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Swim Shorts or Speedo's? Male swimwear explained

There are several different styles of men’s swimwear available. To some, the choice can be too much - especially for those potential swimmers who have not tried different types but are left wondering about them. You may also be contemplating buying swimwear for a family member or as a present, and not be familiar with all the different options or which one(s) might be best. In this article, we look at the individual features of swimming trunks, shorts, jammers and other styles - along with their respective merits and buying tips.


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Even with just a mere mention of the well-known Speedo brand name, the picture which often springs to mind for many people is a pair of black or blue tight-fitting, narrow-hipped classic briefs. In fact, these days Speedo now manufactures and sells not only these time-served figure-hugging swimming trunks - but also a wide range of quality modern swimwear, in almost all colours and patterns. The athletic hip cut of about 6cm with which many casual swimmers tend to associate this leading brand name is now actually only a small proportion of their total sales. Nonetheless, there are good reasons why these classic and almost timeless garments have survived over the years – they are good for amateur swimming over distances, they can look good on a toned figure, and you get a better suntan with fewer ‘white bits’!


In contrast, a wide variety of other types of swimwear are now available from Speedo and indeed a whole host of other manufacturers. Hip cuts ranging from a nimble 6cm to a fuller 14cm, with considerable variation in the shape of the brief. Other styles of swimwear you might wish to consider include swimsuits, jammers and aqua shorts in addition to leisure and swim shorts. In shape, aqua shorts are not unlike a pair of tighter-fitting boxer shorts. Jammers are also close fitting and are available in medium to long (knee) length; we will return to these in more detail later.


Leisure swimwear is probably the best choice if you are thinking of (for example) a family leisure session “splashing around” in the pool – but also for general beachwear and some games or sports. Relatively loose fitting, they come with an elasticated waist and usually pockets as well. Lengths are typically between 16 and 20 inches (40 to 50 centimetres).


Swim shorts are similar to leisure shorts, perhaps more with swimming itself in mind. They usually have an inner mesh fabric and an elasticated waist for freedom of movement. There are drainer pockets that help to avoid ballooning and reduce drag. Swim shorts are a looser fit than briefs (trunks) or jammers. When choosing them, a relatively good fit is important – not too baggy. Leg lengths again vary from the thigh (about 16 inches) to a 20-inch fit to just above the knee and they often they have a pocket or two.




If you swim regularly or attend coaching and training sessions with a view to competitive swimming, performance swimwear is probably the option that will be of most benefit. This type of swimwear offers enhanced compression giving freedom of movement and maximising power and speed, while supporting muscles and tissue. There are three main types; firstly, the high leg type (aqua short style). Secondly, there is a medium leg length (jammer style) and these usually run from hip to thigh. Thirdly there is the low leg fit, which extends to just above the knee, and is about 50 centimetres long. All types of performance swimwear are close fitting - the contoured shape reduces water resistance, giving a speed advantage in races.


We have seen that the selection of swimwear depends on the type of swimming in which you are interested – leisure, distance, speed – or simply enjoying time by the sea with an adaptable, versatile garment that also looks good as general beachwear. Clearly, personal choice along with style and any colour preference will play a part when making your choice – the wearer needs to feel comfortable and confident.


Finally, remember the importance of other swimming accessories – a pair of swimming goggles or a swim mask, to protect the eyes. Enjoy your swimming!