Oversized man wearing a swimsuit

Suit Yourself: A Swimsuit Primer Look good and feel confident by the water this summer

This is the most interesting man in the world. Is he stunningly handsome? Is he uncommonly svelte? Is he well dressed? Or dressed at all? In fact, he is not. Yet even the hot girl in the short shorts and the bikini top… can’t resist his magnetism.  –Sam Theilman, Adweek

Table of Contents

Tips for Choosing a Swimsuit

Briefs are for Swimmers

If you’re planning on swimming, diving, and frolicking in the water, and you are comfortable in a brief or in very short square-cut shorts, then wear them. These are likely your best choice, too, if you’re sunbathing.

Boardshorts are for Surfers

Boardshorts only if you have a board, plan to be on a board, or are playing a beach sport that’s likely to have you hurtling into the sand.

A Note on Length

No swimwear should go below the top of the kneecap. Ideally, there should be a space two- or three-fingers wide stretching from the bottom of the shorts to the top of the kneecap. If you need a longer inseam than that: congratulations. 

Choosing the Right Color

Black, dark gray, dark blue, navy blue, and no shade of blue lighter than French blue. These are the safest colors. Hardly a conservative choice, dayglow orange — that wonderful, bright, electric tangerine color lifeguards wear – is a great choice, too. The one drawback is you may be mistaken for a lifeguard at a critical moment. We also love Nantucket Red, which is somewhere between brick red and pink, and coral when faded/distressed.

Embrace Patterns

Madras, tartan, houndstooth, batik, calico, paisley — traditional forms of these patterns can look both smart and tasteful.

If you are attending a beach party or a pool party, or are lounging as a guest at someone’s resort or villa, avoid being too adventurous or edgy. Bold floral and Hawaiian patterns are not poor choices, but neither are they inspired choices. Wear what you like when you’re staying on your own property, and/or are with close friends at a friend’s place. If you are going to be in public, wish to look your best, and do not want to hazard unwanted attention or disapproving comment, then avoid flags, flag references, brand logos, novelty patterns, and anything too clever. Beach date? The same rule applies with greater force.

Big Guys Should Wear Shorter Shorts

A big guy is a big guy, period. When you are large, there’s no color, pattern, or racing-stripe that is going to be “slimming.” Unfortunately, too many big men end up wearing zany, quirky trunks with long inseams. Here’s our advice: stick to strong, solid colors, or too dense patterns on darker fields — and choose shorter trunks. Large men tend to have big, solid quads — a reward for carrying extra weight. Longer trunks don’t make one look thinner or hide superfluous adipose tissue, but they do cover-up one of the best parts of a big man’s build. Flash those thighs with confidence. Showing more skin above the knee balances those broader expanses above the waistline. It isn’t “slimming,” but it is an honest visual detente between one’s northern and southern hemispheres. 

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