For some of us, it’s hard enough to fit our awkward shapes or oversized bodies into everyday attire, let alone swimwear. And while the goal is to just enjoy the sun and have a good time, it’s hard not to feel like a vast pile of crap-flavored lard when bombarded by ads for bathing suits featuring chiseled Adonises, six-packs gleaming like polished bronze in the summer sun.
With that in mind, we proudly — well, not proudly, but not entirely shamefully, at least — present our bigger dudes’ guide to swimwear. Got a gut? We’ve got you covered. Super tall? Yup, got that too. Man boobs? You know it. Just crazy swole? Check.
Let’s get started.
Color and Patterns
As far as color and design go, bathing suits usually present an opportunity to wear whatever you want. From jet black to bright pink and blue flower prints, pretty much anything goes and there are no real rules about what you can and can’t wear. However, there are some good guidelines you might want to follow.
When it comes to skintone, the darker your natural color, the more options you have, says stylist Todd Hanshaw. Brighter colors will contrast nicely, but even dark trunks on dark skin “can look really sophisticated,” says Hanshaw. So basically, you have all the options. For pale guys, super bright may not look so good because it will only emphasize how pale you are. Try more subdued colors instead — a great example of colors that do look good on the pale-skinned are pastel-colored, seersucker style trunks.
When it comes to patterns, while it’s all a matter of personal taste, Ralph Dweck of Mr. Swim says that he’s seen different trends in regards to age. “I’ve noticed that we see our 18- to 20-something customers go for the brighter and even neon colored trunks in every kind of crazy floral pattern we have.” As for the older guys, Dweck says that although they still love the fun floral patterns, the color palette tends to be more subdued: “We see navy tones and blacks and greys.”
The Dad Bod
Perhaps you were a Speedo-wearing guy before you had kids, but with the regular intake of all your kid’s leftover chicken nuggets, your once-glorious physique is now somewhat softer than it used to be. Hanshaw says that guys who are a little bit heavier like this tend to have better legs, so you’d would want to emphasize that feature by going with swim shorts, i.e., those trunks that are the same length as the gym shorts you used to wear back in middle school. Unless of course this brings back painful memories of dodgeball, in which case, maybe skip that.
Super Tall Guy
If you’re so tall that shorts never quite look right on you, it’s worth trying something a little bit longer. Dweck offers that his company makes what he calls a “modern boardshort,” which are similar to the fixed-waist Quiksilver type shorts you may be used to, only a little more sophisticated. Whatever you do, though, don’t go for anything that goes past your knees. Hanshaw warns that this is never a good look: “It’s too much fabric and can make you look like you have droopy drawers.” He also warns that anything that cuts you off at the knees or lower just looks awkward. “Unless you’re a surfer, get over it,” he advises.
Short and Round
“If you’re on the shorter side, you’re not going to want to wear a longer short because then you’re going to look even shorter,” Hanshaw says. So in this case, you’re going to try the opposite approach as the tall guy: While the tall guy may wear longer shorts to even things out, the shorter guy would go shorter. Dweck recommends something a little sportier, with a 6½-inch inseam — that’s higher above the knee on most guys, but would probably rest nicely just above it for the more vertically challenged.
The Beer Gut
For the guy with the gut, Hanshaw says to go with something longer, so that it doesn’t look too small under that bigger belly — ideally, find something that lies right above the knee. Dweck recommends going with an elastic waistband so that it comfortably forms to the body, allowing for some level of fluctuation in your waistline without having to buy new shorts every time you gain or lose a couple of pounds. With that, nylon is also a wise choice. As Dweck says, “Nylon is a fabric that wears and tears on the body, so it kind of molds to the body in a way that would be comfortable for a bigger guy.”
When your body type exceeds the simple beer gut and verges into obesity, you might want to keep in mind a few tips. While you’d still wear the same type of trunks as the gut guys — an above-the-knee cut, an elastic waistband and the nylon fabric — you may want to stay away from crazy patterns or designs. Dweck suggests, “Vertical stripes may help, as they can elongate the body,” but outside of that, you probably want to go with “a solid color so that it blends in better,” or even a solid trunk with simply a block of color or patterned trim.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t have nice colors — in particular, Dweck says that a mint blue (which reflects off the water) can look really nice. The problem with those crazy floral patterns is that there’s not meant to be so much of that pattern all in one place (i.e., on that big a canvas), and it’ll look too busy with so much of it.
Hopefully you can take a bit of a vacation from your insecurities while going to the beach, but if you insist on wearing some sort of shirt, Dweck says to skip the T-shirt, and instead, go with a lightweight linen shirt with the sleeves rolled up. “This is a great outfit along with a pair of sunglasses,” Dweck says.
While you might think that a Speedo is the way to go for the guy who is swole beyond comprehension, Hanshaw says that those tiny bikini briefs tend to look a bit awkward on such a big body. Instead, go for swim briefs, which aren’t much bigger, but are square-cut at the bottom like boxer briefs are. That way you can still go for maximum show-off without looking like your tiny bikini brief is holding on for dear life.
This is a very real affliction for heavier guys, or for guys in that awkward in-between phase of their weight loss. Unfortunately, the full-torso men’s swimsuit went out long ago, and despite the popularity of Seinfeld, the Bro (or Mansierre) never quite hit the mainstream. If you’re uncomfortable about your man-rack, an acceptable shirt to wear would be a lightweight polo. Dweck says that this looser fit won’t cling to your body too much and will be less sweaty if you buy something light.
Dweck also suggests that you have fun with it by matching the solid shirt to the pattern on the shorts you’ve picked out. Instead of looking like you’re trying to hide something, you’ll just look like you like to get a little more dressed up for the beach.