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Functional Fashion: Why and How to Wear Swim Trunks as Shorts

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Functional Fashion Why and How to Wear Swim Trunks as Shorts

Savvy dressers know that a good-quality garment is about function as much as it is fashion. That’s why so many guys are gravitating toward versatile hybrid swim shorts that adapt to any activity. Unlike your typical trunks, these are made of quick-drying materials that protect you from the surf and sun, but they also look right at home when you head to dinner and drinks. Win-win, right?

Wearing swim trunks as shorts is a practical fashion hack for guys who want to maximize their wardrobe potential — especially on vacation when suitcase space is limited — and keep comfortable during every activity. The reality is that you don’t always have time to head back to your hotel room before dinner, and you probably don’t have room to pack 20 pairs of bottoms. That’s where the hybrid trunk comes into play and saves the day.

Can You Wear Swim Trunks as Shorts? Yes, with Caveats

Clearly, we’re proponents of rocking trunks outside the pool or sea, but what do the style playbooks say? In general, it’s totally OK and even the norm to wear swim trunks as shorts, primarily because so many styles look like they came out of your regular shorts drawer anyway and no one will even notice. But there are a couple of rules to follow to make sure you’re not taking this trend too far.

You want to make sure you’re following dress codes at the resort, restaurant or bar where you’ll be hanging out. If the rules explicitly state no swimwear, you may want to avoid rocking your trunks in the facility. With that said, if they look like normal bottoms, go for it. Just make sure to never wear them inside when wet or dirty. You’ll also want to make sure you wash your trunks after a day at the pool or beach to ensure that you don’t track sand, dirt and smelly chlorine into a nice establishment.

wear your swim trunks as shorts

  • Don’t wear wet trunks inside, even at casual beach bars.
  • Do wash your trunks after swimming.
  • Don’t wear board shorts or wetsuits in public.
  • Do check with facility dress codes before rocking trunks.

In general, you definitely can wear swim trunks as shorts, but you need to know a few style rules before diving in, so to speak. In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about styling swim trunks as shorts, from finding the perfect top to picking a pair in a fabric that does it all. With all that free suitcase space and time saved changing outfits, you’ll definitely be thanking us after your next getaway.

Go from Beach to Bar in Our Swim Trunks

The Evolution of Swim Trunks

Wearing swim trunks as shorts is now considered a summertime standard, but it wasn’t always that way. In part, that’s because men’s swim trunks have evolved quite a bit since they first came onto the scene. Originally, men’s swim garments were hot, heavy and high, coming all the way up to the top of the torso. Some were even made of wool, which quickly became water-logged in the pool or lake. It’s hard to imagine, but one early men’s bathing suit from the 1800s actually weighed nine pounds

Back then, public beaches and pools required swimwear to be modest, and it wasn’t until the 1930s that men were allowed to swim publicly without covering their chests. That spurred the advent of the swim trunk we know and love today. Still, these earlier forms were made of less-than-practical, uncomfortable materials, so swimmers only wore them when necessary. At the time, extruded rubber was the norm in trunk manufacturing. Though it dried fast, this material wasn’t ideal — it lost its shape when stretched, and it faded in the sun.

If you’ve checked out any of our stylish and sustainable swim trunks, you know that trunk materials have come a long way since the days of wool and rubber. Today, they’re made with ultra-lightweight, comfortable materials that dry quickly and keep you cool. Notably, they’re also designed to look like regular shorts, which makes them ideal for wearing from the pool to dinner to the cabana bar. This is why it’s not uncommon to see guys rocking them as regular shorts, even when there’s no swimming or surfing in the plans.

the right pair of trunks

Start with the Right Pair of Trunks

Looking to enhance your wardrobe with bottoms that go from beach to bar, no problem? We’ve got you covered. The most important thing is to start with the right pair of trunks. Going for some tropical print board shorts probably isn’t the best move if you’re trying to look at home outside the pool or beach cabana. Here are some more tips on how to pick the right pair to wear as shorts.

Be Picky About Fabric

Fabric choice is critical if you want your shorts to transition with ease from pool to pub. Go for a high-performance fabric that keeps you comfortable but doesn’t look too sporty. You want them to be lightweight yet structured, so they don’t look like basketball shorts. We use a unique 100 percent recycled polyester material for our trunks, and this fabric is perfect for swim and play because it offers all the performance you need from a pair of swim trunks but looks like regular shorts fabric. 

