Finding the right men's swimwear isn't always an easy task. If you're not a spandex Speedo guy, you're probably going with board shorts, but when riding up, chafing, and just being flat-out ugly, are common problems, it can be tricky to find something that checks every box. Classic boardie brands like Billabong, Prana, Volcom, Hurley, O'neill, RVCA, and Quiksilver still make excellent board shorts, but we've always taken pride rounding up some of the smaller trending brands that often fly under the radar when it comes to mainstream surfwear.
With design in mind, these fashion-forward board short brands make comfortable and functional men's swim trunks, and they (mostly) don't break the bank. They're proving that men's board shorts don't have to be boring (or feature Hawaiian print patterns). Whether you're hitting the beach, catching some waves, or just lounging around town, these swimsuits hit the overlap between style and purpose.
Field Mag's Top Picks
- Best Overall: Birdwell Classic Board Shorts
- Best Performance Board Short: Florence F1 Pro Hawaii Boardshort
- Most Versatile: Patagonia Baggies
- Best Upgrade: Outerknown Apex Trunks by Kelly Slater
- Best Affordable Board Shorts: NeedEssentials Side Pocket Board Shorts
- Best Black Boardshorts: Banks Journal Journal Boardshort
- Best Grail-Worthy Board Short: Rash Handmade Boardshorts
- Best NYC Brand: Pilgrim Dorry 17 Board Short
- Best Long Boardshorts: Former Dane 2.0 Trunk
- Best Patterns: Critical Slide Boardshorts
The 10 Best Board Shorts for Men
Best Overall: Birdwell Classic Board Shorts
If it ain't broke, don't fix it is the name of the play when it comes to Birdwell's classic board shorts, which the California brand has been making in the USA since 1961. The old pairs were made with spinnaker cloth, but these beloved updated version uses two-layer SurfNyl, triple-stitched seams, and a triple lace closure. You can get them with a short or long outseam, depending on your preference.
Outseam: 15-16 or 17-18 inches
Material: SurfNyl nylon
Best Performance Board Short: Florence F1 Pro Hawaii Boardshort
It is no surprise that pro surfer John John Florence would make the ultimate swim trunks for surfers. Details like a lack of inseam stitching are so you can focus on paddling out for waves instead of chafing. Quick drying material makes it easy to transition from the ocean to land, and the ocean camo is an extra detail that gives these shorts a little extra style. Four-way stretch and a CORDLOC drawcord and a zippered pocket also contribute to these board shorts performing in the lineup and being fit for whatever watersports you're into. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of this particular style will go toward rebuilding Maui after the recent wildfires.
Outseam: 17.5 inches
Material: 80% recycled polyester / 20% spandex
Most Versatile: Patagonia Baggies
If you're looking for a long-standing classic, you have to look at Patagonia's Baggies. These best-sellers are multifunctional in design and are meant to be worn either in or out of the water. The latest version is now made of quick-drying NetPlus recycled nylon fabric that's made from fishing nets to help reduce ocean plastic pollution and the creation of new petroleum products. There are loads of colors to choose from and new ones every season, too.
Inseam: 5 or 7 inches
Material: recycled nylon
Best Upgrade: Outerknown Apex Trunks by Kelly Slater
Arguably the best surfer in the world, 11x World Champion Kelly Slater is probably a trustworthy source of intel on what makes a good pair of swim trunks for surfing. His Apex Trunks use an ultralight four-way stretch fabric made from post-consumer waste, plastic bottles included, that's ultralight and has four-way stretch for moving around in the waves. They're also quick-drying, have bonded seams (read: no stitching, no chafing) and have a back pocket with a waterproof zipper. (We're also a fan of Outerknown's sustainably made tees.)
Outseam: 19 inches
Material: recycled polyester
Best Affordable Board Shorts: NeedEssentials Side Pocket Board Shorts
With four-way stretch and non-abrasive fabric (made of 91% recycled polyester / 8% spandex), these boardies make for perfect swimwear that will perform no matter how gnarly the waves get. The design also features a wet seal self-draining back pocket that's perfect for storing your keys or a re-up of wax. With timeless neutral colors and classic designs, these are your perfect staple—and affordable—board short.
Outseam: 17 inches
Material: 91% recycled polyester / 8% spandex
Best Black Boardshorts: Banks Journal Journal Boardshort
With design and coastal living in mind, Banks Journal brings a fusion of Japanese and Australian styles together to create a clothing line that is reminiscent of the coastal lifestyle the two founders love. The Journal boardshort has a slim build and an old-school style that's perfect for hitting the beach or strolling around the boardwalk, but it doesn't skimp on tech. The list of features includes 4-way stretch and a zippered back pocket.
Outseam: 18 inches
Material: 90% Polyester, 10% Elastane
Best Grail-Worthy Board Short: Rash Handmade Boardshorts
If you're a collector or masochist who wants every piece of their wardrobe to be hard to get, add this pair of board shorts from Japanese brand Rash to your wish list. Made in collaboration with Rash Wetsuits, these single-layer boardies are 100% nylon and have a cotton-like feel. You might need to enlist the services of a proxy buyer to get a pair, or just book yourself a flight to Japan.
Inseam: 5-8 inches depending on size
Best NYC Brand: Pilgrim Dorry 17 Board Short
With a store in Tokyo and in Brooklyn, Pilgrim Surf Supply is the perfect curation of surfwear for urban dwellers. The nylon-polyester Dorry shorts feature a slightly shorter length than your classic boardshorts with a 17' outseam. There's a button flap back pocket with a key loop for storing anything you need while you're out in the ocean and branding is kept to a minimum with an embroidered Pilgrim logo on the hem. Pilgrim makes excellent clothing for time on land too, so grab a t-shirt while you're at it.
Outseam: 17 inches
Material: nylon shell, polyester lining
Best Long Boardshorts: Former Dane 2.0 Trunk
Outseam lengths for boardshorts have risen and lowered with the tides and trends; nowadays anything goes. This pair goes to 18.5", but Former was created by pro surfers Dane Reynolds, Craig Anderson, and Austyn Gillette, so you know it's built for performance. Features include four-way stretch and a zippered side pocket that won'd get in your way while paddling.
Outseam: 18.5 inches
Material: nylon ripstop
Best Patterns: Critical Slide Boardshorts
It can be surprisingly tricky to find boardshorts that come in decent patterns with how popular solid and color-block designs are. Australia-based Critical Slide puts patterns at the front though; ocean flora forms, tropical cocktails, and abstract acid trip are all on the menu here, with new styles available every season. Pictured above, the Jezza Trunk in fast-drying nylon.
Outseam: depends on model
Material: depends on model
Price: $80 AUD
Frequently Asked Questions
What's the difference between board shorts and swim trunks?
Board shorts have been around long enough where the line between them and swim trunks or swim shorts is getting blurrier and blurrier. The main points of difference have always been lining—board shorts don't have one, swim trunks do—and length—board shorts are often longer than swim trunks, extending down to the knee. Additionally, while swim trunks typically have an elastic waist, board shorts are fitted, with a lace-up front that provides some size range. Swim trunks also tend to have pockets, while many board shorts do not. All this said, the two labels are pretty interchangeable these days, and features that used to be particular to one can now be found in either.
When did board shorts become popular?
Board shorts were invented in the 1950s but became popular during the '80s and '90s with the proliferation of beach and surf culture into other parts of everyday life.
What are some other names for board shorts?
You might also hear board shorts called boardies or baggies.