Heading to the beach or pool is now a time that’s no longer an afterthought. That is, it’s no longer an excuse to look sloppy — that starts with wearing a better T-shirt (try a slim V-neck tee, for starters), and it rolls right on through to the most important part of the equation. Namely, we’re talking stylish swim trunks that help, not hurt, your sense of style — or at the very least, serve a utilitarian function for surfing or swimming.
There are brands that offer up tried-and-true takes on the swim trunk, there are picks here that offer maximum coverage and functionality for water sports, and there are swim trunks that just look plain stylish — never a bad thing, even when off-land. In fact, the most stylish swim trunks should probably wear a bit more like shorts — that is, cut to look great when in the water, and fit to be able to wear at a dockside meal or on the patio once your time in the water is done.
As with other style-minded ventures, the picks here reflect a variety of price points, too. Shop on, and enjoy your time in the sun.
United by Blue Clear Creek Boardshorts
It follows that when you’re hitting the water in style, you want to feel good about what you’re wearing — right? United by Blue has the perfect way for stylish guys everywhere to achieve that aim — its Clear Creek Boardshort looks great, combines unique colorblocking and is made sustainably and with great care. The four-way stretch ensures top-notch comfort all day long, and your purchase of these trunks helps remove one pound of trash from the world’s oceans and waterways. – $55
Banks Dotty Boardshort
In keeping with style trends, Banks has built a boardshort that mimics the look of slightly faded dark blue denim while incorporating some eye-catching polka dots. If you already have a pair of neutral swim trunks but want to try something new, a pop of pattern on a neutral navy is the way to go — plus, they’re unique enough where they’ll stand out compared to other trunks at the beach. Pair these with a navy tank top for a monochromatic look, and watch the compliments roll in. – $65
Grayers Batik Print Swim Trunk
It’s no surprise that Grayers, inspired by modern takes on prep-inspired fashion, can also craft a pair of swim trunks that nod to the past but combine on-point, current designs — just like the rest of its apparel and outerwear. The front-stitched pocket design serves a purpose both utilitarian and style-minded, and the batik print is unique and fashion-forward — in a good way, that is. With retro style definitely coming back into play, it makes sense to incorporate some of that into your swim trunks. – $88
Reef Lucas 18″ in Navy
For those among us who are more action-minded when it comes to hitting the water, Reef delivers on boardshorts that are every bit as good as when the brand first launched. The neutral navy color works well in a variety of situations, be it on the beach before you catch some waves, or hanging out post-surf. The style of these trunks offers coverage and comfort when in the water, and the elastic key loop and braided drawcord provide maximum function and structure where you need it most. – $39.50
Quiksilver AG47 Everyday 20” Boardshorts
Quiksilver is another brand that combines a love of surfing with plenty of functionality, structure and support when it comes to boardshorts. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a dedicated amateur catching some waves before you head into the office, this brand has you covered for a price that’s solid. The grey-and-black colorblocked combination is no-nonsense, the long cut works quite well in terms of comfort and functionality, and the laser-cut, heat-bonded inseam is sturdy. Plus, the heat-welded back-zip pocket helps you keep track of your gear. – $55
J. Crew 6.5” Tab Swim Short in Harbor Stripe
For a more classically inspired look, reach for a pair of swim trunks that are cut higher than normal for a tailored look. The faded red color and thick white stripe avoid going full-on Baywatch, and the moisture-wicking, quick-drying fabric adds an extra layer of functionality. The front tab closure looks clean and crisp, too. These are the kind of swim shorts that look just as great at the bar after hitting the water as they do on a boat. – $75
Orlebar Brown Bulldog Swim Short
Even after five-plus decades in the spotlight, there’s not quite a style icon like James Bond. That’s why it makes perfect sense to reach for the very style of swim shorts that the iconic character rocked in Skyfall. Orlebar Brown plays off its excellent heritage with a pair of swim trunks that combine tailored principles — like side tabs and side-angle front pockets — with quality construction you’d expect from an top-notch brand. These are the dressiest pair of swim trunks that money can buy, and they’re worth every penny. – $240
Bonobos Surfside Board Short
Bonobos has built its brand name on the strength of its high-quality chinos and denim, and it translates that same attention to detail into its swim trunks. The Surfside Board Short takes a classically stylish approach to the swim trunk, with a just-right 7” inseam and a sensible striped pattern that looks smart without being too overpowering. As with any of Bonobos’ fashion-forward product offering, these swim trunks will look just fine with a slim short-sleeve chambray shirt as they will when you wear them for a swim. – $88
SWIMS Paloma Hybrid Chino
While plenty of swim shorts look just as great as regular shorts, few incorporate the technological touches that SWIMS does when it comes to its Paloma Hybrid Chino. They look like high-quality tailored shorts and perform like a reliable pair of swim trunks. In a classic navy color, they’re perfectly fit for the back deck or country club, and they’ll perform well elsewhere. Rock them with a white polo or an olive henley for versatile, casual style. – $130
Johnnie O 90H20 Surf Shorts
For classic style that incorporates the best of prep fashion with the comfort and functionality of a pair of swim trunks, Johnnie O fits the bill perfectly. In a cool “Silver Lake” Blue, the white cord adds a nice pop of contrast and the peached fabric should feel great for those long days at the beach. The 8.5” inseam hits at just the right length for a modern swim short — wear these to and from the ocean, wear these out on the water, and wear them back to dinner. – $55