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Words by Messrs Mansel Fletcher and Peter Henderson
Film by Mr Aaron Christian

This week Mr Peter Henderson, above, looks at the famous men who've been getting it right on the beach this summer, Mr Mansel Fletcher casts his mind back over a lifetime of swimwear choices, and we share a brief video debate from the style set over their preferred cut...

This is a long story, a short story and now it's a mid-length story. It's how one man sought a route between the riptides and offshore currents of fashion, in search of the calm waters of elegance. The story starts with your correspondent, then in the foothills of his teenage years, looking to Californian surf culture for fashion inspiration. It was the late 1980s and long "jams", invariably decorated with a riot of fluorescent colours and blocky graphics, were the order of the day. I bought the first pair on which I could lay my hands.

I persisted with jams throughout my teenage years, but somewhere at the back of my mind the realisation was dawning that they are not the zenith of elegance, especially if they constantly require to be hitched up because they don't fit properly. There's a rich irony in the fact that the style of shorts designed to cover the most flesh is also the one most likely to leave a man exposed after he dives into a pool - real surf shorts have laces at the front for good reason.

By the time I got to university I had a pair of more moderately proportioned Paul Smith swimming shorts and in my mid-twenties, when I swam regularly for exercise, I found that a neat pair of navy shorts provided the most amount of coverage for the least amount of resistance through the water. However, I carried this logic too far when I bought a pair of small shorts by Bottega Veneta designer Mr Tomas Maier. I was recently married and my wife made it clear that when it comes to her husband's swimwear Mr Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was wrong - less is not more.


I was happy to oblige her as my thirties approached, and my attendance record at the gym declined, by seeking out the kind of exuberantly patterned and loose-fitting shorts that I saw on the swankier beaches on Ibiza and in the south of France. Although my first Vilebrequin shorts were a solid colour, I later bought some bearing lively prints. However, it wasn't long before Mr Daniel Craig wore small blue shorts in 2006's Casino Royale, and the world of swimwear made a once-in-a-decade change. Happily, this shift coincided with the launch of Orlebar Brown, which was able to cater for my sudden and urgent 007-inspired need for neat swimming shorts. One need hardly add that a Bond-like physique is less immediately available.

With navy Orlebars and a few pairs of Vilebrequins in my wardrobe it wasn't obvious what else I needed, until last year when Mr Charles Finch launched his Chucs brand. Suddenly life wasn't complete without a blue pair of his 1950s-inspired Positano shorts, which were just the thing for a week on France's Atlantic coast. Again, every base seemed to be covered, an illusion that was shattered the day I was introduced to the no-nonsense appeal of Saturdays Surf NYC and felt a tremendous need for a pair of its shorts.

While my red and blue Ennis shorts from the New York brand are considerably more restrained than the surf shorts I wore as a teenager it's not lost on me that they're really a contemporary version of jams. It's taken me 25 years to get back to the kind of shorts I wore as a boy.

less or more? the swimwear debate