The Very Best Men’s Swim Trunks (2024)

best in class

By Liza Corsillo, a senior writer at the Strategist covering kids’ toys and men’s style. She joined the Strategist in 2019. She is a former writer for GQ and an accomplished illustrator.

The Very Best Men’s Swim Trunks (2)

Photo-Illustration: AMC

In this article

  • Best overall
  • Best for tall people
  • Best short-inseam
  • Best performance
  • Best for surfing
  • Best patterned
  • Best tailored-fit
  • Best alternative-fabric

The best men’s swim trunks dry quickly, make you feel confident while half-naked, and are as comfortable underwater as it is on land. Once those three boxes are checked, the other stuff — fun patterns, extra pockets, recycled materials, and UPF sun protection — is just gravy. John Moore, the co-founder and creative director of the swimwear brand Outerknown, says the most important characteristic of proper swim trunks is that they are “water ready,” even if they may not look like it at first glance. Otherwise, you’ll be swimming in what are essentially beachy shorts that could easily slip off your waist, cling to your legs, irritate your crotch, or puff up like a balloon once they hit the water. We spoke with stylists, designers, athletes, beach fanatics, and a surfer to find the very best swim trunks for men.

What we’re looking for


You want materials that are lightweight when wet and quick-drying once you’re out of the water. Moore says synthetics like recycled polyester, spandex, or nylon are ideal. “You can wear cotton in the water, but it’s gonna pull you down,” says Moore. If you’ve ever gotten jeans wet, you know that cotton becomes super heavy and restricts movement (plus it takes longer to dry). Look for stretchiness in the fabric too, says Moore. This will allow you the range of movement needed for activities like swimming or surfing.


For swim trunks, one of the most important measurements is the inseam length.Short three- and four-inch inseams will show the most thigh; mid-range five-and six-inch inseams are considered the average; and long seven-inch and even nine-inch inseams will hit closer to, or even below, your knee. Many of the experts we spoke to also mentioned that you want to be sure your trunks aren’t too tight or too loose. If they are overly restrictive and form fitting, they won’t allow for comfortable movement in the water. If they are too loose, they can end up slipping off your waist, and no one wants to see that.We looked for swim trunks that come in a wide range of sizes to fit a wide range of people.


A lot of men feel more comfortable with a mesh lining in their swim trunks, which is a common feature across many brands. Mesh lining is traditionally used to provide support as you are swimming or taking part in other water sports. Moore explains that some of Outerknown’s trunks don’t have mesh liners because surfers don’t like them. “An important aspect of designing a great trunk is cutting down on anything that would cause abrasion,” he says. Because extra fabric can actually get in the way, some brands choose to exclude the mesh lining. Below, we’ve noted whether each pair of trunks has a lining or not.


You should also pay attention to other details, such as how flat the seams and stitching are, as anything with too much texture or roughness could cause chafing or discomfort. At the waistband, look for whether there’s an internal or external drawstring and a fully elastic waist or a tie closure to allow you to adjust the fit as needed. Most men will also want their trunks to have at least one pocket. Fashion designer Billy Reid emphasized to us that having at least side pockets or a back pocket can make a world of difference in both style and convenience. Some brands even include a secure key-chain loop within one of the pockets so you don’t have to worry about your keys accidentally getting lost in the water.

Best men’s swim trunks overall

Fabric: 100 percent recycled nylon | Fit: 5- or 7-inch inseam, sizes XS–2XL | Liner: Mesh liner | Details: Side pockets, one back pocket, internal drawstring

Patagonia Baggies have been a Strategist favorite for years. While at a glance they may seem like a straightforward pair of shorts, they’re made from quick-drying nylon, have a mesh liner, and contain “drain-and-dry mesh corners” inside the pockets. Patagonia doesn’t explicitly call them swim trunks, but many of our experts do. If you’re average in height, the Baggies’ five-inch inseam will give you the same trendy mid-thigh fit offered by higher-end brands, but they’re more affordable and multipurpose. And they actually have more fashion cred than you might expect. They’ve “become something of a summer staple,” says image consultant Patrick Kenger. “They’re the perfect length, come in multiple color options, and it’s an attractive price point.” (Strategist contributor Chris Black and former senior editor Anthony Rotunno are also fans.) For tall folks or those who prefer longer trunks, they also come in a seven-inch inseam. Baggies have side pockets as well as one back pocket with a snap-button closure and a key loop.

