Can You Wear Board Shorts Casually?

can you wear board shorts casually

Some board shorts look very tacky and you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them in any context other than at the beach or pool. Others look so darn fashionable, you’re wondering if you can just wear them casually. So the question is: can you?

It’s a good question because you don’t see guys wearing only their Speedos while casually walking around, nor do you see women wearing their bathing suits outside of a beach or pool context (unless they are wearing a cover up). So how about board shorts – can they be worn casually outside of a beach context and are about the same size as regular shorts?

Yes, you can wear board shorts casually because they provide extra cover from the sun and are hard to distinguish from regular pairs of shorts, so no one is going to be offended. The thing that you’ll worry about the most is not whether you can do it, but rather, can you look good doing it. As mentioned, some board shorts look tacky as hell and you might not be leaving the best impression if you aren’t pulling off the look.

In this article, we will discuss whether you should wear board shorts casually, the do’s and don’ts of wearing board shorts outside of a beach context, and how you can look and feel your best wearing board shorts in all settings.

Is it socially acceptable to wear board shorts casually?

surfers walking as a group

Indeed, you can wear board shorts casually despite it technically being swimwear. The main issue people have with other swimwear is that they show too much skin when worn outside of their intended context.

Half-naked girl on the beach, nobody bats an eye. Half-naked girl at the grocery store, it’s all “You should be ashamed of yourself for dressing so indecently in public, won’t you think about the children, yadda yadda yadda.”

That’s why you don’t see girls walking around in bikinis and guys in Speedos if there isn’t a body of water nearby; it’s basically like walking around in your underwear. Also, it’s just not practical because it can get chilly for us hairless monkeys to not to be covered up for prolonged periods of time.

Board shorts are a different story because they are basically just like shorts. In the same way that people would not have an issue with you wearing a rash guard casually because it’s like a T-shirt, board shorts provide enough skin cover to appear modest.

It’s very convenient being able to wear board shorts as shorts. For instance, if you are attending a summer pool party or some event at the beach, you have the option of going into the water without changing. You can also decide not to get soaked and continue with your day without needing to change in and out of your swimwear.

Furthermore, board shorts are designed to dry fast. As we go about our day, we will naturally sweat and this can get really uncomfortable on a hot day. With board shorts on, the sweat will evaporate quickly and you can stay dry and comfortable for the most part.

How to look good wearing board shorts

Wear a nicer top

Pairing your trunks with a nice top is instrumental in helping you look fashionable instead of tacky or out of place.

Some recommendations for a nice top are a button up linen shirt or just a classic polo. This will elevate your look from beach bum to semi-formal, perfect for a bar or restaurant setting.

The choice is yours as to whether you want to tuck in the shirt, semi-tuck it, or leave it untucked. If you prefer to tuck in your shirt, you’ll need a pair of swim trunks that have a flat panel waist instead of drawstrings.

For more casual settings, you can opt for graphic tees, sweatshirts, polos, tank tops, or button downs. Consider the colors and designs of your top compared to your board shorts when choosing your top.

For instance, if your board shorts are a mish-mash of colors or have a chaotic pattern, I recommend a plain top so it doesn’t clash with your shorts. The reverse is also true.

Also, when it comes to colors, try to pair different colors that go well together, preferably complementary colors. With the exception of all white or all black, I generally find it’s not a good look for both your top and bottoms to match colors, but there are exceptions to every rule I suppose.

Match your footwear

Footwear is yet another important consideration when it comes to your overall look, and you will also have to consider how your footwear pairs with your top and swim trunks.

When it comes to style, the same considerations that you made for your top apply to your footwear as well. Black and white footwear goes with any color or design, but it can be a bit plain. Most footwear tend to have solid colors, so you can afford to go with louder designs with your top and board shorts.

As for more practical tips, if you plan on doing a lot of walking, and if you intend to distance yourself from the swimwear aspect, you should avoid wearing sandals or flip-flops. This simple change will make you look less like you just came from the beach and will allow you to fit in in more formal social settings such as a restaurant, bar, or casino.

That said, if you do plan to go to the beach at some point, make sure to wear a slip-on shoe that is water resistant to make dealing with the sand and water a bit easier.

Pick the right accessories

If you’re trying to elevate beachwear into casual, everyday wear, it helps to distance yourself from any beach accessories like sunglasses or a waterproof strap. There’s nothing wrong with them in general, but for casual wear it makes you look out of place.

Wear more formal accessories that you wouldn’t wear to the beach (unless you’re actually going to the beach that day); a nice pair of wayfarers or aviators, a necklace, your daily driver watch, a hat, and so on.

Do what feels right to you

At the end of the day, fashion is always changing, everyone has different tastes, so no rules are set in stone. That doesn’t help someone who’s clueless about fashion much, but even unfashionable looks sometimes become the modern fashion.

If that logic wracks your brain and you realize that adhering to some arbitrary fashion rules is stupid, then good. Wear swim trunks however you like, in the color and style that you want, and try out new things. Perhaps you might end up breaking the mold and starting a new trend with your bold look.

Try a new style that’s out of your comfort zone, wear your board shorts casually, struggle to make it work and scrap it, and try again until you succeed. That said, in the next section we provide our tips on what NOT to do because these will almost surely be impediments to a good look.

