Designer Kunal Rawal’s guide to buying the right swimwear

  • Kunal Rawal, Mumbai
  • Updated: Apr 14, 2016 16:20 IST
A beach tote can carry all your summer essentials: sunblock, deodorant and an iPod.

The thing with swimwear is this: it’s tricky. It’s not like the classic white shirt or the blue jeans that even your average Joe can get right. So let’s get the basics in place, shall we?

First things first, whether you are a boxers or a briefs guy, swim shorts are absolutely the way to go. Leave the speedos and cycling swim shorts for the professional swimmers and the super-fit few. I, for one, am definitely not pro speedos. To put it mildly, there’s too much on display.

There are three most popular lengths: mid-thigh, knee-length and just below the knee (board shorts). Board shorts come in a longer length too (shin-length), which works well on surfers and is a fun look for the pool. Quite frankly, board shorts are my favourite pattern for swimwear. I call them all-terrain shorts. Perfect for the beach, a game of volleyball, a day at the pool, music festivals, weekend trips and what have you. And trust me when I say that; I’ve had weekend getaways where I have not gotten out of one.

Mid-thigh-length broad shorts. (Image: Shutterstock)

Board shorts work well with tees, vests, shirts and hoodies. The length allows more play. I always recommend having a solid black to mix and match and repeat. Or at least a white or navy. Brighter colourblocked concepts work well for a simple yet fun look — think teal, ketchup red, burnt orange, yellow… you can also go for an abstract graphic, a floral or a geometric print. For a preppy look, team them up with a collared polo or a button down shirt. The right fit is key here. One needs comfort for mobility, certainly, but too loose and you know what happens next.

Also read: How to find the perfect white shirt?

When it comes to brands, O’Neill and Quicksilver are the big papas of this world and quite honestly, they nail it. Vilebrequin is great for mid-thigh and Zara has a few interesting ones too. I’d like to emphasise here that wash care instructions — which so many of us don’t pay any serious attention to — are important. Threads do shrink and crinkle on seams if temperatures are not correct.

A pair of knee-length broad shorts. (Image: Shutterstock)

Coming to footwear, preppy boys can opt for ‘swims’ or waterproof boat shoes. Flip-flops are, of course, the most convenient, while Havaianas are pretty great too. Don’t even think about Vibram’s though — they look most unsightly.

Even if you’re the type to meticulously plan your look, I’d say don’t over- accessorise. I’m from the school of thought that believes it’s important for men to not look like they’re trying too hard. Just a water resistant watch and/or a neck chain does the trick perfectly. An ankle thread works well for a neat surfer look. Unless you’re lounging and harbour no intention of actually swimming, chuck those sunglasses.

Also read: The ultimate checklist for summer dressing by designer Kunal Rawal

Flip-flops are ideal poolside wear.

Sartorial choices apart, it’s also important to focus on a few other things. A cap, hat or beret is almost a necessity if in the sun for long. Take your pick based on your personal style but do carry one. A small backpack or beach tote that can pack in sunblock, a deodorant, an iPod and, if you’re like me, some tan oil, is a must.

Kunal Rawal is a leading men’s fashion designer. He tweets as @kunalrawalvibe

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