Walk Shorts vs Board Shorts: What’s the Difference?

If you’re like most men, the thought of buying new swimwear is a challenge. You aren’t sure what to pick, and you’re going to find endless options available. Two popular choices are board shorts and walk shorts/swim trunks, but many people don’t know the differences between them.

Most people know what board shorts are, but aren’t sure what is classified as a walk short.

The debate of walk shorts vs board shorts rages on, and we think that it should be based on your preferences when picking which one to wear. However, if you don’t know what they are or how they’re different, it can be hard to determine the right option. So, what are walk shorts and how are they different from board shorts? Let’s find out.

What Are Walk Shorts?

Walk shorts are a garment designed for men, and they were quite popular in New Zealand throughout the 60s and the 70s. They were primarily designed for white-collar workers to be worn during the summer.

They usually stopped above the knee for height and were usually worn with leather shoes or sandals, as well as knee-high socks. While the style fell out of popularity a long time ago, people now consider walk shorts to be similar to swim trunks or volley shorts.

However, we feel that swim trunks are not the same at all. You can still find walking shorts, which are medium or long shorts. They are usually cut shorter than a Bermuda short, and they’re primarily used for leisure activities and walking. You can find options that are suitable for water, as well.

You may also notice that walk shorts have a different design and pattern than board shorts. As they started out being for white-collar people, they have a sense of style and fashion about them, which almost allows traditional walk shorts to be worn anywhere that khakis and other business-casual attire would be allowed.

What Are Board Shorts?

Board shorts are primarily designed for swimming and surfing, but the style has become popular for use as casual wear to run errands and go almost anywhere. They are usually longer (to the knee or a bit below), and they are loose-fitting shorts that are made using nylon or polyester material. Their quick-drying capabilities make them suitable for use at the beach and pool.

While they were primarily called surf trunks or Jams, as well as swim shorts by the British, board shorts are popular everywhere. They primarily have fun, funky, or quirky patterns printed all over them, but you can find plain and solid color options.

While they originated as swim trunks (just a longer version for those who didn’t want their thighs to show), they have evolved and separated from just being attire for swimming. Primarily, they are called board shorts because they are designed to be used for aquatic sports using a board, such as short-boarding or surfing. However, they are worn in a variety of outdoor activities now, including beach volleyball.

Walk Shorts vs Board Shorts: Design Differences

Board shorts are primarily designed to fit loosely and be “baggy” around the thighs while being tight (though comfortable) at the waist. They are usually held up by an elastic waistband and/or drawstring closures. However, some versions use Velcro for the fly closure.

With Velcro, many surfers and other water-sport enthusiasts complained about their private areas becoming exposed. Knock-off brands might use buttons and a zippered fly, but this isn’t the norm. Board shorts are often long but open and airy so that the wearer can move, lunge, and do what needs to be done on the surfboard.

On the other hand, walk shorts come in a variety of sizes, styles, lengths, and more. There is no “set” design for them, though they tend to be made of cotton or cotton blends. Hence, they do not dry as quickly and are usually made to be slightly heavier, though still lightweight.

They typically have pockets and can be short or long (to the knee). Many times, walk shorts have an elastic waistband and drawstring tie closure, but some use buttons/zippers and have belt loops.

Again, the styling is much broader on the spectrum for walk shorts than for board shorts, so there isn’t really a comparison here. You can find walk shorts that look similar to board shorts, but you will never find board shorts that look like walk shorts.

What About Hybrid Shorts?

Hybrid shorts are also available and can give you the best of both worlds. Hybrids have the same cut, pattern, and fit as casual shorts or walk shorts but with a board short material.

Therefore, you can get the walk short features you desire, such as pockets, belt loops, zippered fly, and more, but they come in Surf Suede, polyester, or four-way/eight-way stretch material. This means that they still wick away sweat, dry quickly, and are more comfortable to wear.

In a sense, it is hard for most people to tell the difference. If you like board shorts, you can wear them anywhere you’d wear walk shorts and other shorts. However, if you have a traditional walk short, you aren’t likely to wear them to go swimming or surfing.

Which One Should You Wear?

Now that you understand the differences between the two, it’s important to decide which one you like better and for what purpose. You may find that owning both styles is best for your needs; you can wear board shorts to the pool/beach and wear walk shorts while you’re running, walking, playing beach games, or running errands around town.

Of course, you’ve also got hybrids out there, which can give you the quality you need in the form of a regular pair of shorts. However, we believe that it is perfectly acceptable to wear board shorts to your favorite eatery, out shopping, and anywhere else. Just make sure that you bring a shirt if you plan to hit the beach/pool first.

The Bottom Line

Walk shorts vs board shorts is the age-old question, especially for new surfers and people who haven’t heard the terms. While most people use the umbrella term of swim trunks, there are many variations out there, and some shorts aren’t considered appropriate for swimming at all.

Understanding the difference between the two can help you make a more informed decision about which one to buy. It may also help you decide to buy both options and know how to wear them and when.