Beach Fashion for Men: The Ultimate Style Guide

If you are a man, going to the beach used to be an extremely simple affair.

You could get by with grabbing an old, stained, stretched out t-shirt and throwing that on with a pair of oversized swim shorts, find your loudest and most Day-Glo neon flip flops, and lounge the day away. But these days that mess won’t cut it, that look is gone. The last ten years have brought a powerful surge in beachwear fashion, or as some ad wizards like to call it, “resort wear” or “resort casual”, and has forced the hand of beachgoing men everywhere. It’s time to up your game or get chuckled off the sand.

With posh luxury swimwear brands leading the way, offerings from designers like Orlebar Brown, Onia, Frescobol Carioca, and Vilebrequin are completely changing the landscape of beach fashion for men. The smart lines and sleek cuts that are showing up in swim shorts and shirts are giving a wide variety of options for smartening up your boardwalk wardrobe. We’re talking real style. Think Bond at the beach.

There has been a trend for a while now, pushing beachwear further and further from the beach, and legitimizing its use away from the beach or pool. So not only are people looking for fashion, but they are looking for function, and that has manifested in men’s beach fashion becoming a benchmark in the industry.

This might all sound pretty overwhelming if you are just trying to put together a few smart outfits. Whether it’s for your next vacation or your next vacation day, we have compiled a comprehensive list of tips and pointers to help you turn a few heads.

Beachwear Fashion Tips

Classic

There are a few constants you can count on in men’s fashion, it seems. They often stay popular and ride trend after trend for a reason. They work on a near-universal level. For example, a polo will always be a great enhancement for the torso and chest, while a pair of modest slip-on loafers give an effortless casual elegance. 

You can pair these two together, and you have a simple, timeless outfit that can be assembled in moments, while still giving you a fair degree of customization. While the cargo cutoffs or your retro neon fanny pack aren’t necessarily wrong to wear at the beach, the streetwear trends have their place, and that place is in the street.

Versatile

No matter if you are getting away for the day, or for an extended stay at a resort, the opportunity to change clothes again may not present itself. It is important to remember that you may not be able to swap to a more formal outfit for a restaurant or club, so it is crucial to pick the pieces of your ensemble so that it can work for both the day at the beach and any evening activities you may have planned.

Great options for this would be a pair of tailored swim shorts. Not only can these go completely unnoticed at a semi-casual waterfront restaurant, but they work well with a kitted polo and some snappy espadrilles. Another great option is a long sleeve linen shirt that can be worn by itself with sleeves up during the day and sleeves down in the evening, or even as an over-shirt for a nice tee. Keep an eye on the shoes, you don’t want to show up to a nice waterfront restaurant for dinner wearing flip flops.

Dry Comfort

Beyond bringing a towel, you can help dry off by keeping a careful eye on your materials. While cotton is comfortable and breathable, it’s a little restrictive and slow to dry due to its thickness. Utilizing a super lightweight and fast-drying fabrics like linen and Tencel can keep you dry and comfortable all day even in scorching heat and unholy humidity. The last thing you want is beachwear that stays wet long after you leave the water.

Linen is light, breathable, and it dries super fast because the knit is so loose. Linen is arguably one of the most comfortable and affordable fabrics for the beach. Similarly, smart fabrics like Tencel are perfect for the beach, since they are a biodegradable fiber created from eucalyptus sap and feels remarkably like silk, and is extremely breathable, so you don’t miss a single breeze.

Think Light And Bright

Keep your color selections to lighter, brighter shades. Not only do they work better in the summer because the light colors do not absorb and retain as much heat from the blazing sun as dark colors, so they will keep you cooler. 

A secondary bonus is that the brighter colors will also catch the sunlight and look amazing. You and your summer tan will dazzle the other beachgoers with your look. Stick to colors that are represented in the scenery you will be enjoying, like white, beige, and light blues.

Work With What You Got

The one constant in your wardrobe is going to be your complexion. When you are going to be showing off more skin than usual, it is important to consider how your skin tone is going to fit into your outfit. 

Pale skin calls for muted tones. Lots of muted blues, greens, and pinks to work with that creamy complexion. Olive skin tones work wonderfully with deep khaki, sunset oranges, and rusts. If you have dark skin, you can electrify with neons and the classic ultra-bright white.

Cut Matters

If you aren’t wearing that many clothes in the first place, it will be absolutely vital that the clothes you do have on are showcasing a great cut and fit. Good cut and fit can make even the most laid-back casual outfits look smarter and more luxurious. This is something you will have to get right, before you can hit the sands, or you are going to look like a bum. 

Those with slighter body types will benefit from slim leg swimwear, and if you have a bit thicker frame, make sure your bottoms have dark side panels to even out the look, and if there is a pattern make sure it is scaled properly to the garment size.

Crucial Beach Fashion Ensembles

T-Shirt & Swim Trunks

This is the classic pairing, and one of the easiest looks to get completely right. Just make sure to build your outfit around the swim shorts. The most versatile beach outfit you can actually take to the beach is going to be a pair of well-tailored swim shorts featuring a multi-colored pattern, accented by a plain t-shirt for the day, and linen or cotton shirt for a bit smarter look for the night out. 

