Summer is finally around the corner, and with it comes the promise (fingers crossed) of sunny days splashing around in the paddling pool at home or a long-awaited beach holiday.
So, with that being said, the hunt for the best swimwear is on – and thankfully there’s never been more choice for boys.
For the past month, our four-year-old and eight-year-old testers have been putting the very best swimwear for boys through their paces, so you don’t have to.
Whether you’re after a pair of swim shorts, an all-in-one swimsuit, rash vest or wetsuit, there’s something to suit everyone, right through from toddler to teen.
Each of our selections has ticked the box when it comes to great style, serious comfort (whether wet or dry) and excellent quality – it goes without saying everything had to pass the “it’s not gone see-through has it?” test when wet.
Many of the swimwear pieces listed offer UPF sun protection. This means they help to block the amount of UV radiation – both UVA and UVB – that passes through your clothing onto your skin. As water reflects UV rays, increasing your exposure when swimming, it’s definitely something to look out for when shopping for boys’ swimwear.
There’s also plenty of eco-friendly swimwear options to pick from too, with lots of independent brands showing a really positive dedication to sustainability, without compromising on style or quality.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best boys’ swimwear pieces of 2021 are:
- Best overall – Reima vesihiisi swimsuit: £38, Reima.com
- Best for cool prints – Boardies balloon animal print shorts: £30, Next.co.uk
- Best for retro style – Liewood manta swim tee in sea blue: £34, Scandiborn.co.uk
- Best for babies – Mori swim shorts: £14.50, Babymori.com
- Best luxury buy – Patachou white whale print shorts: £43, Patachou.com
- Best for sea swimming – JoJo Maman Bébé kid’s colour block wetsuit: £26, Jojomamanbebe.co.uk
- Best for twinning with dad –Mangata London mini mangatas: £35, Mangatalondon.com
- Best for toddlers and pre-schoolers – Speedo Corey croc swim top and short set: £22, Speedo.com
- Best for swimming lessons – Lands’ end boys’ swim shorts: Landsend.co.uk
- Best eco-friendly buy – Polarn O. Pyret UPF50 kids rash vest: £17.60, Polarnopyret.co.uk
- Best for comfort – Rachel Riley pineapple swim shorts: £39, Rachelriley.co.uk
- Best for keeping warm post-swim – dryrobe advance kids short sleeve: £80, dryrobe.com
Reima vesihiisi swimsuit
If you’ve always given all-in-one swimsuits a swerve in the past, worrying they will be a nightmare to get on and off, this excellent offering from Reima is the one to change your mind. Made from super-soft and stretchy material, this got the thumbs up from both our young testers and parents.
Fitted, but not tight, with a zip down the front rather than the back, our four-year-old had no problem getting in and out of this swimsuit, even when wet. Elbow and knee-length, this all-in-one is thin and lightweight, but still offers a UV protection of 50+. The fact it’s made from recycled materials was the cherry on the cake – a fantastic buy that’s well worth the money.
Boardies balloon animal print shorts
Best for: Cool prints
Can we just take a moment to appreciate how amazing these swim shorts are? The quirky balloon animal print, from East London swimwear brand, Boardies, was an instant hit with our testers, but it was the attention to detail that really won us over. From the subtle branding around the cord eyelets and mesh lining, right down to fit – the brand has worked with a master tailor to get the shape just right – everything about these shorts impressed.
The elasticated waistband and cord tie gives a bit more longevity as far as fit is concerned – our four-year-old tester wore size 5-6 no problem, with the cords pulled a bit tighter. The shorts dried really quickly, even on a cloudy day, and the inner mesh lining is so soft.
There are some amazing prints to choose from – Boardies often collaborate with artists to come up with limited edition runs – and with sizes going up to 13 years, we think they would really appeal to older kids and pre-teens who wanted to show off their individual style.
Liewood manta swim tee in sea blue
Best: Retro style
A long-sleeved swim tee, or rash top, is such a handy piece of swimwear for kids to throw on to protect their body from the sun’s rays, as well as to keep them warmer in the water. Liewood’s manta swim tee channels a cool, retro style, and is made from recycled polyester, so is a solid planet-friendly choice. It’s a really comfy top, thanks to the soft fabric and stretchy, non-restrictive fit, and our testers happily ran about in this all afternoon.
With UPF50+ you’ve got that added peace of mind that at least their top half is safe from the sun – you only need to chase the kids around to cover their legs and face in sun cream instead. The timeless, gender-neutral style makes this a great piece to pass down through the family, and it can easily be paired with any of the Liewood range of swim shorts and pants, or simply mix and match with what you have already.
Mori swim shorts
Best for: Babies
Mori are well-known for using the softest baby and kid-friendly materials, and these cute swim shorts are no exception. Made from recycled nylon, they have plenty of stretch for boys to swim, splash and run about all day in, as well as providing UPF50+ protection from the sun.
We found these came up slightly small, and the snug fit of these “short shorts” wasn’t something our older tester was that keen on. However, we think these are ideal for babies and toddlers, with the tighter fit adding an extra layer of security over a swim nappy. For the quality, eco-credentials, sun protection and overall look, we think these offer brilliant value for money.
Patachou white whale print shorts
Best: Luxury buy
Coming in as the priciest of our boys’ swimwear selection, these swim shorts from Portuguese label, Patachou, really are the ultimate in luxury. The shorts are feather light, which makes them seriously comfortable to wear and were the quickest-drying out of all the products tested.
We were a bit concerned such light-coloured shorts might go a bit see-through when wet, but the quality mesh-lining made sure that wasn’t an issue. A favourite of our younger tester, the classic whale print is something that will never date (much like the other swimwear designs on the Patachou website) and, as these shorts are made to last, they are perfect for passing down the generations.
