The Quest for the Perfect Men’s Swimsuit

by J.D. Roth

As you’re all well aware, I can be obsessive sometimes, and about the dumbest little things.

Lately, for example, I’ve been searching for wool clothes. I’ve decided that I don’t like cotton — it shrinks! it wrinkles! it fades! — and I’d rather wear clothes with more versatility and durability. That means I’ve been buying synthetics, but it also means I’ve become obsessed with wool. I love wool. Wool is cozy and warm, and best of all, you can wear it for days at a time without it stinking. (I wore a single wool t-shirt for the last week in France, and it still smelled fine when we got home.)

Another one of my recent quests is for a stylish and comfortable men’s swimsuit. As I’ve lost weight, I’ve begun to swim once a week. Swimming when I’m fat is a chore, and it’s embarrassing. But when I’m moderately fit, it’s a great workout, and I’m less self-conscious about my appearance. But since my decade-old pair of swim trunks died last April, I haven’t been able to find swimwear that I like.

Women have all sorts of flattering options for swimwear. There are one-piece and two-piece options that can be attractive, modest — or both. Not so for men.

Men basically have two options: tight Speedo-type suits for serious swimmers and gigantic, baggy “board shorts” for the average guy. The former are, well, too revealing for my taste, and the latter are just plain ugly. Seriously: Board shorts are one of the ugliest garments ever invented. (And remember, this is coming from a guy who doesn’t usually care how clothes look!)

Recently, I re-watched Casino Royale for the zillionth time. It’s my favorite James Bond film. Midway through, Bond (played by Daniel Craig) does some beach reconnaissance while swimming in the Caribbean Sea. He emerges from the water wearing this:

Daniel Craig in his fancy-pants swimsuit

Leaving aside the fact that I’ll never look like Daniel Craig (and that’s not my goal), I liked the cut of this swimsuit. I thought my quest for the perfect men’s swimsuit had come to an end. I paused the movie to show Kris. “That’s the sort of swimsuit I want,” I said.

Kris laughed. “No you don’t,” she said. “That’s way too revealing. That’s basically a Speedo.”

“It is?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “If you wear that, you’ll shock all of your friends.

Well, I don’t want to shock all of my friends, so I’m not going to wear that swimsuit. (Even though I was able to track it down — for $112.) But I’d love to find something similar to the James Bond swimsuit that isn’t quite as revealing. I guess I’m looking for a swimsuit that’s cut relatively short, but which doesn’t cling to me like a second skin. Surely there must be something out there that fits the bill. But so far, I haven’t found anything.

I did look through several dozen swimsuits when I went thrift-store shopping last Saturday. I found one that had many of the elements I’m looking for. Since it was three bucks, I bought it. But it’s still not quite right. I guess maybe I’ll have to wait another decade for fashion to change so that the ugly, ugly board shorts go out of style.

Updated: 09 December 2010

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