En español | Unlike women who plot, plan and prepare for every body-baring minute spent in a swimsuit, men over 50 often just show up in whatever's available in their dresser drawer. Grownup dudes don't get swimsuit advice from their peers, as my husband, brother and friends can verify. They also never think to ask the women in their lives for any (even me, and I'm a fashion editor!). Well, I'm here to tell all you need to know, so don't be shy. Let's dive in.
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PHOTO BY: Matelly/Cultura/Getty Images
1. Know your body's pros and cons
Check your body — nude or in underwear — in a full-length mirror. Look at all views: rear, side and front. Don't suck in your stomach. Most guys have never done this, so it's a real heads-up. To find your best swimsuit, consider a few things first. What bugs you? A big belly? Wiggly thighs? Man boobs? Back fat? What's your best stuff? A still-trim waist? Toned legs? Broad shoulders? Nice forearms? Cute love handles? Ignore unattainable body images of you at 35, of professional athletes and of movie stars. Do what we women do and gain confidence from the good, even if there's “more of you to love."
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PHOTO BY: Walmart; Kohl's; Lands' End; Speedo
2. Choose the right size and length
Guys don't have the advantage of a suit top for camouflage or a flattering neckline to help balance lower-body proportions. All they have to work with is that waist-down bit of fabric. In general, nearly every man looks great in mid-thigh-length classic trunks, from 7 to 8 inches at the inseam (the length from crotch to hem at inner thigh). Tall men can look more balanced in a longer suit that ends an inch or two above the knees. An all-around adjustable drawstring elastic waistband, like the Lands’ End Big and Tall 8-Inch Print Volley Swim Trunks in Palm ($45, landsend.com), can help keep love handles (also called muffin tops) from spilling over the waistband, while a half-elastic back band with a drawstring and a faux fly, like the Speedo Horizon Blend Bondi Swim Trunks in Blue Lemonade ($33, kohls.com), can add structure to a wiggly waistline, beefy tummy and hips. Swimsuits with a built-in mesh liner, like the George Men's and Big Men's 6-Inch Americana Ocean Print Swim Trunks in Blue Cove ($10, walmart.com) or Kohl's Men's Sonoma Goods for Life Flexwear Swim Trunks ($22, kohls.com), provide underwear-like support and security. You don't want to be checking and tugging the suit at your crotch or butt in order to prevent a sideshow. Try sitting, squatting down, bending over, and walking fast or jogging beforehand in order to see if it's a good fit.
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PHOTO BY: Amazon (2); L.L.Bean
3. What will you do in your swimsuit?
Will you actually be swimming laps or just taking a dip? Will you be getting athletic (beach volleyball or kayaking) or pretty much lying around on a towel? Going from the beach straight to a family barbecue? Swimsuits in a spandex blend, like MaaMgic Men's Quick Dry 4-Way Stretch Swim Trunks in Mint ($23, amazon.com), keep their shape and provide some body-sculpting help so that you don't jiggle. Nylon suits, like the Silkworld Men's Swim Trucks Quick-Dry Beach Shorts ($18, amazon.com), are fast-drying and lightweight so that you can practically swim and jump in the car to head home without changing. Suits with built-in sun protection — called UPF or ultraviolet protection factor — like the L.L. Bean Men’s Vacationland Stretch Swim Trunks with UPF 50 ($50, llbean.com), shelter skin from UV rays that penetrate regular clothing. They're a good choice if you're prone to skin cancer or just need extra level protection.
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PHOTO BY: Kohl's; L.L.Bean; Lands' End
4. Short trunks are for showing off
Trim square-cut short trunks, like L.L. Bean Men's Classic Supplex Sports Shorts 6-Inch in Iron Blue ($35, llbean.com), Kohl's Men's Dolfin Solid 5-Inch Swim Trunks in Green ($42, kohls.com) and Lands’ End Men's 6-Inch Color-Block Volley Swim Trunks in Blue Triple Color Block ($40, landsend.com), fit pretty much like boxer underwear. With an inseam between 5 and 6 inches, they display enough thigh and are great for active beach activities like swimming, jogging, running, volleyball or lying around on a lounge chair or towel — but not so much for social activities like a family barbecue, a picnic in the park or having lunch at a café. Forget skintight briefs. Yeah, they look great on Olympic swimmers and triathletes, and you see them on men of all ages on European beaches — but let's get realistic: Unless you're swimming alone in your own pool (and even then), don't go there. They're the equivalent of a string bikini, and women age 50-plus (aside from ex-supermodels) know when to draw the line. You should, too.