JoJo Maman Bebe kid’s colour block wetsuit
Best for: Sea swimming
A wetsuit that is actually easy to get in and out of? We kid you not! This neoprene marvel from JoJo Maman Bébé must possess some kind of magical powers, as even our youngest tester managed to peel this off when wet, all by himself. The flexible, roomier fit helps, as does the zip front, and it’s no wonder this is one of the brand’s best-selling styles.
If you’re planning a UK beach holiday this summer, we’d highly recommend this wetsuit, to help keep the kids warm in the sea and on windy beaches. Available in sizes 1-6 years, this short-sleeved, colour block design, complete with cute whale motif was a certified hit, so much so, our four-year-old insists on wearing it in the bath most days…
Mangata London mini mangatas
Best for: Twinning with Dad
Out of all the swim shorts we tested, these felt like they could really withstand years of summer holidays and pool visits. The elasticated waistband, complete with working cord tie, made these a very comfortable fit, whether our tester was swimming or playing, and the thick mesh lining got their seal of approval thanks to the larger leg holes, which meant no pinching or rubbing.
For each of the boys’ swim short designs, there are adult versions to match – right down to the gold cord tips – so if you fancy a bit of father-son twinning, these are excellent. Mangata also impressed us with its green credentials – the swim shorts are made from 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles, the packaging and mail bags are recycled and compostable and there’s a tree planting programme to off-set its carbon footprint.
Speedo Corey croc swim top and short set
Best for: Toddlers and pre-schoolers
Speedo delivers on the cute-factor, with this fun two-piece set that even the most headstrong toddler will actually want to wear. The top and shorts have plenty of fancy, swim-friendly benefits, as you’d expect from a brand like Speedo, including higher chlorine resistance than standard swimwear and stretchy fabric that manages to hold its shape without feeling restrictive.
Our testers found the shorts to be a little on the snug side – if you need to fit a swim nappy underneath it might be worth sizing up – but still said they felt soft and comfy, and it certainly didn’t seem to slow them down. With UPF50+, the set offers reliable sun protection, and we particularly liked the raised neckline, covering an area often prone to catching the sun, especially with boys with short hair. A good price for a two-piece set.
Lands’ End boys’ swim shorts
Best for: Swimming lessons
These are such a great all-rounder – and at an affordable price. Plain, rather than patterned, these lightweight swim shorts are available in three colourways, and would be a brilliant choice for swimming lessons thanks to the unrestrictive mesh lining and roomy, relaxed fit. They also dry ridiculously quickly.
The longer length – these tend to sit just above the knee – appealed to our older tester, with their only complaint being they would have liked side pockets instead of a single pocket at the back. The fact these swim shorts have UPF50+ sun protection and can easily be thrown in the machine to wash means they are also a solid choice for beach holidays, too.
Polarn O. Pyret UPF50 kids rash vest
Best: Eco-friendly buy
This Swedish brand make clothes “that are meant to be handed down”, with a focus on sustainability. The whole of its swimwear collection is made using ocean waste, like recycled plastic and fishing nets – and the result is surprisingly soft, long-lasting pieces that will stand the test of time.
This long-sleeve rash vest features the brand’s traditional stripes, and we found it a simple enough design to mix and match with much of the swimwear we already have. We found the sizing came up a little big, but with rolled up sleeves it wasn’t an issue and means you’ll get plenty of wear out of it. Quick drying, machine washable and chlorine resistant, it ticks all the boxes for us, and, thanks to the UPF50+ sun protection and nautical vibe, we think it’s an essential pack for seaside getaways.
Rachel Riley pineapple swim shorts
Best: For comfort
What’s not to love about pineapple swimwear? As well as looking the business, these swim shorts from British brand Rachel Riley, were declared “the comfiest swim shorts ever” by our tester – high praise from someone who can spot a potentially-scratchy clothes label at 50 paces.
The covered, elasticated waistband and mesh lining feels incredibly soft and the relaxed fit gave our boys plenty of room to swim and play without feeling restricted. Little details, like the decorative herringbone cord tie and button-down pocket on the back of the shorts, give these a premium feel and there are matching items for girls, too.
One thing to mention – on the website, Rachel Riley recommends changing out of the swimwear after you’ve been in water, due to the possibility of chafing. It’s not a problem we noticed during testing, but something to be aware of.
Dryrobe advance kids short sleeve
Best for: Keeping warm post-swim
Remember those character-building moments as a kid spent shivering on a British beach, after braving a swim in the sea? The dryrobe is set to make that a thing of the past and believe us when we say it’s an absolute game-changer. Essentially an oversized waterproof and windproof jacket with a warm lining (synthetic lambswool made from acrylic and recycled polyester), there’s plenty of room inside to get changed out of your swimwear, or – as our testers enjoyed – to keep cosy in between dips.
Although it’s classed as short sleeved, the dryrobe is so oversized they were full-length on our almost five-year-old (we tested size 5-9, but you can also get size 10-14) and, despite being bulky, we were all surprised at how lightweight it is. We’ve been completely won over and now wonder how we lived without it.
The verdict: Boys’ swimwear
For us, the Reima vesihiisi swimsuit ticked every single box – sustainable, sun-safe, stylish, comfortable and easy for our testers to get on and off themselves, we couldn’t really ask for any more. It’s not the cheapest in our round-up, but it’s such excellent quality you can easily pass it down to family and friends.
A special mention must go to the dryrobe advance kids short sleeve, which is such an ingenious post-swimming saviour, and so well executed, it’s worth every penny.
For the latest offers on kids’ clothing and holiday essentials, try the links below:
While they’re having fun in the sun, make sure their sensitive skin is protected with the best kids’ sunscreens
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in