on sale and practical. RL’s seersucker are very nice, I have one pair.


On a recommendation of a PS article (a guest writer, apologies I can’t remember) I got the Patagonia baggies in bright yellow and they are fantastic. I’m coming up from £10 swimmers rather than down from £150 but I can’t imagine how they’d be improved on.
This is the first article I’ve read where I’ve thought phew already got it covered!


Not specifically for swimming, but the recently released battery tech shorts by 18 East come in the perfect range of colors.


Can I recommend Commas. I don’t like their current collections but past collections were great. Hopefully things improve 🙂 Also great customer service.



Vanderford Tom

Simon: I agree with your style 95% of the time, but I think we should all have a bit of fun with swimsuits! Villibriquin, Isaia and Kiton make well made colorful swimsuits that are fun to wear. Maybe it is because I am in Southern California…


Hello Simon,
Thank you for this post. Please, I would like to know which footwear would you choose for the pool. I know espadrilles are a nice option but I don’t find them appropriated to get wet. What about flip flops in rubber? I know Havaianas offers espadrilles in rubber. What do you think?

Basically I’m after an option where I din’t have to care if footwear gets wet (so no leather or espadrilles options).

Thank you


Simon, how would you rate Aspesi swim shorts? I think you mentioned once that you own a pair.


Hi Simon, Have you ever worn anything by CDLP? I like their swim trunks. Well made with nice colors and minimal branding.


A dissenting view regarding color: I generally like muted colors, but a pop of saturated color has its time and place. Simon has mentioned this in the context of hats and scarves, but I think poolside is equally appropriate. It’s the most casual situation (frequently in the company of children) and bright colors look don’t look so harsh in the strong summer sunlight. There’s a reason why people tend to wear brighter colors in the Mediterranean than in Scandinavian countries. Of the colors you suggested, my favorite is the tobacco. The trunks you’re wearing have a rich color which is nice.


Hi Simon,
Linen shirts and elegant polos look great by the pool or on the beach. But my inescapable reality is that I need a rash guard/sun shirt with SPF protection that I can wear in the water and as I dry out. Any thoughts as to style, brand or more elegant alternatives?

Samuel Schuler

Thank you for the article. However, I think (summer) swim shorts – by definition almost – need to be fun, colourful, and even a bit childishly looking – after all they’re probably the most informal piece of clothing possible! So why dress them up by choosing formal colours, designs and/or cuts (as many of the brands try to do in the article)? Hence, brands such as Vilebrequin, Polo Ralph Lauren’s shorts etc. cannot be ignored.

Samuel Schuler

I 100% agree to disagree, Simon, many thanks for responding.