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The virtues of beachwear are simple: easy going leisure garments that are flattering, simple and fun. Made to be worn on the sand, by the pool or on a boat, the best pieces are unfussy and casual, looking great even after being sprayed in saltwater.
For a good century, resort-wear’s most refined options have drawn inspiration from Europe’s Riviera (aka the beau monde’s favorite beach towns). This school of warm weather attire never fails to look elegant thanks to a timeless combo of breezy linen tailoring, sleek polos and trim shorts. America’s equivalent—the tony seaside enclaves of Cape Cod—has its own preppy stalwarts: faded oxford shirts, embroidered shorts, loafers and deck shoes.
Hardy materials that don’t mind the salt and heat come into their own: linens and cottons, from gauzy knits to dense toweling. Jose de Abreu of Portuguese brand La Paz has even developed a lightweight terrycloth for sweaters. “It offers the perfect balance between a regular fleece and a towel,” he explains, “making it a lightweight and cozy garment for after surfing or when you’re getting that summer evening sea breeze.”
That essence—a knockabout ease that looks smart from day to night—is a hallmark of summer’s best beachwear, and of the 12 picks below.
Lardini Linen Polo Shirt
As you’d expect from a brand that excels in expressive yet relaxed tailoring, Lardini’s linen polo can be paired with everything from shorts to a summer suit. Its buttonless, minimal design and knitted linen fabric make it a smart choice under a jacket, though the trim cut and airy feel mean you’ll want to wear it by itself on the hottest of days. The olive and navy colorways are great with white pants and cream linen, but this mustard yellow is our favorite.
Vilebrequin Wool Swim Trunks
Vilebrequin’s collaboration with the Woolmark Company (the folks who certify quality merino) is a bit unexpected: swimming trunks in super 120s, the kind of material you’d sooner expect to see in a pair of slacks. The brand points to the breathability, UV resistance and softness of Australian merino, plus the environmental benefits of natural materials. Woven with a touch of elastane and a 7-minute drying time, it’s an unexpectedly elegant choice.
Armor-Lux Striped T-Shirt
The classic Breton striped tee is made by Armor-Lux in Quimper, where the brand began in 1938. Its most iconic form is the blue and white cotton sailor shirt, but there’s a range of variations on that theme, such as this breathable cotton-linen blend in forest green—perfect for the warmer months.
Missoni Zigzag Knit Espadrilles
It seems at this time of year like every brand makes a pair of espadrilles. There’s no shortage of espadrilles to choose from at this time of year, so why not pick a pair that stand out? Missoni’s signature multicolor chevron knit provides a fun twist on the classic beach shoe with color, texture and breathability. Like all good espadrilles, it’s made with the classic woven rope sole and has a thin rubber layer for grip.
Barena Long-Sleeve Linen Shirt
This long-sleeve number from Venetian brand Barena is somewhere between a sport shirt and a popover, with a half-chest placket, point collar and a center back pleat with locker loop. Cut with a curved hem and slightly billowing sleeves, it’s made to be worn untucked with rolled sleeves, the closest thing to a dress shirt that you’d want to wear when off duty.
Ripa Ripa Toscano Shorts
This classic pair of Italian swim shorts features a hand-drawn pattern based on Mediterranean tilework. Cut slim in a soft, quick-drying brushed polyester and finished with a drawstring made from braided nautical rope, they’re perfect with one of the brand’s linen capri shirts in-between dips in the ocean.
Paul Smith Artist Stripe Cotton-Terry Beach Towel
The best beach accessory may not be one you wear. This midweight cotton terry towel from Paul Smith channels the brand’s signature stripes in a burst of teal, pink, gold and mauve—a satisfying way to add a burst of color to your beach bag or your bathroom.
L.E.J. Shell Collector Shirt
L.E.J. designer Luke Walker describes the Shell Collector as “an over-under-only shirt,” suitable for layering in any number of combinations, or just enjoying as it is. Generously cut in washed Japanese linen with ample pockets and shell buttons, it’s a jack-of-all-trades.
Polo Ralph Lauren Paneled Deck Shorts
Pastel colors and Oxford cloth are New England prep staples. The sometimes conservative style shows its irreverent side in the “fun shirt,” a button-down made from offcuts—initially as a way of training shirtmakers, but now beloved as an icon in its own right. Ralph Lauren applied the design to shorts, yielding a sun-bleached summer essential with a sense of humor.
Baudoin & Lange Sagan Decks
Baudoin & Lange’s take on the deck shoe follows from the simplicity and lightness of the brand’s signature Belgian loafer: soft, velvety nubuck, a lightweight, cushioned rubber sole, contrast stitching and laces. Equal parts preppy and Parisian refinement, it’s a practical and hardwearing summer shoe that’s ideal for traveling.
La Paz Cunha Towel Stripes
A beachy riff on classic striped nautical shirts, La Paz’s comfortable toweling sweater comes in a range of coastal colors. It’s a mainstay of the Portuguese brand’s collection, suited to summer evenings and cool mornings in the salt air paired with chinos, shorts or swimwear.
Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne
What if you want to channel the sea breeze, regardless of your proximity to a beach? Jo Malone’s oceanic Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne might be the answer. With sweet, musky hints of ambrette underneath crisp, mineral sage notes, it’s a thoroughly fresh scent and, rather than the soapy finish of some aquatics, it’s a burst of ozone and salt spray.