Style 101: The Boardshort

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You know ‘em when you see ‘em — a pair of stylish boardshorts that are made to take on the wind, the waves and the beach (note that some brands spell it “board short” — two words, not one; we prefer boardshort). First known as surf trunks, the history of the boardshort and its many iterations rides a little bit like a big wave — with ups and downs all along the way. That is to say, perhaps you think of the overly baggy boardshorts (and similar swim trunks) that dominated the pool and the beach from the ‘90s into the early-mid ‘00s — often hanging well below the knee and with baggy pockets aplenty, these are the hardly boardshorts us guys should have been wearing … and yet, so it was.

History Of The Boardshort

Their origins are, as you might have guessed, related to surfing — surfers found the longer cut of the boardshort more adequate for dealing with a surfboard under-body. Think of them like a pair of sport shorts almost transitioned into swim wear — at least, that’s how the original wearers saw them. These aren’t the same as your regular swim trunks, for one. Notably, they’re cut longer and often made from material that’s much quicker-drying, like nylon or a poly blend — some vintage-style boardshorts forgo the liner commonly found in other swim trunks, too. And there are a few brands that have done them very well Stateside (although the boardshort has sometimes been called a “boardie” in surf-heavy cultures like Australia).

Another crucial difference? They’re not the overly baggy swim trunks found in the earlier part of the ‘00s, nor are they the European-inspired short trunks (see: Orlebar Brown swim shorts worn by James Bond). No sir, the boardshort has a longer but ideally, a nicely tailored finish — not too baggy, not too tight. Some brands, like Billabong, make boardshorts with a longer cut that finishes near the knee — we’ll get to other popular boardshort brands in just a second.

BoardShorts We Recommend

For a modern-day iteration of a boardshort that’s actually true to form, turn toward Birdwell Beach Britches — they make multi-colored boardshorts by hand in California, the same way they have for decades. It’s this style (in an iconic red-and-white color combo) that’s been popularized in surfing photos (and perhaps even in your own mind). Nowadays, Birdwell collaborates with brands like Todd Snyder on modernized boardshorts that are still faithful to the old ways. Helpfully, some of our favorite brands here at GearMoose — including Flint and Tinder — are making updated boardshort takes that are also true to form (check out the Flint and Tinder Vintage Boardshorts at Huckberry for more).

Once you’ve got your boardshorts, where to take them? Well, seeing as today’s crop of boardshorts is still surfing-ready, go for an early morning session — or else, wear them with a grey slub tee and leather boat shoes for a more leisurely round of beach or poolside drinks. Now that you know all about ‘em, we’d wager you’ll want your own pair.

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