Men, buy some goddamn decent swim shorts
Thanks to the swim shorts boom over the past 100 years all hell has broken loose a la plage. After a harrowing experience with a thong on the beach, Chris Sullivan has had enough...
Still mentally scarred since I sighted a man con thong – his privates covered by less cloth than an eyepatch, his pubic hair peeping out uninvited, and buttocks separated by a piece of string – I now believe that, for the good of the nation’s mental health, a measure of decorum has to be applied on the beach and men in such heinous displays of grossness banned. As my dad is oft to say, "There should be a law against that”. And for many years, when it came to swim shorts, there was.
Indeed, prior 1860 when the Victorians brought in laws to uphold "public indecency", males the world over went starkers in rivers, pools, and seas, the idea of a swimming costume as baffling as a fish in a life jacket. Consequently, law-abiding men took to the all in one ‘skivvy’ style swimwear that, intended to keep a chap warm in cold water, weighed in at over 22 pounds and was like swimming in a wet duffle coat. Said bathers were tied to a rope that attached to a buoy kept them afloat. Not ideal by anybody’s measure.
And yet the style spread like the plague, particularly in the US where on 17 May 1917 the Draconian "Bathing Suit Regulations" were passed that demanded men be covered from knee to neck whilst bathing or else land in the Pokey. Certainly, going topless could still land a fellow in jail right up until 1937. After this, laws were relaxed and gents aped the likes of swimming superstar actor, Johnny Weissmuller, and a decent trunk reigned supreme.
All changed in 1956 after Australia’s swimmers, kitted out in Speedo’s state-of-the-art ultra-tight nylon budgie smugglers, won eight golds at the Melbourne Olympics. Overnight, all bets were off. The saps came out to play and offenses against sartoria ruled the beach.
Undoubtedly, the man who did the most damage on the beach was the Austrian-born American fashion designer, Rudi Gernreich, who in 1974, created the thong and freed a million rears. The same year he invented the virtually-topless Monokini for women that liberated a swathe of mammary glands. Of course, this was later popularised for men by Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat, and apparently adopted by males who rechristened it the Mankini. I thought it was a load of old bollocks until I saw some bloke sporting one in Ibiza and promptly threw up. Not a good day for me. That afternoon I also witnessed the Brazilian "sunga” that - although based on the square leg fifties trunk - has been shrunk to a harrowing five inches wide, exposing both pube and arse crack.
Almost as sad are those who, well on the way to middle age, favour board shorts that reach below the knee, teamed with baseball caps, T-shirts with logos on them, and hideous moulded rubber sandals. Not smart, not stylish and certainly not clever.
But surf culture did the bathing costume no amount of good by redressing the balance of previous buttock fests. And even though all of the above suggests you’d rather be a teenager, another product of said ethos is a recent resurgence in favour for boxer-style shorts. These reach a distinctly respectable mid-thigh length and are thoroughly unimpeachable for yours truly when ensconced on the beach.
I’d give the tight Speedo-style swim brief a wide berth as they imply great gobs of narcissism. Intriguingly, in France, swim shorts of all kinds are forbidden from all public pools in favour of the Speedo style double egg and sausage bathers.
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Do not miss the opportunity to look good this summer on the Beach, maybe you are not ready for the speedos, but a nice designed shorts are the answer. Find them at OUTFAIR.com