It’s hard to pinpoint exactly one reason why swimming trunks are so often an afterthought in a man’s wardrobe. Perhaps it’s because most of us don’t wear them that often, or because the options tend to be solid-colored and boring or wildly flamboyant prints in colors that don’t appear anywhere else in our closets.
So we went in search of a few pairs that split the difference between those two extremes, and we were happy to find that the latest batch of trunks on the market not only offered a stylish middle ground, but also tends to be much smarter than some older cousins. Materials innovations have produced suits that dry faster and look sharper, making it easier to go from beach and pool to bar or cafe. Which means you can put on one of the versatile cuts below and wear them for a dip and a bit beyond.
Prada Printed Shell Shorts
Prada’s swim shorts take inspiration from tropical flowers for a pattern that’s festive but not so loud that you’ll turn heads. Lined with mesh for all-day comfort, pair with it a black polo and some white sneakers for a really crisp look.
Orlebar Brown Bulldog Swim Shorts
Orlebar Brown kicked off the tailored trunks craze when it rolled out its first pair of suits in 2007. This pair has a fair bit in common with tuxedo trousers (it features adjustable side tabs instead of a drawstring), so it’s better to think of these as a pair of designer shorts than it is to think of them as swim trunks.
Aimé Leon Dore Block Party Printed Swim Shorts
Patterned swim trunks are about a dime a dozen, but this pair from Queens-based brand Aimé Leon Dore has a bit of a nostalgic twist to them. The ’90s color scheme is updated with an asymmetrical patchwork effect that looks and feels very current.
Frescobol Carioca Copacabana Sports Swim Shorts
If the restrained print on this pair looks familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it in everyone’s Brazilian vacation pictures. It’s inspired by the black-and-white walkway on the boardwalk in Ipanema, rendered here in interesting shades of green.
Saturdays NYC Timothy Block Swim Short
Saturdays has their roots in the NYC surf culture, so they’re well versed in creating quality swimwear products, as is shown with the Timothy short. The emphasis here is really on short: they’re quick-drying, and their interesting color blocking helps them transition easily from the beach to the bar in a breeze, without needing to stop for an outfit change.
Ovadia & Sons Main Beach Short
Hang ten in one of the most striking beach-themed patterns we’ve seen this year. With such a bold visual, think of it as you would a piece of art and show it off as frequently—and proudly—as possible.
Onia Charles Swim Trunks
From far away, these shorts look like they’re striped. It’s only when you get closer that the subtlety of their print reveals itself. This pair also has a longer inseam (around 7 inches), which is great for guys who prefer a pair of shorts that come a little closer to the knee.
Katama Jack Swim Trunks
But if you want to show the world you don’t skip leg day, these Katama swim trunks might be more you’re speed. They take their design cues from the shorts Navy SEALs wore during the Vietnam era, which explains the ripstop fabric and the D-ring closure. The lily-pad print? That’s a civilian addition.
Tom Ford Leaf Print Swim Short
There is perhaps no trendier plant right now than the Monstera, so it’s fun to see Tom Ford incorporate its makeup into a short. We also like that the slide adjusters are made in a pale gold that blends really well with the overall design of the trunk, a subtle choice that only reinforces their appeal.
Vilebrequin Mistral Limited Edition Armor Turtles
Cut in the brand’s original Mistral style (not too short, but not too long) these limited-edition trunks are one of 119 pairs, embroidered with a turtle motif that’s become the go-to iconography for the French brand. They’re a vote for sustainability: Vilebrequin will replace the lining of these trunks for life, which means they might be the last pair you ever buy.