Board Shorts vs. Swim Trunks: 5 Key Differences

On the hunt for the perfect pair of shorts for surfing, sunning or simply sipping a cold one by the pool? In the world of men’s swimwear, you’ve got two great options — board shorts and swim trunks. But which one is right for your style of sunning? It depends on how you like to spend your day and what you want to get out of your shorts.

man in swim trunks

In this guide, we’ll go over the key differences between these two summertime staples to help you decide which ones to pick and which ones to pack.

What Are Board Shorts?

Like their name suggests, board shorts are a staple of surf culture. The first pair was created by an Oahu couple who sewed low-slung, pocketed shorts designed for field workers. Thanks to their easy-breezy comfort and practicality, local surfers eventually lined up in droves to buy a pair from the couple. In 1961, Elvis wore a pair in Blue Hawaii, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Typically made of quick-dry material, board shorts are longer than standard swim trunks to help prevent surf wax from coming into contact with the skin and to add extra protection against surf rash. They often feature a Velcro fly as well as a tie-front opening to help prevent them from coming undone when getting tossed about by waves. Surfers may rock them with rash guards for extra protection.

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man standing on beach

What Are Swim Trunks?

Swim trunks are also designed for more casual wear around the water. They’re made from quick-drying materials and may have inner mesh lining for comfort. A staple in men’s and boys’ swimwear, swim trunks are typically shorter than board shorts, but they come in a variety of different lengths. They often have a drawstring waist and may feature a side or back pockets. Both board shorts and swim trunks come in a huge array of prints, patterns and styles.

Their Major Differences

  1. Their Purpose – While both styles of shorts are suitable for all sorts of adventures in the sun, they do serve some specific purposes. Board shorts have a little extra length and a double-closure fly, so they’re often the better choice for surfing. Swim trunks are a good choice for swimming and lying by the pool or beach and more relaxed environments.
  1. Their Length – Board shorts are classified by their longer inseam. Most board shorts will fall at or below the knee to provide some extra coverage against thrashing waves, sand and surfboards. This extra length is also meant to keep surf wax off a surfer’s leg. On the other hand, there is no designated length for swim trunks. They come in shorter inseams of four inches all the way up to longer trunks with inseams of seven inches or more. Read our swim trunk length guide for more information.
  1. The Fit – Another big difference between board shorts and swim trunks is the way they fit on the body. Board shorts are longer and droopier at the waist, creating a more casual or sporty look. Swim trunks are a bit boxier with a wider leg, giving a more classic silhouette. If you prefer a modern, sporty look but like the fit of swim trunks, you can always go for a longer inseam on a pair of trunks.
  1. The Features – These two types of shorts also have a few common features that distinguish them from one another. Board shorts are made with a tie and Velcro fly, creating a double-secure closure so that surfers don’t risk their shorts falling off in the waves. On the other hand, swim trunks feature a built-in layer of mesh lining, which can help keep you comfortable all day by regulating moisture and creating a more breathable environment.
  1. The Materials – Because they’re made for different purposes, board shorts and swim trunks are also made of different materials. Board shorts are usually made with more durable, tear-resistant fabric to withstand rough and tumble wear in the surf. Swim trunks are also durable but are typically made for movable comfort and are quick drying which makes them perfect for beach sports like surfing, volleyball and paddle ball. Since they are so versatile, you can easily transition from your fishing or golfing trip to a nice dinner at a restaurant or bar, all while wearing your favorite pair of swim trunks!
man standing on beach

Choosing between swim trunks and board shorts is a matter of preference and need. If you’re all about surfing and want extra protection, board shorts may be the best choice. If style and versatility are the main concern, go with some tried-and-true trunks. The truth is that most guys will want to have a pair of each in their suitcase so they’re ready for anything — intense waves for surfing or intense chilling at the bar.

Whether you’re looking for a pair of Island inspired men’s swim trunks or a longer pair to give you surf vibes, Le Club is your source for the best suits around. Explore our complete collection to find a style, length, color or pattern that fits you perfectly.

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