Best swim trunks for tall people

Fabric: 100 percent recycled polyester | Fit: 8-inch inseam, sizes XS–3XL | Liner: Mesh liner | Details: Side pockets, one back pocket, external drawstring

Celebrity stylist Okera Banks likes swim trunks that combine vintage style with a “modern design sensibility,” and she told us these Nautica seersucker trunks are among her favorites. They have a longer, eight-inch inseam, which makes them a good option for someone who is on the tall side or wants to cover more of their legs. They are made of a quick-drying recycled polyester, and they have side pockets and one back welt pocket. If seersucker isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other Nautica swim trunks with an eight-inch inseam in different patterns and colors.

Best short-inseam swim trunks

Fabric: 100 percent polyamide | Fit: 4-inch inseam, sizes S–2XL | Liner: Mesh liner | Details: Side pockets, one back pocket, external drawstring

According to former Strategist writer David Notis, these trunks from Solid & Striped are a dressier alternative to Baggies. In addition to being a bit shorter, with a four-inch inseam, they’re more form fitting, and the seersucker pocket lining makes a statement. These trunks are made of polyamide, a quick-drying fabric that is similar to nylon. They have a traditional mesh lining, side pockets, and a back pocket with a hidden snap closure. They also come in more than three dozen colors and prints to suit a wide range of styles and tastes. Notis likes them because they are classic with stylish details. “In terms of mid-thigh trunks, these land somewhere between tailored and casual,” he says.

Best super-short-inseam swim trunks

Fabric: 100 percent recycled nylon | Fit: 2.5-inch inseam, sizes XS–XL | Liner: Mesh liner | Details: Side pockets, no back pocket, internal drawstring

Not many people are courageous enough to pull off an under-three-inch inseam, but if you’re willing to take a chance, two of the stylish guys we spoke to recommend a shorter version of our much-beloved top pick, the Patagonia Baggies. Mapate Diop, founder of the clothing line Diop, says, “Most are familiar with the legendary Patagonia Baggies and its five-inch inseam,” he says. “But I think everyone should take it to the next level with the Barely Baggies and its 2.5-inch inseam.” In addition to showing more leg, Diop insists they’re “great for walking and biking,” and just like their longer cousins, they are quick-drying and have a mesh liner. “I’ve been living in mine, especially as it gets warmer and I spend more time outdoors,” Diop says. Nikko Lencek-Inagaki, the head designer for Freemans Sporting Club, is a fan of the shorter Baggies as well. “You can never go wrong with a pair of short shorts, and what is more classic than some Patagonia Baggies?” he says. The Barely Baggies are cut with women’s sizing in mind, so pay close attention to the size chart.

Best performance swim trunks

Fabric: 85% nylon, 15% spandex | Fit: 6.5-inch inseam, sizes XS–2XL | Liner: Medium compression liner | Details: Side pockets, one back pocket, phone pocket, secure key loop, internal drawstring

Kevin Ng, a former collegiate swimmer at the University of Rhode Island, says these shorts from the fitness brand Ten Thousand allow athletes to quickly transition their workouts in and out of the water. They’re made with quick-drying nylon fabric that is comfortable and nice-looking, and Ng commends “the streamlined fit and minimal waistband” for not feeling too restrictive or limiting your range of motion” on land or in water. The shorts also have spandex for added stretch and comfort and a chlorine- and saltwater-resistant warp-knit liner that kind of resembles a pair of boxer briefs. It’s meant to provide support without chafing but also be quick-drying. The shorts come in five colors and have a zippered back pocket, side pockets, a zippered hip pocket meant for your phone, and a secure key loop.