Your shirt should match one of the main colors from your shorts and should be similar in tonality to add cohesion to the look. Add a pair of espadrilles or loafers for an easy and casual shoe.

Chino Shorts & Printed Shirt

Printed button-front shirts are surging in popularity right now. They are so versatile and offer up an easy way to get some bold patterns and wild colors into your outfit rotations, an occasionally difficult task. The current style is to be cut in an airy viscose, with a slim torso and deep v-neck. They are light and wispy, and the designs really pop in the bright beach sunlight. Open up a few buttons and show off the seasoned tan you’ve been working on.

When you add a pair of tailored chino shorts, you keep your silhouette slim and agile. The uncomplicated look and smooth lines of the chinos give you a robust and sophisticated edge. If you keep a darker tone to the shorts, it acts as the perfect springboard to show off the elaborate design and playful breathability of your shirt.

Polo & Slacks

If you are one of those that usually have their eyes on the night’s activities, as opposed to the sun and the sand. The polo and tailored slacks are an absolutely killer combo. You can scale the formality of the outfit by varying the cut and type of the shirt and slacks. Got a casual event that you do not want to overdress for, but you still want to look polished? Pique cotton polo is what you need. Need to put a bit more class in it for a less casual look? Grab a knitted polo instead.

For slacks, you are going to be looking primarily at the leg width and cut. For a bit more casual occasion, combine a more snug fit upstairs, with a wider and more relaxed leg cut, so you can roll up the leg hems for a barefoot stroll on the beach. If you will need a more formal look that will still be home in the bar or club, slim those legs and choose a tapered version downstairs with a little bit looser fitting polo.

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Key Components Of Your Beach Style

Trunks And Shorts

When shopping for swimwear, keep in mind that you probably won’t be spending the whole day in the water. Unless you’ve got the energy of a toddler, you will likely spend your time split between splashing in the surf and relaxing in the sand. You’ll want to make sure that whatever swim shorts you choose look great both in and out of the waves.

The quick-drying fabric ensures that you won’t be dripping with water for hours after getting out of the water and the mesh lining keeps you protected from any slips and wardrobe malfunctions. In order to avoid unwanted exposure, avoid cuts that are too wide. You should also expect to see the length of swim trunks to be shorter than your normal shorts, with 7 inches being the average length.

Flip-Flops And Sandals

Flip flops may not be the ideal option for a day at the office but at the beach? There’s nothing better. Flip flops are ideal for the beach because the post between the toes helps keep them on your feet, while the slide style of sandals is easy to walk out of in the sand.

When planning your wardrobe for the beach, black and brown sandals are both great options, as they go with nearly anything you would wear. Flip flops are a great choice for walking the beach while slides are a good choice for lunch with your friends. You could even go with a sport sandal if you plan on being in and out of the water or participating in beach volleyball, as they secure with velcro and are usually water-resistant.

Make sure you try to have both a pair of flip-flops and either sandals or boat shoes like espadrilles so that you are prepared for whatever activities you may want to do. You will certainly look out of place in a nice waterfront restaurant if you come clapping through the door in your flip-flops, so having a pair of backup shoes on hand can be invaluable. Likewise, you won’t want to take a pair of decent boat shoes into the sand and saltwater if it can be avoided, since they will pick up and retain sand.

Shades

When it comes to sun protection, many people apply sunscreen and leave it at that. Your skin isn’t the only part of you that is at risk of sun damage. Unless you’re hitting the beach or pool on a really cloudy day, then you’ll need to protect your eyes, too. Make sure to look for lenses that block out 95% of UV rays. Any less than that and they’re not providing enough protection.

The function may be important, but nobody wants to wear sunglasses they don’t like. As far as style goes, you can go with popular trends such as bold colors and funky shapes or you can go with one of the classics. Aviators, tortoiseshell, and Ray-Bans have been popular for a long time and will likely continue to be a crowd favorite.

Bag

Picking the right bag for your trip to the beach should be a pretty easy process. It would be best to leave your favorite leather bag at home, as leather does not do well with the sand and sea. It would be best to go with a more durable bag, such as a sturdy canvas tote or a backpack.

As far as material goes, we mentioned canvas but you can also go with a thick twill or even denim. Just make sure that you pass on anything that doesn’t do well with water.

Cotton T-Shirt

A cotton t-shirt is a great addition to your beach attire. A plain tee goes great with any patterned swim shorts and will still look great if you choose to put on an overshirt to wear to lunch or dinner. Graphic tees are fun for the street, but the prints can clash with your swim trunks or overshirt. If you don’t want to wear a plain shirt and prefer a graphic tee, go for one with a design on the back.

Linen Shirt

Linen is one of the most trademark summer fabrics. One of the lightest and most comfortable materials, it is breathable and dries super quickly. There is no garment this fabric is more suited to shirts. They come in a galaxy of patterns and colors, but the classic looks are the single block color styles. 

