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Here's How Men Should Dress for the Beach

You picture the sun – overhead, glistening off undulating waves in the distance. You feel the sand – perhaps warm or a bit soft underfoot, based on where you envision yourself. You’re there in swim trunks or board shorts, perhaps enjoying the scenery, ready to jump in for a swim, or just out of the water and prepared to wander the boardwalk. 

What this scene doesn’t factor in is how you’ll protect yourself from UV rays (sunscreen only does part of the job) and what you’ll do if this is more than a casual jaunt. 

Dressing for the beach isn’t like heading to your local pool, where you’ll throw some trunks, flipflops, and a towel into your bag and leave it at that. Rather, if this is a day trip or a longer getaway, you have other items on the agenda – dining, perhaps a nightclub, or some sightseeing. Soggy, damp swim trunks don’t only leave you cold and uncomfortable – they likely go against dress code.

Resort and cruise wear – a subcategory of menswear that’s since carved out its own mini-season – builds off the allure of seaside adventuring. You’re in Capri, Mykonos, or the Amalfi Coast, and picture yourself the carefree Dickie Greenleaf from The Talented Mr. Ripley before it all heads south. You’ve got an effortless wardrobe of casual, lightweight basics that know no period in time but somehow feel unassumingly modern. Yet, it’s not all stripes and solid shades: now’s the occasion to break out those floral, fruit, and landscape prints that don’t always feel appropriate for the office (or even your daily Zoom calls). 

So you’re not finding yourself stopped at the door or left muttering, “Why did I forget that?!”, we’ve put together a guide about the essentials of beach dressing:


The Basic Principles of a Beach Wardrobe 

Resort wear – a.k.a. a beach wardrobe – fuses practical construction with packability, adaptability, and out-there style. You’ve got to think about transitioning from water to land: Unless you intend to change somewhere between the sands and centre of town, you require shorts with water-resistant and quick-drying properties, so you’re not a sopping mess hours after you’ve left the waves behind. At the same time, the weather is a prime consideration: Whether you’re lounging on the beach or opting to explore, be ready with a linen, light cotton, rayon, or viscose shirt that you can quickly button up or pull over. Knits, for obvious reasons, should stay home, as should your finest leather. 

Your footwear further plays a factor. Flipflops might seem easygoing, but they don’t always give you the support or coverage you need if you’ll be walking on more than sand or a flat surface. Yet, leather’s a bit too much – too bulky, too heavy, and without breathability. Instead, consider canvas shoes or a sturdier pair of sandals. 

Beyond the basics, the longevity of style shapes your beach wardrobe. We know you’d like to spend every day at a seaside locale, but the fact is, you only go on these treks a max of three times per year – and that’s being a tad generous. Thus, what you wear now will be what you reach for in three years, so keep it simple and with a classic mindset – Hawaiian shirts fit, but a cropped cut less so.


Then, there’s the versatility of it all. What you wear on the sands should pass muster at a restaurant, on a sightseeing trek through museums and other attractions, and if you intend to enjoy the nightlife. If your hotel room’s on the other side of town, what you’re wearing now needs to smoothly adjust from one setting to the next with minimal changes – read: you can carry it in your bag. 

As the final factor, realise that you’ll need to bring along your essentials in something – preferably lightweight. Take it traditional with a canvas tote: Later, all you have to do is dump out any sand and rocks from the interior before giving it a rinse. Or, rather than a one-arm carry option, consider a small backpack for your belongings.


Beach-Going Essentials 

Based on the parameters described above, you’ll want to bring along: 

A Hat 

Wide brim, bucket hat, baseball cap – it’s not the style that counts immediately but how well it shades your face from the sun. A full brim tends to be more reliable in this regard than a single front bill, so consider a Panama hat – essentially, the woven straw version of a fedora – or something less structured but full brimmed like a bucket or boonie hat. 

Swim Trunks 

Whether you prefer boardshorts or you’re now in the seven-inch-or-shorter inseam group, swim trunks present a canvas for expressing the loudest areas of your style – beach chair stripes to tropical landscape prints. Yet, unlike old-school polyester digs, today’s options aren’t just for the water – they’re meant to look and function like a standard pair of shorts. 

Quick-dry fabric makes this possible, shedding moisture within minutes and avoiding a wrinkled, rumpled appearance. In turn, look for something that pairs easily with a polo or lightweight button-front for an all-day-lasting beach wardrobe.

Orlebar Brown
Orlebar Brown

Lightweight Shorts 

What if you don’t intend to swim at the beach? If you view this endeavour as a chance to get in some rays, relax, and enjoy the seaside sights, consider the weather and the itinerary. Now might be the time to try out that matching two-piece co-od, or to wear a set of linen or light cotton chino shorts. Due to humidity and chafing, avoid denim shorts – a.k.a. jorts – unless they’re made with a lighter, thinner fabric like chambray. 


Unless you’re off to the beach for the evening or you truly don’t mind squinting all day, sunglasses are a beachwear must-bring, no matter if you intend to swim or stay on the shore. The choice here is yours, but long term, wayfarers or aviators deliver multi-season mileage, as opposed to the latest colourful, flash-in-the-pan combination.

Eyewear by David Beckham
Eyewear by David Beckham

A Lightweight, Casual Shirt 

No shirts, no shoes – no service. Even on the Jersey Shore, you can’t walk in just in your swim trunks and flipflops – especially if you stop by a casino. It takes minimal effort to button up a camp shirt or pull over a polo to meet this requirement, so have something matching – and ideally not easily wrinkled – ready to go in your bag. As T-shirts can also seem a tad too casual, opt for something with a collar. 

Supportive Footwear 

Yes, plenty of other guides will tell you flipflops are the de facto beach footwear. Yet, if you plan to walk on more varied terrain – say, uphill a bit or over gravel or rocky patches – the thin sole and thong on top don’t really give you the coverage, support, and protection you need. 

Depending upon which beach you go to and your itinerary, you have a few options. One, to keep your feet cool, look for a sandal with backstrap. It doesn’t have to be fancy – just something to keep the shoe on your foot. As an upgrade, a “hiking” sandal starts with this design but adds a treaded, impact-absorbing outsole, if you really want to go the distance. 

Or, should you need more coverage, just go with a canvas slip-on – Vans or an espadrille is sufficient here. This design doesn’t leave your toes exposed, plus has a full back and textured outsole, letting you travel to more locations.

Ivan Yaskey

Philadelphia’s streetwear scenes and working as a copywriter for a Boston-based menswear brand sparked Ivan's passion for fashion and style more than a decade ago.



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