Best stretch swim trunks

Fabric: 92% recycled polyester, 8% elastane | Fit: 5.5-inch inseam, waist sizes 28–36 | Liner: Mesh liner | Details: Side pockets, one back pocket, external lace-up drawstring

Peter Sheehan, a lifestyle director at the real-estate firm Related Companies, recommended these trunks from Canadian brand Bather. “I don’t go for anything uncomfortable or with a harsh mesh liner,” he says. “It has to be simple and stylish with a flattering fit above the knee.” These breathable, quick-drying trunks fit the bill, and their recycled polyester fabric helped him feel good about his purchase, but they also contain elastane to provide four-way stretch. The shorts have side pockets and a snap-closure back pocket, and they come in five colors and patterns.

Best swim trunks for surfing

Fabric: 43% recycled polyester, 43% polyester, 14% spandex | Fit: 9-inch inseam, waist sizes 28–38 | Liner: No liner | Details: No side pockets, one back pocket, external lace-up drawstring

Outerknown’s Apex trunks are specially designed with surfing in mind. Moore says they were designed and tested with 11-time surf champion Kelly Slater. They have unique heat-sealed seams to make the trunks feel as smooth as possible. Moore explains that surfing is such a physically intensive sport that shorts with mesh liners and stitched seams can feel uncomfortable and cause abrasion, which these minimize. The trunks come in 13 colors and have a back pocket with an Aquaguard zipper meant to repel water as well as an internal bungee key loop.

If you prefer a less performance-focused style that still boasts some of the details of the Apex, you can consider the Apex Hybrid, which also has side pockets and a zip fly. “You can throw them on with a pair of tennis shoes and a T-shirt, but then you get to the beach, you get to the pool, and there’s nothing in that trunk that won’t perform in the water and dry quickly on land,” says Moore.

Best patterned swim trunks

Fabric: 100% Recycled Polyester | Fit: 5.5-inch inseam, sizes XS-3XL | Liner: Mesh inner briefs | Details: Can be folded into back zipper pocket, no side pockets, elastic waistband with external drawstring

Filmmaker Rafhael Dungca believes the best swim trunks are fun and interesting, with a hem that lands just above the knee and no liner. “When you’re at the beach, swim trunks are usually the only thing you’ve got on, so why not go crazy?” he says, adding that a bright pattern will help the lifeguard see you better too. As far as wild patterns go, wardrobe stylist Jessica Cadmus called out French brand Vilebrequin. They are a splurge, for sure, but they come in a huge amount of fun prints, including hand-painted wildlife like the fish and shellfish on this pair, full-bleed photographs of vacation scenes, and even trompe l’oeil photographs of fabrics like denim and fur. But it’s not just the eye-catching prints she likes; these swim trunks also meet her criteria for the most universally flattering trunks: Their 5.5-inch inseam lands a few inches above the knee on most men and they feature a relaxed leg. Plus, these trunks are ultralightweight, so they’re perfect for traveling. You can even save space by flipping the zipper pocket inside out and packing the whole pair of trunks inside the resulting Baggu-esque mini stuff sack that will easily tuck into a backpack or glove box.

Best (less expensive) patterned swim trunks

Fabric: 85% recycled polyester, 15% spandex | Fit: 5-,7-, or 9-inch inseam, waist sizes 28–36 | Liner: Mesh liner | Details: Side pockets, one back pocket, key loop, external drawstring

George Brescia, an image consultant and the author of Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life, loves Bonobos swim trunks. “People always stop me on the beach and ask where I got them,” he says. Brescia says this Riviera style, with its elastic waist, is very comfortable. He likes that they’re fairly fitted but still leave room for your legs to move. And they are available in more than two dozen statement-making colors and patterns and three different inseams (five-inch, seven-inch, and nine-inch), a level of customization that will help you to find your perfect pair. The Rivieras have a mesh liner, side pockets, and one back patch pocket with a velcro closure and a dedicated key loop.

