Swimwear is tricky for middle-aged men: go too short or too loud and you attract attention for the wrong reasons; play it too safe and you’re condemned to dadsville. Mercifully, there is a safe place where mid-lifers like me can hit the beach without ridicule and potentially even turn heads.
There are a couple of rules you can follow to keep you on the right track. Firstly, florals printed on a dark background are more sophisticated; Paul Smith has a stellar pair made from a recycled polyester blend. Secondly, tone-on-tone – a print that is one shade up or down from the shorts’ base colour – is always a safe bet. Red Herring at Debenhams’ palm-print shorts in teal blue would be my top tip.
Mid-century-inspired, retro-geometric prints are having a moment and can look very chic. M&S Collection has a pair featuring Sun Smart finish, which protects from UV rays; H&M also has a great selection. Stripes are another sweet spot for the mid-lifer; Zara has the best pair in my opinion, made from 50 per cent recycled polyamide to reduce their environmental impact. Like M&S, these also feature a quick-drying technology and 30+ UV protection from the sun. Of course you don’t have to plump for a print. Finisterre has ingeniously created a hybrid hike-swim-adventure short (Walker) that is super lightweight and as comfortable in the water as it is out of it. In my opinion, however, the ultimate destination for plain swimwear is Dutch brand Mr Marvis: the right fit, the right length and available in a vast selection of 26 colours, with a few prints in the mix.
Ten of the best buys
Palm print swim short £4.80 by RED HERRING AT DEBENHAMS
Posh swim shorts (British green) £86.76 by THE OUTLIERMAN
Tropical print swimming shorts £35.99 by MANGO
The Rileys swim shorts (burgundy) £79 by MR MARVIS
Walker hybrid shorts (navy) £75 by FINISTERRE
Archive floral swim shorts £110 by PAUL SMITH
Rob swim shorts (red stripes) £60 by OCTOBRE EDITIONS
Stripe print swim shorts (ecru) £19.99 by ZARA
Mid-length printed swim shorts (green) £85 by MR P
Quick dry geometric swim shorts £17.50 by M&S COLLECTION