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Board shorts or Speedos: What kind of bathing suit should I wear?

The question

Board shorts or Speedos: What kind of bathing suit should I wear?

The answer

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Everyone is terrified of spandex briefs, and I'm not sure why; perhaps they can only picture the cliché of a saggy-gutted, overly tanned, middle-aged European man in them. But toned, young bodies of course look fantastic in anything, and that's why there are thousands of photos online of guys wearing tiny, clingy, revealing Speedos.

These sites are for the viewing pleasure of other men, sure, but I have shown them to a few women who have evinced a distinct eagerness to see more. My research on this is far from exhaustive, though, and in public both men and women continue to squeal and squirm about the ugliness and embarrassment of revealing male swimwear. But a certain pro-skimpy defiance is emerging as guys turn to the tiny trunks the early James Bond would don for his poolside seductions. A recent pro-Speedo essay in Slate by Simon Doonan argued that American men are afraid of letting the world know that they have male genitalia simply because they all feel too fat. He's all in favour of fit guys wearing budgie-smugglers and admits to having bought leopardprint briefs in his youth. He also claims long shorts can lead to drowning, as they weigh down the flailing swimmer. I'm not sure if that's true or not, but it is true that giant board shorts are actually forbidden in some European swimming pools.

The miles of fabric carry more bacteria and are considered less hygienic. To answer your question: It's time to move beyond the board shorts that make teenage boys feel like X Games competitors. And you don't have to leap right into a bikini. Short, fitted squarecut trunks (and, yes, in stretchy fabric – why not?) are a compromise for those who aren't quite Australian-lifeguard trim.

Novelist Russell Smith's memoir, Blindsided, is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a style question? E-mail

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