Different Kinds of Men’s Swimwear and How to Choose the Best Swim Shorts for You

Different Kinds of Men’s Swimwear and How to Choose the Best Swim Shorts for You

I often find myself switching between the terms “swim trunks” and “swim shorts,” but I never really knew the difference between the two. Since I am probably not the only one, I did a little research to once and for all gain some clarity on the matter. Turns out, there are quite a few different kinds of swim shorts for men out there!

Swim short styles: a brief list

I love making lists; they’re easy to read, and you can just skip over the parts that aren’t interesting to you. So, to make it easy for you, let’s start off by dividing the shorts into two categories: tight-fitted shorts and loose-fitted shorts. Here we go!

Wait, wait, wait! Before we go on, I have to tell you an important thing I discovered while writing this: "swim shorts" is the term commonly used to refer to all men's swimwear, whether they are swim briefs, jammers, swim trunks, or boardshorts. They are all swim shorts. Now, without further ado:


Starting off with the tight-fitted shorts


Swim briefs

Most of us would probably refer to swim briefs as Speedos, which is actually a brand name. The Australian company Speedo introduced these modern swim briefs in the 1960s. These tight-fitted briefs are often chosen to be worn for recreational use because of the ease of movement, quick drying time, and the ability to be worn under pants or shorts. However, swim briefs offer minimal coverage, which is probably a big reason why they are not super popular. In some countries, these swim briefs are mostly only worn for competitive swimming sports due to their streamlined design, while in Europe, Australia, and South America, these swim briefs are still a popular choice for recreational wear.

Square Leg Shorts

The following shorts are basically swim briefs but just with a different length. To explain what Square Leg shorts look like, I’d compare them to the typical boxers; the length is typically 15-20 cm down the thigh. They gained popularity in the 1950s and 1960s and were inspired by the traditional swim briefs but offering a bit more coverage of the legs. Just like swim briefs, these shorts are used for competitive swimming as well as recreational use.


Don’t worry, I never heard of this as well. They gained popularity around the 1990s and were developed to offer more coverage and support compared to the traditional swim briefs while still allowing high performance in the water. Aquashorts are very similar to square leg shorts but they can be a little bit shorter and may offer a slightly tighter fit. Initially, aquashorts were adopted by competitive swimmers and athletes, however, nowadays you’ll find them as recreational wear as well.


Another name that didn’t ring a bell. They also gained popularity in the 1990s and were also initially developed for competitive swimmers seeking to improve their performance with a more streamlined design. Jammers are basically the long version of aquashorts and square leg shorts. Jammers typically go down all the way to the knee or slightly above it. If you have ever watched a men’s swimming competition then you probably have seen them there.

So now you have the information on the fitted swimwear and to be honest the difference between square leg shorts and aquashorts... Well, we know the theory but if you look both up online, you’ll probably just see the same kind of swim shorts. 


Up next: Loose-fitted shorts!


Swim Trunks

The origins of swim trunks trace back to the early 20th century but only gained real popularity in the 1950s and 1960s when recreational swimming became more common. During this time innovations in fabric technology led to the development of quick-drying materials, which made swim trunks more practical and comfortable since they could be worn during all sorts of activities. Swim trunks have a loose fit with an elastic waistband that may feature a drawstring for adjustment. They often have a mesh lining inside for support and comfort and pockets for functionality. Swim trunks often come down to mid-thigh length but they could be a little shorter or longer.

Board Shorts

Boardshorts hit the market in the late 1950s and gained popularity in the 1960s when surf culture became bigger and bigger. They were originally designed for surfers, offering a longer length and durable construction. Boardshorts have a longer length than swim trunks, usually reaching to the knee, or slightly below or above it. With a lace-up or Velcro fly closure. Usually the material is slightly stretchy as well to give maximum flexibility during water sports like surfing.

Basically for the loose-fitted shorts you have two options. Where the main difference is the waistband and the length. Swim trunks are usually mid-thigh or slightly higher/lower with an elastic waistband and drawstring cord, whereas boardshorts are long, reaching the knee and have a lace-up or Velcro fly and no elastic in the waistband.


What is the best men's swimwear for you?

First, think about what you need the shorts for. Do you like swimming longer distances, swim for speed, lounging by the pool, or are you big on water sports like surfing? Based on that, you can see if you need tight or loose-fitted swim shorts and then choose the length. Of course, you want to choose the best swim shorts for the activity, but in the end, it also just comes down to preference. Do you need shorts for surfing but you like to have an elastic waistband? Then choose swim trunks or look for board shorts with an elastic waistband (yes they exist). There are no set rules, just simple guidelines :) !

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