Easy-wearing, nondescript and durable, today’s best swim trunks can go from the beach to the bar — and everywhere in between. Many brands now offer water-appropriate styles with design cues lifted from traditional shorts. As it turns out, the best trunks aren’t just for swimming. On your warm winter retreat, you can wear them by the pool, at the bar or back in the room. They're good just about anywhere.
What to Look for
You want your swim trunks to be fun — going to the beach or pool is fun, right? — but be mindful of how over-the-top they are. On the best summer days you're bouncing around from the sandy beach to a seaside bar and back to your rental — or, if you're lucky enough to live by the beach, your living room. As such, your swim trunks should be able to fit in wherever you wear them.
Pick a pair that has pockets, a drawstring waist and a sensible inseam. Loud patterns are cool, but unless you're pairing them with a plain T-shirt you'll come across a little chaotic. But because they're something you probably won't wear every single day, it's OK if they're a little loud.
Swim Trunks vs Board Shorts
Board shorts and swim trunks... they're both bottoms you wear in the water. How could they be that different? Think of it this way: Board shorts are for water sports — surfing, jet skiing, wakeboarding and so on and so forth. Board shorts are typically longer to protect your legs (surf wax is sticky), and their waistbands can withstand tougher tugs. Plus, most board shorts come without mesh liners and other extraneous add-ons.
Swim trunks, on the other hand, emphasize style and put performance features on the back burner, if they're addressed at all. They're for leisurely laps in your backyard pool or plunging into a posh hotel's hot tub. While you could wear them interchangeably, you shouldn't.
Think you need board shorts instead? Shop our comprehensive board short buying guide here.