Pictured, clockwise from top left: Striped swim shorts by Michael Bastian, $285, available at MrPorter.com; M02 Suplhur Spring shorts by Pantone Universe, $125; Setter shorts by Orlebar Browne, $230; Swim trunks by Dan Ward, $145, available at MrPorter.com.
(Photos: Courtesy of MrPorter.com & Pantone)
Easy to feel a bit self-conscious at the beach when you don't have a "perfect" body, but if you think about it, you're pretty lucky: With the variety of swimwear available to men these days, there is no shortage of options to make you look your best under the sun. Going for long shorts thinking they will make you look bigger (or hide the bulk) is a mistake: You'll just end up looking like you're wearing a skirt. Here are a few alternatives.
Skinny: Low-rise trunks
If you don't have much to show off at the beach, try a tight, low-rise number like an Osklen sunga. The sunga is still rare in the States, but it's been widely adopted in Brazil for a good reason: it's particularly flattering. The horizontal cut lifts up the butt, and the tight fit around the thighs will make your legs look bigger. Play with colorful patterns and horizontal stripes to create the illusion of a bulkier built. A more demure option is loose short shorts: Very in vogue, they give skinny guys a boyish silhouette that is all the rage according to the latest Dolce & Gabbana and Lanvin collections. More styles for skinny types here.
Stocky: Solid shorts
A lot of the larger guys make the mistake of getting huge surfer shorts to hide as much skin as possible. That is not the best way to make you look more slender. You should try to elongate your silhouette with straight-fit Sundek shorts that arrive at least an inch above the knee: Show more leg, and look leaner. If you're tall and big, you can go for shorts that are a bit longer, but never get too close to the knee. To slim down your silhouette, choose a swimsuit with solid dark colors, vertical stripes, or a fun print. More styles for stocky types here.
Very Tall: Board shorts
Unless you're actually a surfer — and most of us are not — the board shorts are the first thing you should get rid of. The only way they could work is if you're over 6'2''. Just make sure you keep the length above the knee, and don't pick them too wide. Nowadays you've got way more options than Hawaiian florals: Surf on the African print trend with Bantu Wax shorts, for instance. More styles for very tall types here.
"Average": Tailored shorts
If you tick that box, the Orlebar Brown tailored shorts are for you. The narrower cut and shorter leg is a good look for you if you tend to be on the shorter side (under 5'8), and the wide adjustable wristband is a stylish way to hide your adorable love handles. More styles for "average" types here.
If you've got it, flaunt it: You're lucky to have a body right out of a magazine ad, and basically anything would work on you. Just be careful not to pick a swimsuit that's too small for you, or you'll look like a pageant bodybuilder. Pop your Dan Ward briefs out! They look the sexiest on a man with a swimmer's built. With briefs, find a color that complements with your skin tone. If you don't want to show off too much, go for sporty shorts that will accentuate your strong thighs. More styles for athletic types here.