Fabric: 57% ECONYL® polyamide, 39% nylon, 4% elastane | Fit: 6-inch inseam, sizes XS-2XL | Liner: Mesh liner | Details: Side pockets, one back pocket, keychain loop, external drawstring

For another pair of patterned trunks that won’t break the bank, Cadmus recommends J.Crew’s six-inch trunks with stretch. She says the brand continues to make decent-quality trunks at a great price point. This pair is available in more than 20 bright colors and patterns and is made of fabrics that dry quickly and move with you.

Best tailored-fit swim trunks

Fabric: 100% polyamide | Fit: 6-inch inseam, waist sizes 28–40 | Liner: Mesh liner | Details: Side pockets, one back pocket, snap-front waist with adjustable pull tabs

Two of our experts named these mid-length trunks from Orlebar Brown as their favorite despite the high price tag. A shorter pair of Orlebar Brown trunks were famously worn by Daniel Craig in Skyfall, and stylist Piper Gore called out the brand for its “flat-front-trouser design detail and the side-pulls to adjust for the perfect fit.” (There’s also a zip fly.) Olie Arnold, style director at the men’s-fashion website Mr Porter, is also a fan: “Orlebar Brown is known for creating swim trunks based on the traditional 17-piece pattern used to tailor a pair of trousers. They’re made so you can look sharply dressed while at the pool or at the beach bar.” At this price, we know they won’t be for everyone, but they’re great if you’re going for a more refined look. They have side pockets, one zippered back pocket, and come in many colors and patterns.

Best (less expensive) tailored-fit swim trunks

Fabric: 92% polyester, 8% spandex | Fit: 10.5-inch inseam, waist sizes 28–40 | Liner: No liner | Details: Side pockets, one back pocket, button-front waist

Lots of board shorts fall way below the knee, but our experts say they’ll look more sleek if you can find something on the shorter side with a slightly fitted look. San Diego–based personal stylist Vanessa Valiente calls these Hurley Phantom board shorts “hands down my favorite,” and they’re a big hit with her clients because they’re comfortable — they don’t have a liner, which some might prefer — good-looking, and easily transition from the pool or beach to around town. They have a button closure with no drawstring (as well as belt loops for when you’re out of the water), side pockets, and two back pockets, and they come in six colors.

Best alternative-fabric swim trunks

Fabric: 52% polyester, 38% Cocotex, 10% spandex | Fit: 6-inch inseam, sizes S–2XL | Liner: Mesh liner | Details: Side pockets, two back pockets, external drawstring

All of Southern Tide’s swim trunks are made in part with recycled fiber from discarded coconut husks, which provide moisture-wicking and anti-odor properties. After the brand sent a pair of its Solid Swim Trunks to Strategist senior editor Jen Trolio, her husband deemed the fabric lightweight, flexible, and very easy to move around in. The trunks have a relaxed fit and a six-inch inseam and come in four colors, each with a contrasting external drawstring. They also have a mesh liner, side pockets, and two back pockets — one welt pocket and one pocket with a zipper closure and an internal key loop. If you like to stay prepared for impromptu dips in a pool or lake, these also pack tightly into the back zipper pocket for easy carrying.

Additional reporting by David Notis and Jordan Bowman.

Our experts

• Jessica Cadmus, wardrobe stylist
• Rafhael Dungca, filmmaker
Olie Arnold, style director at men’s-fashion site Mr Porter
Okera Banks, celebrity stylist
Chris Black, former Strategist columnist
George Brescia, image consultant and author of Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life
• Mapate Diop, founder of clothing line Diop
Piper Gore, stylist
Patrick Kenger, image consultant
• Nikko Lencek-Inagaki, head designer for Freemans Sporting Club
• John Moore, co-founder and creative director of swimwear brand Outerknown
Kevin Ng, former collegiate swimmer at the University of Rhode Island
• David Notis, former Strategist writer
• Billy Reid, designer and founder of the brand Billy Reid
• Anthony Rotunno, former Strategist senior editor
Peter Sheehan, lifestyle director at real-estate firm Related Companies
Vanessa Valiente, San Diego–based personal stylist

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The Very Best Men’s Swim Trunks
The Very Best Men’s Swim Trunks (2024)
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