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 summer’s best trunks aren’t just for swimming.
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?
The Best Swim Trunks for Summer 2022
These quick-drying, lightweight shorts have an elastic waistband with a drawstring. Made from a mix of cotton and elastane, the short has front patch pockets with mesh linings — for fast draining — and rear Velcro patch pockets.
CDLP's swim shorts are cut from 100-percent Econyl, a textile derived from plastic pulled from our oceans. But, that doesn't mean they're stiff or, well, resemblant of waste whatsoever — they're quite the opposite. Short yet flattering, soft yet quick-drying, they feature three pockets, a mesh lining and an elasticated waistband.
L.L. Bean's Classic Supplex Sport Shorts are reminiscent of the popular Patagonia Baggies but they're $30 dollars cheaper. They come with the same minimalist branding, are made from 100 percent water repellent nylon and have a stronger, better-fitting waistband than previous iterations.
If you want swim trunks that don't look like swim trunks at all, go for Everlane's The ReNew Swim Short, a recycled nylon-elastane short with a seven inch inseam, gusseted pockets and seven colors to pick from.
These quick-drying trunks are made from recycled polyester. The easy-going style has an elastic drawstring-waist, a zip back pocket and side-seam front pockets. You can pick from a bunch of colors, too.
Rhythm is an Australian surf-lifestyle brand that sells everything from swim trunks (seen here) to terry polos and pool towels. All of their designs have an elevated, beachy air about them and these Paisley Swim Shorts are no exception. The pattern is more mature than palm trees or anchors but they don't sacrifice performance for aesthetics.
Ah, the venerable Baggies. Patagonia's popular summer short has spawned several imitations but the iconic style remains a go-to for many. They do it all: dry fast, stay up and look as good in the water as they do on land.
Once on, these Banks Journal Swim Shorts look like bottoms you could wear every day. They're made from cotton so they don't have a sheen to them, but there's added elastane so they stretch and dry super fast.
Made in Canada from 100 percent recycled polyester, Bather's Shiboru Swim Trunks dry fast, stretch and have a comfortable 5.5-inch inseam. There's a mesh liner inside, plus a drawstring waist to keep them up. And the pattern looks less mass manufactured than it does hand-dyed.
The Montauk Swim Shorts are made from a mix of nylon and elastane; have an inseam of 5 inches; are finished with fine mesh liners; and stay put because of the combination elastic and drawstring waist. Pick a plain, solid color like black — or a print Snyder calls psychedelic.
NYC surf shop Saturdays sells a number of swim trunks. The Talley is the brand's most versatile, though. It looks like your average everyday short but it performs better. That means you won't be walking around in wet shorts after a quick swim.
With an inseam of 8 inches, Fair Harbor's The Anchor is a safe option for folks that don't want to show off too much leg. I'd argue let them breathe but 8 inches isn't bad. Plus, these fast-drying recycled polyester shorts come in over a dozen patterns.
If you're really lost on which swim trunks to buy, ask an expert — and there are plenty at Mollusk Surf Shop. They'll probably point you in the direction of the Vacation Trunks, which are the brand's beginner bottoms. They sell a ton of performance-centric board shorts but these will work for even the laziest land-dwellers.
Big fan of patterns? Try Bonobos' Riviera Recycled Swim Trunks, which come in over three dozen colorways. Each one is made with 85 percent recycled polyester, and available in seven sizes and three inseams.
Quick-absorbing, super soft and stylish beach towels to toss in your tote for a day at the beach.