Deciding on the right pair of swimming trunks is not as easy as you’d think. While it might seem simple at first, you’re essentially deciding how you want to look in one item of clothing while bathing at the pool or beach. So it’s important to feel comfortable with how they look and how you feel wearing them.
How to choose the best swim trunks
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Wearing swimming trunks, just like leaping from a diving board, is a balancing act. Are baggy boardshorts actually cool, or should you wrap yourself in a tiny pair of budgie smugglers the way James Bond did for decades?
It’s safe to say that neither is a good idea. More specifically, the only time it’s cool to wear budgie smugglers is when you’re trying to prove a point. So back to shorts then.
Swimming trunks straddle a sweet spot between boardies and speedos – they’re practical, comfortable and won’t turn heads for the wrong reasons.
They just look good for a wide variety of body types. They also double as normal shorts, so you can throw on sneakers and a shirt and – presto – you can wear them all day.
If you’re buying from a store, try them on to see what the comfort levels are like. Most swim trunks come with a mesh lining inside to replace your water-soaking underwear, so make sure they don’t chafe.
And while you can expect the vast majority to be made of water-repelling nylon, avoid shorts that have tacky plastic details.
Orlebar Brown has cut a very fine pair of swim shorts with the 'Bulldog'. The product description for these mentions a tailored fit, and it’s not hard to see why. They light-blue shell is fixed with side adjusters that allow you to get the fit just so. Whether this is better than good old drawstrings and elastic is up to you, but it does look smarter.
While these are shorts “you can swim in”, you’ll most likely end up wearing them with a polo shirt and loafers. This is, of course, a very good idea if you like to spend your summers flexing without breaking a sweat.
These shorts from Patagonia certainly aren’t classic beach wear, but they’re a good starting point if you want to keep things simple. While not so flashy in design or materials, it’s one of the more affordable of the bunch if that’s what you’re after.
A versatile outdoor-wear option that’s not limited to only outings to the beach, these shorts are constructed of nylon just like the rest, but with the addition of a water-repellent finish and self-draining front pockets. So you can take these practically anywhere and, with the intensely hot and dry weather we’re experiencing at the moment, that’s definitely a good thing.
You could quite easily fly under the radar while wearing this pair of beach swim shorts from Thom Browne. But on closer inspection you’ll see that these are designer shorts made for discerning sartorial tastes. Cut from nylon and finished in a powerful shade of red, white and blue, their quality construction justifies the relatively high price tag.
Featuring a mesh lining along with two on-seam pockets and appliquéd designer emblem, the details are what you’ll love most about these shorts as you’re basking in the sun. There’s a striped grosgrain tab on the back as well to round out the feature list.
Speedo Vintage Print 14" swim shorts have the benefit of being practical enough for a day out at the beach or pool while also stylish enough to wear about town. Coloured in bold red and white pattern, these shorts look good and offer warmer tones to match with.
Buy these if you want to prioritise style this summer, whist keeping a reign on the budget. It’s only hot for one season a year, after all. Detailing includes an hidden press stud waistband, as they provide a comfortable, tailored fit with great eco credentials.
With distinctive double pleats and a crossover belt fastening, these swim shorts are designed for ultimate sophistication pool-side. Cut from lightweight poly/cotton with mesh lining, for the smoothest and most luxurious of feels. We love them, and the premium packaging they come in too.
Made in South Central, Los Angeles, these trunks are fully lined right to the bottom of the short. Three pockets and a velcro seal mean they’re functional in and outside of the pool.
The epitome of summer, these men's swim shorts with all over gingham print feature a rounded hem with split, an internal mesh brief for comfort and support and an elasticated waistband with adjustable drawstring.
The tailored fit makes you streamlined both in the water and out. These classic green swim shorts are made of high-quality quick drying polyester (prints) or polyamide (uni colours) twill with a soft feel.
Looking for a classic pair of swim shorts to actually swim in? Tog24's red swim shorts (other colours are available) are the perfect option. Cut in a medium length from quick-drying shell, they offer plenty of room to move, so you can be active on the beach and feel comfortable.
Made from soft, water-resistant polyester with an inner mesh brief, they feature an elasticated and drawstring waist plus Velcro back pocket.
We love these tailor swim trunks from Polo Ralph Lauren. They're made from a soft and quick-drying shell that's decorated with a classic scenes of boats, water skiers and divers. Perfect for evoking a golden age of holidaying and travel.
If you’ve got fair skin, these darker shorts will stop you from looking washed out. They are finished with a drawstring, and metal eyelets to prevent them puffing up under water.
Add a pop of playfulness to your holiday wardrobe with these Zebra shorts from Paul Smith. They're made from quick-drying shell material, and are cut in a slim mid-length shape. The colourful drawstring waistband and mesh lining ensure comfort while the back zipped pocket offers a secure place to store a hotel room key.
There's no need to save dressing flashy for formal events when you can flex poolside. These swimming shorts from Gucci feature a navy jacquard-shell, grey piping around the hem and a comfortable mesh lining. And in true fashion, you’ll find them covered in Gucci's ‘GG’ motif.
One of the shorter pairs of this selection, the brand’s now-classic gold bee is embroidered at the hem so there's no mistaking who you're wearing. Not your everyday swimming shorts - but that's the point after all.
Inspired by the mosaic on the promenade at Copacabana Beach, these printed Frescobol Carioca swim shorts have a tailored straight-leg cut and adjustable waist tabs for an exact fit.
While you can certainly go swimming in these, they also lend themselves well to casual summer days out in sneakers and a polo shirt. Details include with an elastic waistband and adjustable drawstring to get the fit just right.
Vilebrequin delivers a great all-rounder with this set of blue and yellow swim shorts for style and play. Constructed of a specially developed lightweight shell fabric, they dry incredibly quickly and can then be folded and packed away into the back zipped pocket.
These French swimmers will probably turn a lot of heads with their classic '70s profile and contrasting drawstring waistband as you stroll along the promenade, they have a few features that will linger long afterwards in the mind.
Combining classic seersucker striped fabric with all-over cactus embroidery, these John Lewis swim shorts will make a standout addition to your summer wardrobe, both in the pool, and walking along the sea front.
Made from a lightweight and quick-drying cotton blend that includes recycled polyester, they feature a mesh lining, elasticated drawstring waistband, side seam pockets, and patch pocket to the reverse complete with drainage vent.
To get the best deal, make sure you check our John Lewis discount codes.
So far, all of the shorts on this list have been on the more stylish side of things. Enter the Adidas Parley Commit Swim Boxer Shorts, which will let you glide through the water with ease.
The tight trunks are part of the Adidas Parley range, which is designed to save the oceans by using up-cycled plastic waste and investing in Ocean-friendly charities.
Prepare for a poolside look with these Heston swim shorts from Joules. They're crafted from soft-touch fabric and are patterned with an appropriate aquatic theme thanks to the lobster print. The shorts are finished using flecked drawcords with rubber dipped ends.