Slow-motion running, fire-engine red swimsuits… you guessed it. We’re talking about one of the most legendary shows of all time, Baywatch. If we have learnt anything from the hit 90s tv show, it would be that an iconic piece of swimwear is just as important as any statement gown. Costume designers and stylists all over the world are evidently in on the secret—remember when Daniel Craig emerged from the sea in Casino Royale wearing baby blue, cropped, swim shorts from La Perla? Mr. 007 himself was responsible for popularising the ‘Grigioperla’, and later in the film series, he dons the Orlebar Brown Setter in his signature shade of blue. Since Baywatch and James Bond first hit the screen, swimming trunks have only inched higher on the thigh-scale, prints have grown bolder and tailoring has become even more refined. We take a look at the stories behind two of the most popular men’s swimwear labels.
Vilebrequin has dominated the luxury swim shorts market for decades, and unsurprisingly so, with their unique, funky prints and varying, flattering cuts. Founded in the 70s and set against the idyllic backdrop of the French Riviera, the brand was a romantic byproduct of a love story. Fred Prysquel was a Formula 1 journalist who fell in love with a woman in St Tropez, and like every case of first date jitters, he felt the pressure of nailing the perfect outfit. Instead of opting for a pair Speedos which were all that was on offer back then, Prysquel created his very own swim shorts using colourful fabric, which later became the very essence of the brand. Over the years, the patterns and colours of Vilebrequin shorts have only grown more experimental, sharks, turtles, starfishes, you name it. There’s even a pair for all streetwear aficionados—in 2019, the French label collaborated with Off-White to release five distinctive trunk designs, all featuring Virgil Abloh’s signature visual detailing. With a story so rich with history, love and carefree playfulness, is there any doubt as to why Vilebrequin has been the go-to brand for luxurious, high-quality swimwear for decades?
Miles away from the Mediterranean coast, another swimwear empire was being built in Central London. Adam Brown had an epiphany while observing the poolside on holiday, where he realised “the women in the group looked great, but the men did not.” His idea would later revolutionise the swimwear market—it’s simple when you think about it, but until 2007, it had never been done before. Orlebar Brown trunks struck the right chord in men globally, with its combination of modern tailoring and endless functionality. It was a refined pair of swim shorts which would take you from the beach to the restaurant in style. Like how most success stories begin, Brown was a one-man-machine for two years (his partner Julia Orlebar amicably pulled out shortly after the brand’s conception). He took matters into his own hands, using savings, bank loans and remortgaging his flat to fund his passion. With no experience in design, he enrolled himself into a course at Central St Martins and a three-day Start Your Own Business class at London’s Portobello Business Centre and promptly began operating out of his flat in Earls Court. It only took three-and-a-half months before he had sold every pair of the first thousand designs he made. Fast-forward to a decade later—Chanel acquired the luxury swimwear brand in 2018 and has since aided with transforming it into a global lifestyle brand.
And if neither of these luxury swim brands tickles your fancy, perhaps you can slip on something slightly airier, may we suggest the green mankini popularised by Borat? Just kidding. But seriously, what more could you want? A comfortable, tailored fit that shows off just the right amount of thigh, functionality (ie. plenty of pockets), and a multitude of prints and colours to choose from. So the next time you’re on your lads getaway you’ll rest assured knowing you’ll be swimming in options to choose from.