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5 Swimsuits for the Everyday Man

There's a suit out there for every man -- you just have to know what to look for.
There's a suit out there for every man -- you just have to know what to look for.
Comstock/Thinkstock

It's summer again (or almost), and you know what that means: The time has come to lose the pizza-stained sweatshirts in favor of a few beach or poolside wardrobe essentials. Before you dig up your old, chlorine-stiffened swimsuit for one last hurrah in the sun, take a good, long look at yourself in the mirror. The market in men's swimwear has changed for the better in the last few years with a variety of new styles and space-age materials to choose from. You know you want to lose the ghostly pallor in favor of a healthy tan, but you can definitely look and feel better doing it.

Make this the year you buy the best pair of swimming trunks to suit your age, body shape and lifestyle. Let's dive behind the marketing hype to review five different swimsuits styles to discover who should -- or shouldn't -- wear them.

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Board shorts are relatively long, sometimes to the knees and even below, baggy and distinctive for their vivid prints and wild colors. They're popular with teens and young adults across the U.S. Also called surfer trunks, board shorts are more secure than they look dangling around a teen's hips. They're designed to take some aggressive ocean wave action and stay on: Most have either a rigid drawstring or sturdy elastic waistband. Adequate support is supplied by a built-in mesh liner, and polyester fabric makes them quick drying, too.

From a style perspective, board shorts may seem like a safe bet, but they can be tricky to wear. If you're in shape, your upper body will look good (maybe better than good) and you may even score a couple of cargo pockets for your sunglasses and sunscreen. If you spent the winter couch surfing instead of at the gym, though, the extra fabric and elastic waistband will definitely accentuate your spare tire. That's not all: If you're slender, the extra fabric will emphasize rather than conceal a narrow frame, and the added length will tend to reduce the appearance of height, making a medium-sized silhouette look somewhat shorter. If you have a mortgage, a few grey hairs and think mowing the lawn is exercise, you can do better.

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You may know them as traditional swim trunks. They usually have a lightweight elastic and drawstring waist and include a mesh or other quick-dry lining for extra support. Boxers hit around mid-thigh or slightly longer and come in a wide range of colors and patterns (often more subdued than you'll find in board shorts). They're classic, and like any classic piece, they bypass a trendy look in favor of other attributes, like a style that compliments most body types and a comfortable fit and feel. If you actually plan on swimming in your swim trunks, boxers manage to perform well in the water without looking too snug out of the water.

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They look like shorts, but they keep everything tucked away.
They look like shorts, but they keep everything tucked away.
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With the look of shorts and the functionality (and support) of a swimsuit, this option is perfect for traveling. These swimsuits typically have a mesh lining and a zipper (or possibly Velcro) closure. They favor a button front instead of an elastic waistband. The advantage of trunks/shorts combos beyond being a twofer when on vacation is that they can do double duty when you're on a date. If you're not sure that grilling party will end up with everyone enjoying a cooling dip in the pool, you'll have all the bases covered.

Shorts are available in solid colors as well as patterned styles and in lengths starting mid-thigh or longer. This makes them a good choice for tall men who might want to downplay skinny legs (go longer) or shorter men who want to lengthen the look of their legs with shorter styles. Shorts can also have slimming lines that lose the topside elastic and gathered fabric that accentuate love handles.

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This suit will certainly leave a better tan line.
This suit will certainly leave a better tan line.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

If you're idea of a good swimsuit is one that makes swimming more efficient, square cut or square leg swim shorts are for you. They fit snugly to reduce drag in the water and look pretty darned good doing it. Unlike a speedo (a teeny, tiny swimsuit), square cut trunks offer support through the hips and thigh area with Lycra, Spandex or polyester fabric. If you like the idea of looking attractive walking away, they make good glutes look spectacular, too. Square cut swim trunks are available in a variety of lengths, with the most common resembling bike shorts. If you're bashful about displaying your assets, though, you may want to wear these for private swim parties only.

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When you're wearing less, every inch matters more. We say this because bathing suit styles can all look deceptively similar if you don't know what you're looking for, but choosing the right one can make a big difference in your overall appearance:

  • Look for a style that isn't baggy on your frame, regardless of your weight. Covering up with lots of extra material just manages to emphasize what you're trying to conceal -- whether it's knobby knees or a large stomach.
  • Stick with a swimsuit that has a flat front rather than a circling band of elastic. Some styles that include elastic at the waistband have elastic only around the back or at the side seams. This will deemphasize a spare tire and provide a more comfortable fit.
  • Consider going a bit shorter. A shorter bathing suit might take a little getting used to, but has some advantages. Showing more body and less material elongates your silhouette and makes you look taller and slimmer. As a side benefit, you'll get a more even tan, too. While you're at it, go for straighter, cleaner lines. There'll be less material flapping around your legs to gape or shift when you sit.
  • Choose styles with a defined fly area and parallel seaming. If you like leaving some things to the imagination, the added structure creates a modesty panel that won't cling as much or tend to cup when the suit is wet.

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Sources

  • Esquire. "The Seven Types of Swim Trunks for Summer 2009." (3/20/12). http://www.esquire.com/the-side/style-guides/best-swim-trunks-for-men-071709
  • GQ. "How to Buy a Swimsuit: A GQ Primer." 6/09. (3/20/12). http://www.gq.com/how-to/fashion/200906/swim-suit-bathing-shopping
  • PRLOG. "Different Types of Men's Swimwear." 6/24/10. (3/20/12). http://www.prlog.org/10757760-different-types-of-mens-swimwear.html
  • Speedo USA. "Product Technology Guide." (3/20/12). http://www.speedousa.com/men/swimwear.shtml
  • Top Travel Tips. "Swimwear For Men -Buying Guide." (3/20/12). http://www.top-travel-tips.com/swimwear-for-men.html
  • Top Travel Tips. "Tan Through Swimwear for the Perfect Tan." (3/20/12). http://www.top-travel-tips.com/tan-through-swimwear.html
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  • Your Swimsuit Guide. "Mens Swimsuit." (3/20/12). http://www.yourswimsuitguide.com/mens-swimsuit.html

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