Trunk call: get shorted for summer

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A good pair of shorts is the last line of defence your modesty has when it's time for the beach, which means it's worth doing your homework, says Lee Holmes

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a beach holiday must be in want of a good pair of trunks. But stepping poolside is fraught with pitfalls with regard to what type of swimwear you actually wear. Feeling the sand between your toes will count for naught if you're not prepped and ready for your close-up.

First, you should do your research before you buy – and try on as many styles as you can bear. This is something you would do when purchasing a winter coat, so it's important you apply the same method when investing in the last line of defence to your modesty on the beach. Unless you're of the Adonis mould, the need to feel comfortable and look your best in this state of undress is far more challenging than when you're fully clothed.

One of the most popular styles still, is the board short. But here's a look that really suits only the archetypal Californian surfer dude, whose very idea of dressing for beach-bar cocktails is to jazz up his “look” with a cowrie-shell necklace. Go figure.

Fortunately, the pendulum of fashion has already begun to swing the other way, with the dominance of the board short waning, and the emergence of the shorter swim short. Equally providential is the result, as this style works well on most men; think Jude Law in The Talented Mr Ripley. And this shorter length – above the knee, ideally sitting on the thigh – has the added bonus of making stumpy legs look longer too.

It also performs well under the pressure of prints and patterns, with muted colour tones working best if you're feeling less than confident and don't want to draw too much attention to yourself on the beach. Plain block colours are excellent also, but be wary of white, especially if tight, as this will leave you looking flashy and a little trashy.

This, inevitably, leads us to the teeny-tiny-swimwear style of dressing. Very few people can pull this look off, with it often having the reverse effect of the aforementioned Law-ly moment. Now you're channelling Matt Damon from the very same film, only this time wearing a pair of lime-green falsetto-inducing trunks. In real life, styles such as these should be left to the likes of Olympic frat boy Ryan Lochte.

For most of us, it is the tailored swim short that is perhaps the victor when it comes to the most flattering bathing suit. Throw on a casual shirt and this swimwear will see you through from pool to beach bar. And, most importantly, pairs that come with a cinched-in waist are good form if yours is imperfect, ensuring that you're not that man who brings his “excess” baggage to the beach.

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