What NOT to do when wearing board shorts

Don’t wear underwear under your board shorts

Since board shorts are so similar to shorts, and you normally wear underwear under your shorts, I can understand the desire to want to wear underwear under your board shorts. But whatever you do, don’t do it.

Not only is it a fashion faux pas, but underwear isn’t designed to be worn underwater, especially not in chlorinated water or saltwater. The salt and chlorine will wear down your underwear like nobody’s business.

Not to mention the amount of water your cotton underwear will soak up, causing you to always be wet and waterlogged. Your underwear will also get all stretched out when wet and may never recover its shape. Do you really want to ruin a nice pair of underwear everytime you go to the beach or pool? Didn’t think so. Thankfully, you don’t have to.

Some board shorts come with a mesh liner inside, otherwise known as netting, which should basically act as underwear. Furthermore, the netting will allow water to pass through, limiting the amount of water absorbed and allow for faster drying times. The mesh liner will also hold your junk in place so it doesn’t accidentally slide out.

Thus, if your board shorts have a mesh liner inside, the recommendation is to go commando (don’t wear anything under your board shorts). That said, if yours doesn’t have netting inside, there are other options to wear underneath that are still better than regular underwear.

For instance, if you’re a guy you can wear Speedos under your board shorts, which is basically men’s underwear that is designed to be worn underwater. If you’re a girl, you can wear a one piece swimsuit and then wear board shorts over it or just wear a bikini bottom underneath. Girls in board shorts look good too, by the way.

Whatever option you choose, you are still wearing appropriate swimwear that is designed to absorb as little water as possible and dry quickly so you aren’t soaked all day. Anything else is not ideal and may even be detrimental to your comfort or safety whilst underwater.

Don’t get a tacky pattern

board shorts skater

Nothing screams “out of place” like a tropical pattern or funky fish graphic on your board shorts when you’re trying to wear them casually. It makes you look very tacky and unfashionable.

If you want to be more versatile with your board shorts, stick with a solid or simple pattern. That way, when you do eventually wear it outside of the beach, you won’t stick out like a sore thumb.

A more subdued look is not dull or boring. Even with a pair of neutral-colored board shorts, you could easily pair it with a dressier top and make it look like you’re wearing jean shorts or khakis.

There’s nothing wrong with wearing patterned board shorts, so long as they aren’t patterns of fish! Stick to a simpler pattern, like stripes or checks. We recommend thinner patterns because larger patterns may make you look fatter.

Don’t get one with a drawstring

A drawstring is very useful if you fluctuate in weight and need to ensure your board shorts stay around your waist, but if you plan on wearing it casually, it becomes a bad look.

For example, the drawstrings will be very visible even if you’re wearing a shirt or hoodie, as it will most likely dangle just within view beneath your top. You can try to hide it, but if the situation calls for you to tuck in your shirt, then the drawstrings will be exposed once again.

Getting a pair of board shorts with a flat panel waist makes it look more like regular shorts. It gives you the versatility to wear it to other events without people realizing you’re wearing swimwear.

Unfortunately, this basically means you need to maintain your current shape, lest your board shorts stop fitting you next summer. It’s a lot of effort to maintain a lean frame, that’s true. But that’s also the price you have to pay in order to look good.

Don’t wear your board shorts for too long

Despite this article being very positive towards wearing board shorts casually, we also believe that too much of anything can be bad, so you should know when it’s time to take your board shorts off. This is a practical tip, not some arbitrary social rule you should blindly follow.

When you wear board shorts for too long, it will start to rub painfully against your skin, leading to board short rash. For this reason, once it passes the point that you know you won’t enter the water anymore or it gets a bit chilly (basically, once it’s nighttime), just quickly change out to a regular pair of shorts.

This basically means you should bring an extra pair of shorts with you if you know you will be out the whole day. If you live in a beach town and your house is close by, consider going home and changing before heading out again.

Changing regularly is a good idea in general, especially if you’ve had a busy day and sweat a bunch from being in the sun. By nighttime, you might be smelling a little funky, and you aren’t going to be impressing anybody unless you change to new clothes and maybe have a midday shower.

So while you can wear your swim shorts casually, you should still do so sparingly otherwise you might end up with a nasty inner thigh rash.

Parting words

casual board shorts

Board shorts are highly versatile articles of clothing that can be worn both at the beach and pool, or casually elsewhere, unlike other swimwear.  While you can wear board shorts casually, the question is, can you pull off the look gracefully, or will you end up looking out of place?

By following the advice in this article regarding what you should do, such as pairing your board shorts with a nicer top, wearing appropriate footwear, and wearing the right accessories, you can easily look your best without anyone else realizing you are wearing swim trunks.

Conversely, you can get away with wearing swim trunks if you avoid the beach clichés such as wearing swim trunks with tropical patterns or wearing sunglasses. Also, do not wear underwear under your swim trunks because this will ruin the underwear and you will feel extremely uncomfortable when wet.

Successfully pulling off an outfit with board shorts is literally as easy as getting a pair that look like regular shorts and dressing around it just like you normally would. And if you aren’t sure where to even start, that’s what the tips in this article are for. Good luck and keep wearing board shorts casually!