Go with a Solid or Simple Pattern

Nothing screams “swim trunk” quite like a tropical pattern or a funky fish print, so it’s best to go with a more subdued look if you want to take your shorts onto dry land. If you prefer, you can opt for a classic, neutral-colored bottom to make it appear that you’re wearing jeans or khakis. If you prefer patterned shorts, that’s totally fine too! We recommend sticking to a less busy pattern, such as stripes or checks.

man looking out at beach

Pick the Right Length

Make sure to choose a pair of swim trunks in the length you prefer for regular shorts. This way, you’ll feel comfortable all day and you know you’ll have shirts that will work with them. If you tend to go longer in regular trunks, such as a board short length, opt instead for a shorter style that looks like regular shorts. Keep the board shorts for surfing and the swim briefs for the pool deck and opt instead for a medium-length style. Not sure which length is right for you? Reference our swim trunk length guide to find an inseam length that suits your preferences.

Go for a More Tailored Fit 

Fit is everything when it comes to finding a pair of shorts that can handle everything on your itinerary. We recommend going for a pair that’s a bit more on the tailored end — but not too tight — to give you that casual yet put-together look that makes your shorts so versatile. 

Choose a Flat Panel Waist 

A drawstring waist trunk is great for helping you achieve a tailored fit, but in this case you’d want to style it with a shirt that covers the waist to dial down the swim trunk aesthetic. You may want to choose a pair of trunks with a flat panel waist that looks more like regular shorts. These are a great choice if you plan on heading to a dressier dinner and need to tuck in your shirt.

wearing swim trunks style tips

Tips on Wearing Swim Trunks as Shorts

Now that you’ve got the perfect pair of trunks for the job, it’s time to start styling them with your favorite tops, shoes and accessories. Reference our tips and tricks below to style your suit so it looks right at home in any environment, no matter if you’re catching waves or grabbing drinks on the boardwalk.

Pair Them with a Dressier Top

Styling your trunks with the right top is key to ensuring that they look a regular pair of shorts. Try pairing your trunks with a dressier top, like a button up linen shirt or a classic polo. This will elevate your outfit and is perfect for a bar or restaurant setting. We recommend going with an untucked shirt which will lay nicely and comfortably against your swim trunks.If you prefer to tuck, opt for a pair of swim trunks with a flat panel waist. Note: If the dress code calls for tucking, it’s probably best to go with our flat panel short.

friends laughing outside of camper

  • Graphic Tees – Graphic tees make the perfect complement to your do-it-all swim shorts. Just make sure to reserve this look for more casual endeavors, such as hitting the resort bar or game room.
  • Sweatshirts – It can get nippy in the evenings during the summer, so it’s good to have a sweatshirt or two to pair with your swim trunks. Go for a solid-colored crew neck to keep it casual yet put together.
  • Polos – Polos pair perfectly with hybrid shorts, especially if you’re looking for a laid-back style for a nicer lounge, the golf course or the tennis court. We’d recommend sticking to a coordinated solid-colored polo if your swim trunks have a pattern.
  • Tank Tops – Tank tops are another great option if you’re looking for a casual style that honors your relaxed summer vibe. They’re amazing for those long days at the pool or beach and grabbing drinks afterward.
  • Button-Downs – Give your look a cool, European vibe by pairing your swim trunks with a beachy button-up top. We’re not talking 9-to-5 shirts, but rather billowing cotton or linen shirts that create a dressier aesthetic and don’t require tucking.

Coordinate Your Footwear

Footwear is an important consideration when you’re trying to make your swim trunks look more dressed up. To dial down the swimwear aspect, resist the urge to pair them with flip-flops or slides. We know, it’s tough! Instead, go for loafers, sneakers or boat shoes. This will automatically give your look a less beachy vibe, making it appropriate for the bar, restaurant or casino. If you plan to go to the beach some part of the day, make sure to choose a slip-on shoe to make dealing with sand a bit easier.

Pick the Right Accessories

When you’re trying to take beachwear and turn it into everywhere-wear, it helps to leave your sportier accessories at home. Rather than rocking a pair of sunglasses with the waterproof strap — a staple in the waves, of course — pick a pair that is a touch dressier. A nice pair of wayfarers or aviators would make a great alternative to your typical sport shades. Swap out your beach hat for a cool baseball cap for a chill but stylish finishing touch.

son father wearing swim trunks

Do What Feels Right to You

Ultimately, the best advice we can give to anyone looking to rock trunks outside of the pool is this: Style your trunks in a way that’s true to you. If you feel like you’re too far outside your comfort zone or like you’re reaching to make something work, scrap it. Stick to shorts in a style, pattern and fabric that feel natural to you, and you’ll be much better off when you go to style them. 

Image Credits

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