Vintage Style Swimsuits
A Journey Through the Decades
Have you ever stopped and wondered what kind of men’s swimsuit styles your great-grandpa was sporting? Because we have—and there’s just some things in life that need answered.
Throwing it back to their humble beginnings, swim trunks are shorts that were designed to be worn while swimming, which is no surprise. What is surprising, however, is that guy’s trunks really didn’t enter the “fashion scene” until the mid-1930s. In fact, it wasn’t until then that sleeker, more slim fitting trunks replaced bulkier options that covered the entire torso. These were usually heavy and hot pieces, so we’re glad history has come a long way since those days. Let’s take a look at men’s swimsuits throughout the decades and see what retro styles are worthy of making a comeback.
Before the 1930s, American and European swimsuits placed a heavy emphasis on modesty which is probably why our great-grandparents were flaunting scuba-style gear during a relaxing day at the beach. But, during this pivotal decade, a rubberized thread called lycra gave way to a new type of snug-fitting bathing suits that made swimming more enjoyable and more comfortable. Then in 1936, a men’s swimsuit style movement emerged—men protested against chest covering requirements because they wanted to be bare-chested at the beach. By 1937, it was legal for guys to be in public wearing only swim trunks.
During this decade, the middle class was booming and there was a high demand for swim and leisurewear—perfect for family vacations, personal getaways, and summer socials. Many 50s style swimsuits boasted loud Hawaiian prints with the intention of matching their equally-as-loud cabana set top. Although trunks from the 50s may be vintage style swimsuits today, the designs of the time were very evolved with tons of color offerings and stitching details...a far cry from the archaic trends of the early 1900s.
The 1960s is worth mentioning if only for the fact that one of the most iconic men’s swimsuit styles broke onto the scene—the Australian Speedo brand was officially launched. These swimming briefs inspired a new short-short movement for guys’ trunks. Even if you were not comfortable wearing a Speedo, you were likely rocking something well above the knee.
Right up there with some of our favorite metal bands of the decade, 80s style swimsuits are something worth reminiscing about. Trunks became the most popular men’s swimsuit style as guys started steering clear of the Speedos. Plus, the retro style of this era gave way to flashy swimsuits in bold colors and eclectic patterns. Now that’s what we like to see!
The 2000s & Beyond
After cycling through various vintage style swimsuits over the years, guys finally came to their senses and popularized the timeless board shorts and trunks that we see today. Additionally, there’s more variety than ever before. Depending on your needs, you can grab tighter fitting styles suited for speed, or looser boxer styles crafted for comfort. Actually, we’ve come so far that you don’t even have to chafe anymore. Check out our collection of anti-chafe trunks for men available in various colors and patterns. These trunks are the perfect fit and equipped with a sewn-in liner—you can leave chafing in the history books where it belongs.
If you’ve never pictured your great-grandpa in swim trunks, we’re sure you have now—and you’re welcome. Whether you love the vintage style swimsuits from the past or prefer modern men’s swimsuit styles, it’s still fun to reflect on how we got here. From restrictive chest covering requirements to Speedos and anti-chafe swim trunks, there’s definitely a fascinating tale to tell. If you’re interested in a chafe-free approach to swimwear, check out our other blog articles to learn about chafe-free clothing and how you can get rid of the irritating rash.