Starting to plan your summer? We’re sure you’re counting a new pair of board shorts amongst your holiday essentials. You’ve probably got a lot planned for your next holiday. Perhaps some well deserved hours unwinding on the beach? Maybe you think you’d be a dab hand at surfing. Today’s man knows the importance of comfort and durability in his holiday wardrobe. And of course, he should expect nothing less than impeccable style.
Ready for your next adventure? This article will be your go-to guide to board shorts, so your style shines through this summer. But first, let’s take a short trip through the history of this beachwear staple.
Surfing has a rich history in Hawaiian culture but saw new waves of popularity in the early 20th Century. In Ancient Hawaii, surfing was considered both an art form and a spiritual practice. It wasn't until the 1900s, when tourism in Hawaii grew, that surfing was considered a recreational activity. Wealthy American visitors would see locals surfing on occasion. Soon they became fascinated with the ancient art of riding waves. Lessons soon became sought after. By the 1940s surfing was a popular pastime– both with Americans and a new generation of Hawaiians.
It became clear, however, that traditional wool bathing suits were not fit for purpose. In Hawaii, surfers turned to Japanese tailors for comfortable yet robust material. Their needs were met with shorts made with a unique plaid material. This material was traditionally used to make shirts for plantation workers. Californians, on the other hand, took a slightly different route. Due to a wartime shortage of appropriate fabrics, surfers would cut military surplus Navy whites.
Now at this point, boardshorts were a practical solution. Style wasn’t part of the equation just yet. Then Hollywood took notice. The 1950s and 1960s saw a wave of thrillers with beaches as evocative, romantic backdrops. Released in 1955, To Catch a Thief saw Cary Grant chase a jewel thief across the French Riviera. A cinematic icon and archetypal gentleman in his heyday, Grant defined men’s style. It was here that the Hawaiian plaid board shorts made their onscreen debut.
Now it was appearing on Hollywood icons, beachwear became synonymous with adventure, luxury, and cosmopolitanism. However, board shorts were not strictly the preserve of the leading man. The 1950s saw the boom of American youth culture. The classic image is that of ‘greasers’, inspired by the free-wheeling influence of James Dean and Marlon Brando. However, California’s burgeoning youth culture saw the rise of the ‘beach bum’. While greasers rode motorcycles, beach bums caught waves.
LIFE magazine would report on this new subculture in 1950. ‘On the beach the bums spend every minute they can surfboarding, sunning, guzzling beer, making friends with people who come down to be weekend beach bums.’ This description may not have been intentionally idyllic. However, it certainly captured an essence of ‘coolness’. The appeal was clear - life as a beach bum seemed languorous and carefree.
Over the next few years, beach culture would surge in popularity, to the extent that in 1961 Malibu Point would be renamed Surfrider Beach. Surf culture was already a hot commodity, but it reached a boiling point once The Beach Boys came along. Their jaunty rock n’ roll ditty Surfin’ USA was named by Billboard as the top song of 1963. It was only a matter of time before retailers on both sides of the pond caught on to board shorts.
We may have glossed over a few decades in this short history, but quite frankly they haven’t changed an enormous amount since. After all, how can you improve on classic style?
How to wear board shorts
We hope you’ve enjoyed your excursion through the history of board shorts. Feeling ready to make a splash? We all have our idealised beach bod but may not feel too enthusiastic about a summer gym regimen. Fortunately Archie Foal stock a range of quality board shorts, and have a few tips on finding your ideal fit.
Want to make yourself look taller?
When it comes to picking the right pair of shorts, it often boils down to the hem. Keeping it slightly above the knee makes your legs appear longer. It also gives you a great tan on your thighs.
These Ron Dorff Swim Shorts have short legs for an elongated silhouette. The vertical stripe pattern will also streamline your figure. Nothing wrong with a bit of visual trickery, you’re on holiday after all.
Want to avoid a muffin top?
Elasticated boardshorts make for a versatile fit. However, they may not be the most flattering on your torso. The same goes for shorts that are on the tighter side.
Take a note from the beach bums and keep it relaxed, like the fit on these Universal Works Men's Flowerprint Canvas Beach Shorts. They also have a drawcord as a comfortable alternative to elastic waistbands.
Want to make a statement?
Read our article on Fashion Trends for Summer 2019? If so, you’d know that yellow is one of the defining colours of this season. And if the recent ‘camp’ themed Met Gala has taught us anything, it’s to shy away from subtlety.
Embody the sunshine with these Riz Braunton Board Shorts. If you can’t have fun on holiday, when can you? And you’ll also be playing a part in keeping the ocean clean. All of Riz’s quality board shorts are made from recycled plastic bottles!
Can you wear board shorts casually?
You may be thinking to yourself – who on Earth is wearing board shorts formally? Essentially, the question is whether board shorts are just for the beach.
You can certainly find a pair of board shorts that take you from straight from the shore to dinner and drinks. Opt for a tailored short with pockets, made from a quick-drying material such as polyester. This ensures that the shorts not only look great but are fit for purpose. If you’re looking for an all-purpose short, you may want to veer away from louder prints. This minimises the chances of them clashing with the rest of your wardrobe.
Still concerned? Think about an outfit that ‘dresses up’ your board shorts. You can never go wrong with a white linen shirt. It’s easy and breathable, looking smart without the risk of appearing overdressed. You can also opt for a polo shirt – when it comes to stylish casual wear, a collar can make all the difference. If you’re wearing a brightly coloured pair of shorts, maybe try out a polo shirt that has a neutral colour, but a pop of colour in the piping? It’s a thoughtful touch without being too matchy-matchy.
In terms of what shoes to wear with board shorts, you actually have an abundance of choice. Trainers, flip-flops, plimsolls and deck shoes are all suitable to wear with board shorts. They all provide an easy finish to a casual holiday look, whilst keeping you comfortable. While ‘socks and sandals’ is a faux-pas as old as time, you may want to avoid socks with any of these. If you insist, however, just don’t wear them ankle high unless you want to look like a schoolboy.
We’ve said it time and time again at Archie Foal, you simply can’t go wrong with quality. We’re sure you have many exciting trips ahead of you, so why not invest in a pair of shorts you can wear time and time again? And while you may be travelling the world, our clothes aren’t. We specialise in British made heritage clothing. We honour traditional style whilst reducing our carbon footprint. Don’t sell yourself short – shop our range of luxury products today.