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PHOTO BY: Amazon; Target; Lands' End
5. Mid-thigh drawstring trunks look good on everyone
They're the equivalent of a woman's one-piece tank — not too skimpy, not too covered up — so in other words, foolproof. Every guy should have at least one. Look for an adjustable drawstring waist to compensate for weight fluctuations, a mesh lining and a flattering color, like the Lands’ End Men's 8-Inch Volley Swim Trunks in Sea Mist Blue ($40, landsend.com), Goodfellow & Co. Men's 7-Inch Floral Swim Trucks in Red ($20, target.com) and Amazon Essentials Men's 7-Inch Swim Trunk in Anchor Print ($15, amazon.com). Shades of blue look fresh on every skin tone, while vibrant red, orange or green makes a statement and you'll be easy to spot in the water or a crowd. Big fellas who are stocky or beefy and want to look slimmer should choose a size larger (not smaller) than their usual pant size and let the adjustable drawstring waistband do the work. It should fit gently snug — not so tight that it pinches — and any love handles will overflow the band. The straight, semi-loose fit helps balance width at the hips, rear and upper thighs if your body is more Homer Simpson than Brad Pitt.
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); Old Navy
6. Knee-length board shorts turn guys into surfer dudes
Look for styles that end around an inch or two above your knees, like the Goodfellow & Co. Men's 10-Inch Afterburner Swim Board Shorts in Black ($25, target.com), Old Navy Patterned Built-In Flex Board Shorts for Men 10-Inch in Teal Stripe ($25, old navy.com) or Speedo Men's 9-Inch Marina Long Volley Swim Trunks in Gray ($30, target.com). And yes, note the length — sometimes board shorts are labeled as trunks. To look cool at 50, be sure they're not too wide (your body will look broader) or too long (your legs will look shorter). Skip any that go past your knees (these are not clamdiggers or capri pants) or have lots of excess boxy, baggy fabric (when wet they'll drag the waist down). Women know that the more leg you show, the better proportioned your body looks in a swimsuit. Aim for a relaxed, roomy look with enough fabric on either side of the thighs to run, sit, bend and move without feeling constricted.
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PHOTO BY: Walmart; L.L. Bean; Amazon
7. Cargo-style swimsuits give you hands-free security
Longer, above-the-knee-length suits, like the L.L. Bean Men's Classic Supplex Sport Shorts, Cargo 10-Inch ($40, llbean.com), Norty Men's Swim Trunks Water Short Cargo in Aqua 2 ($17, walmart.com) and Kanu Surf Men's Echelon Swim Trunks (regular and extended sizes) in Flex Aqua ($19, amazon.com), work for guys like a cross-body bag does for women. Multiple pockets — including the extra patch pockets on either side of the thighs — can hold a wallet, keys, sunglasses and sunscreen. Just remember to empty them before jumping in.
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PHOTO BY: Amazon (2); Target
8. Hybrid swimsuit shorts have a tailored vibe
If you want a water-repellent swimsuit-like short that can go from boating to brunch, from poolside to around town, the O'Neill Men's 21-Inch Outseam Hybrid Stretch Walk Short in Asphalt ($37, amazon.com), Goodfellow & Co. Men's Big & Tall Rotary Hybrid Shorts 10.5-Inch in Blue ($28, target.com) and Billabong Men's Classic Hybrid Short in Navy ($55, amazon.com) fit the bill. They have a real waistband, classic flat front with a button closure and fly, and a tapered straight leg in polished neutrals like gray and navy. Add a collared polo tee and loafers, or beach slides and a tee, and you're casual but “dressed.”
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PHOTO BY: Walmart (2); Target
9. Choose colors and prints strategically
Women know that darker colors create the illusion of a slimmer, trimmer body. We count on a black swimsuit when we've gained a few pounds or have been skipping the gym. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Darker suits — like navy and charcoal — will always make beefy guys look sleeker and more toned. Color blocking and ombré-toned swim trunks, like the Goodfellow & Co. Men's 10-Inch Striped Swim Board Trunks in Mint ($25, target.com), No Boundaries Men's and Big Men's 9-Inch Ombré Fixed Waist Swim Shorts in Rich Black Fire ($15, walmart.com) and George Men's and Big Men's 8-Inch All-Guy Color Block Swim Shorts in Grey Stone Combo ($10, walmart.com), take that swimsuit strategy one trendy step further. By using alternating stripes of color, from light to dark, the suit's design minimizes certain areas and highlights others. And it's a very stylish option for guys who want to look contemporary.
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PHOTO BY: Amazon; Walmart; L.L.Bean
10. Add a rash guard
Adapted from surfer gear, water-friendly UPF tees in short- and long-sleeve versions, like the Speedo Men's UV Swim Shirt ($28, amazon.com), L.L. Bean Men's Swift River Cooling Rash Guard ($50, llbean.com) and Hardcore Water Sports Men's Rash Guard Shirt SPF ($17, walmart.com), offer camouflage and protection for your very vulnerable chest, back and arms. If you are kind of soft around the middle or just want extra sun protection (and who doesn't these days?), a rash guard T-shirt is a smart extra buy. Look for styles that specify a relaxed or looser fit rather than the snug, clingy styles that kids and millennials choose. It is a lot more comfortable to wear (especially when you're sweating in the heat and sun), yet stays put in the water and saves you from slathering on tons of sunscreen. Get one in the same tone as your suit or in a contrasting color.