The Knack

In Defence Of Short Shorts On Men

Swimming trunks should be very short. There, we’ve said it

Who likes skimpy trunks? I like skimpy trunks. Who doesn’t like skimpy trunks? Quite a substantial number of people, it seems. If you are a Speedo or Speedo adjacent-wearing man, you may be teased. You may have to endure comments about how “brave” you are. It takes a bold soul to stride onto a beach or into his local swimming pool wearing something so small that it would struggle to cover a roast chicken. But I want to reject the stigma, climb onto the rooftop and declare that men should be wearing skimpy trunks – and wearing them more often.

I own three pairs of short swimming trunks. That might be too many, I realise, but I have three because I like how I look in them. After I bought my latest skimpy pair – XS – I slipped them on, stood in front of my wife and asked her what she thought. “They remind me of Pierce Brosnan in Mrs Doubtfire,” she said. “He wears trunks like that and he’s a bellend.” Well, well, well.

I come before you not to defend Mr Brosnan or his bravado, but there’s a phenomenon at work here that does a disservice to the tight-trunked among us. I think men should be reclaiming their bodies and their feelings about them, not hiding them beneath bagginess. Let me be absolutely clear – I don’t want to see men wearing Borat-style mankinis any more than you do. Some outfits do legitimately border on being a crime. I have no interest in wearing anything that has the word “pouch” in its name, nor do I want to show anyone my, um, manly bits. But, as Mr Daniel Craig proved when he walked up the beach in Casino Royale, men can look handsome in short shorts.

In the interests of research, I posted a photo of Mr Craig in his tiny trunks on social media and asked people how they felt about them. The responses were almost all admiring, although one friend compared little trunks to unwrapping a present and getting a surprise (“If you know what the present is, it’s not so much fun”). The wider world went mad for Mr Craig emerging from the water. It was a scene that treated a man’s body with the lingering appreciation hitherto reserved, at least in the Bond films, for the female form.

I abandoned my long shorts two years ago and haven’t looked back. Not uncoincidentally, it was around that time that I started working out more often and therefore felt more comfortable with the downsizing. Before you can convince other people, you have to convince yourself. Once this has happened, you’ll feel comfortable and sexy, like Mr Jon Hamm in a hammock.

Added to this feeling of self-belief is the frisson that accompanies anything that feels, in however tiny a way, a little rebellious. That’s partly what motivates Mr Tim Leigh, a Londoner so enthusiastic about Speedos that, when a friend of mine learnt I was writing this story, she recommended him to me as an interviewee. Mr Leigh bought his first pair in a scorching Maltan summer in 2014. “I hate what society says we should do,” he says. “I think the Victorians did such a terrible thing for body image, dictating how everything and everyone should be perceived.” I agree with him. There is something delicious about the idea that your trunks might annoy more conservative beachgoers. I don’t swagger down the beach flicking the Vs at people, saying, “Oh, sorry, squares. Can’t handle this?” But could I swear in a court of law that I wasn’t saying it in my head? No, your honour.

Given people’s hang-ups, there are bound to be some onlookers who want to ditch their modest knee-length shorts and parade around in something skimpier. They just don’t have the, ahem, cojones. But, unless they have unresolved emotional insecurities of their own, most people don’t seriously care what you wear on the beach. Yes, they may raise their eyebrows but, really, that’s it. That’s the end of it. With the exception of being unfavourably compared to Mr Brosnan, the most negative reaction my trunks have ever received is basically, “Ooh.” Could be worse.

If you’re thinking about dipping your toe in the skimpy-trunk waters, here are five takeaways.


If you’re a skimpy newbie, don’t go too short too soon. You don’t want to accidentally restrict blood flow to a vital organ.


Don’t try to look like Mr Daniel Craig. It may not be possible and it certainly won’t be good for your sanity.


Wear what makes you feel good. Wanting to look sexy is nothing to be ashamed of.


Choose a colour that complements your skin tone. I don’t wear white trunks because I fear being mistaken for a ghost.


Wear them with pride. You don’t want to be lying on your deathbed only to hold your relatives close and say, “I wish… I wish I’d worn more Speedos.”

Try these

  • Atalaye Caritza Short-Length Printed Swim Shorts

  • Off-White Mid-Length Swim Shorts

  • TOM FORD Slim-Fit Short-Length Camouflage-Print Swim Shorts

  • Prada Short-Length Tech-Jersey Swim Shorts

  • CDLP Riva Swim Briefs

  • Gucci Short-Length Grosgrain-Trimmed Swim Shorts