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The Ultimate Men's Swim Shorts Checklist

The 5 Key Points You Must Consider Before Buying Your Next Pair Of Swim Shorts

With so many styles of swim shorts available on the market today, how do you know which pair to choose? To begin, there are a few key questions you need to ask yourself first before landing on the right style. For example: what will you be wearing them for? Where will you be wearing them? What fits your body type the best? What type of fabric is good, or even necessary? Or, what type of impression do you want to send?


This checklist will help you sort through each of these questions so that by the end, you will have a better idea of what to look for. Let's get started!


1.    Knowing your height and build is the first and most important step in determining which style of swim shorts will suit you best. Out of the 6 categories below, choose the one that best describes your body type:

     Tall & Built (over 6’ & in shape) - any pair of shorts will look good on you, just not too baggy

     Tall & Big (over 6' & wider) - longer, looser fitting board shorts to not highlight any problem areas

     Tall & Skinny (over 6’ & thin) - longer board shorts with horizontal stripes for a wider appearance

     Shorter & Built (under 6’ & in shape) - shorter fitted trunks with vertical stripes for taller appearance

     Shorter & Big (under 6' & wider) - shorter, looser fitting trunks with vertical stripes for a slimmer look

     Shorter & Skinny (under 6’ & thin) - shorter fitted trunks with smaller prints and conservative colors

Generally speaking, the taller and bigger you are, the longer in length you can go. The shorter and skinnier you are, so should your shorts be. It’s always good to avoid any shorts that are too baggy, regardless of your build, and what color and/or print to choose depends on your complexion and taste. It's safest to go with solid colors and small scale prints, and usually the darker you are, the lighter the color. Bottom line - choose a pair of shorts that suits your body type & complexion.

2.    What are you going to be using them for? This is often the most overlooked question guys don’t really consider. Depending on the occasion, the type of shorts matters. Choose your use below:

     Surfing - need lightweight, seamless, quick-dry, non-elastic waist

     Beach - OK to go with bolder designs and/or brighter colors

     Lake - you can rarely go wrong with a nicely cut pair of swim trunks

     Pool Party - here you want to stand out, so choose what fits your body type best

     Work Function - go with traditional colors and smaller prints to stay professional


If you're going to be engaging in rigorous activity, consider getting a pair of shorts that are made with a 4-way stretch material (horizontal and vertical). A sign of a good pair of shorts is you can move in them, but they don't look baggy. If you're just going to be hanging by the pool or at the beach, fabric doesn't matter as much as the cut. Just choose a style and pattern that is appropriate for the occasion, and you'll be good to go.

3.    What length do you need? If you’re going to be surfing in them, a longer length is better to cover more skin to prevent any rashes. But if you're just going to be hanging out at the beach or lake with friends, a shorter length is the best.

     Swim Briefs (aka Speedos) - only if you'll be doing a lot of swimming and function trumps looks

     Short (<17 inches) - e.g. fitted square-cut shorts; perfect only if you have the physique for it

     Mid-length (17”-19”) - these shorter swim trunks usually are slimmer with a more tailored fit

     Long (20"-22”) - typical board shorts that are best for surfing and usually have the greatest mobility

Unless you're wearing your long board shorts to go surfing all day, it's best to stick with the shorter swim shorts to stay with the current trend. Choose a pair that are slimmer and end a couple of inches above the knee.

4.    What you will be doing in the shorts? Depending on the activity, material does matter. For activities requiring a lot of movement, getting a pair that has more mobility is a must. On the other hand, if all you will be doing is laying by the pool, then the fabric doesn't really matter and instead you should focus on design.

     Polyester (quickest-drying) - majority of shorts are made of this material

     Cotton/Nylon (better feel) - not as quick to dry, but more durable

     Polyester/Nylon/Spandex (greatest mobility) - comes in 2-way or 4-way stretch

     Cotton/Nylon/Polyester (best quality) - this material feels the best & is very comfortable

     Microfiber (less mobility, generally lower cost) - doesn't have as much give but dries quickly

As you can see, there are a lot of different materials to choose from. Prices will differ based on quality: fade, durability, and feel - and of course brand. Not all name brands have the best quality though, so always check the material before purchasing.

Note: Quick-dry shorts don’t work if you’re got damp underwear under them. So go commando if there's no liner.

5.    Design: what construction features do you need or are available? Modern shorts and trunks can come with a SPF rating and/or anti-microbial protection, which are both great. But you should only consider which features you want or actually need. For example, a seamless design is good for creating less friction against the skin, but unnecessary if all you're going to be doing is lay out in the sun all day. Some other design features to think about are:

     Pockets - make sure at least one is secured with Velcro and has a drainage hole for water/sand

     Coin/key pouch - good accessory to have, especially when going into the water

     Drawstring - great to have as you can adjust your size and secure the shorts accordingly

     Elastic waistband - good for fit, but make sure they're not too tight to cause a muffin top

     Mesh-lining - better for support, but not recommended for board shorts or for prolonged wear

And there you have it. You are now armed with all the essential information you need to be able to choose the right swim shorts!

In summary, it's all about fit, proportion, and what you plan on wearing the shorts for. If you're a surfer or a taller guy and need the longer board shorts, go for 'em. Just make sure they're not too long or baggy. Otherwise, you may want to stick with a pair of fitted, shorter, swim trunks as that's what's trending right now. Also, they'll make you feel more confident and appear trimmer - ultimately enabling you to look your best!






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