While they do tend to look a bit creased, that is just one of the aspects of the fabric that make it appealing. The well-worn and comfortable look tends to show lines easily, but that tends to work well with the carefree attitude that the shirt projects. If the semi crumpled and rumpled look doesn’t do it for you, or if you are concerned that it might not fit into the establishment you are going to, look for a linen-cotton blend, which will help smooth out some of those folds and wrinkles.

Beach Hat

We know it sounds like something your parents would say, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Sun protection is important, so make sure you take a hat just in case you need it. 

A standard cap is a current trend and the usual go-to for a hat. Provided it is in a neutral black or khaki color, it should mesh well and would suit most beach fashion looks. A bucket hat is more trendy, but it is very heavy on the casual side of the spectrum so that is a hat that should only be paired with a look that utilizes a t-shirt.

To get more formal, you can go with a Panama hat. A summer cousin of the heftier but slimmer brimmed fedora, it looks great with polo and tailored slacks. It also works exceedingly well with button-front shirts and either tailored shorts or slacks. To choose the best Panama hat for your head shape, base it on the brim. Rounder faces will benefit from the wider brim to balance things out, while the smaller brim will suit those with a smaller stature and narrow or oval face shapes.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Men’s Beach Fashion

How do fat people look good at the beach?

If you are concerned about finding a flattering outfit for a larger or more heavy frame, there are plenty of options out there to help you look and feel your best at the beach. For a more casual look, combine a pair of tailored swim shorts with a button-front shirt. The swim shorts should be a neutral, solid color and if patterned, should be scaled properly to the size of the garment. Make sure they have dark side panels if possible, to help present a more slim appearance. The button-front shirt will give you a stylish pattern and flare of color while smoothing your profile. 

For a more formal look, tailored slacks will suit your lines the best, but keep the leg width to a modest middle of the road, so as to provide the best compromise of comfort and style. Use those to draw the eye up to a nice linen shirt in a solid but light color that helps give you a clean appearance and a smart ensemble.

What do you wear to a beach hangout?

This is a great question, and a great opportunity to take some chances on new or unfamiliar combinations. It isn’t a day at the beach, so you do not have to dress for the heat. 

First and foremost, if there will be night swimming, your bottoms should be tailored swim shorts. To those, you can add a printed shirt worn open or closed, a solid color t-shirt by itself or with a patterned over-shirt, or even a loose-fitting cotton polo.

For no swimming or water activities, you will be best served by tailored chino shorts or slacks. These are nearly universal in accepting a top to be worn with them and will work with nearly everything. The only guideline is to try to stick to darker or more neutral shorts or slacks so that your shirt can be the focal point. Choose either a bright printed shirt or even linen short or long-sleeved shirt, with the first button or two open for a more casual islander look.

What about seersucker, is that still in style?

Actually yes it is! For those who are unaware, seersucker is one of the quintessential summer fabrics, because it is so comfortable. It is what’s referred to as a “puckered” cotton, which causes it to sit away from and off of the skin. The unique rippling in the cloth allows more airflow and as a result, allows the body to evaporate more sweat and stay cooler. It is a fabric that you will see more commonly in humid climates like the deep south coastal region. It generally has the appearance of thin stripes woven into the fabric, but it can also be obtained in solids and playful, bold patterns as well. It is considered to be on the more “preppy” side of men’s beach fashion, so check to see if it will fit well with the other items in your wardrobe.

Can I wear linen pants?

Well, in short, you know how amazing linen shirts are, right? Double that twice, and you might be close to how comfortable and carefree linen pants are. Linen pants that are cut for looser, roomier fits will absolutely change your beach life. They provide unbridled comfort, breathability, and wear, with classic coastal or islander style. Remember though, linen will wrinkle and show creases and lines easily, so if that will bother you, make sure you shop around and opt for a pair of linen pants that are blended with cotton so that they lay flatter and look less wrinkly. Some of the most well-loved blends are right in the half and half area.

Can I wear jeans to the beach?

Generally speaking, no. But there will always be some guys that just don’t want to hang up their beloved 501s, and that’s ok. Some thinner denim designs and lighter color washes can let you flex your denim muscle at the beach, but they will come with some caveats. Firstly, they are not technically beach fashion, and secondly, if you choose to wear them in the water, they will take forever to dry. Wet denim is uncomfortable and can cause chafing quickly. If you absolutely must wear jeans, make sure you keep to the lighter colors and match your shirts accordingly.

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A Final Word From The Trending Man

When it comes to planning your beach wardrobe, it’s important to find a balance between function and fashion. While you won’t be able to get away with the old standard of any t-shirt that fits and a pair of shorts you don’t mind getting wet, finding an outfit that is stylish, comfortable, and practical doesn’t have to be complicated.

Whether you’re heading to a business retreat, destination wedding, or a family vacation, there are plenty of options for your trip to the beach. If you’re going for a more formal look, a button-down shirt, linen pants, and coordinating Birkenstocks or Chacos would be a stylish and comfortable choice.

For a day of family fun in and out of the water, consider a pair of colorful swim trunks, a plain t-shirt that picks up on the colors in the shorts, and a pair of sports sandals such as Teva’s or Chacos will allow you to have fun splashing in the waves and running through the sand.

No matter why you’re at the beach, there are many opportunities to show off your style while having fun and staying comfortable. 

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