A good day at the beach doesn’t require much more than a pair of swim shorts, some sunshine and sand, a breeze, a high SPF, and maybe a boat. That mix might seem simple, but it’s easy to mess up with the one thing you have full control over: the fit of your swimsuit.
Ill-fitting, unflattering trunks can squander all hope you have of looking back on this summer’s photos fondly, or remembering anything about waterskiing other than a perpetual wedgie. And don’t even think about a summer of love. For that reason, your swimwear is an investment. No one needs five pairs of swims shorts since you only wear them one at a time, so get a pair or two that will stand up to the water, sun, sand, and spontaneous trips to beachside bars, all while looking good.
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With more attractive, well-tailored choices and styles available than ever before, the era of the tourist-gone-bad board short is over. “Long gone,” agrees Pangea Swim co-founder and designer Nick Bradley. “Swimwear is very much like denim: You get what you pay for. Sure, it’s more expensive, but there truly is a quality difference between a $40 suit from Urban Outfitters and a $150 suit from Nordstrom. When buying a short, check the mesh. That’s how you know the difference between a high- and low-quality suit. And avoid Velcro at all costs.”
At the forefront of the newest cuts, shapes, and patterns, Bradley knows that there is no single style to flatter every body type, so here are his guidelines for picking the right trunks for your shape, so you can look good and feel good laying out, riding the waves, jumping sharks, or walking up to a surfer girl at that beachside bar.
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The Dad Bod
You look like: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jason Segel, Chris Pratt (pre-Guardians)
If you have a little bit of one but are more of the soft side, avoid super fitted suits. "Nobody wants to see back fat," Bradley says. "Relaxed waistbands or drawstrings are the way to go. Look for new styles of shorts with half-elastic in the back and zip or button in the front."
Best buy: Bather Blue Floral Surf Trunk [$78, huckberry.com]
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The Lean Athlete
You look like: Brad Pitt, Channing Tatum, Chris Pratt (post-Guardians)
If you've got a lean, toned look thanks to a healthy dose of muscle and a body fat percentage lower than the milk in your coffee, there isn't much you can do wrong in terms of flattering style. If you are on the tall side, go for a 6-to-7-inch inseam. If you stand 5-foot-10 or shorter, aim for a 4-to-5-inch inseam. But no matter how long or short you choose, don't be afraid to go for bold colors, stripes, or patterns.
Best buy: Outerknown Evolution Trunk [$85; mrporter.com]