Men embracing beach fashion, with retro flair

Timothy Barber
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WE may have moved beyond string vests, knotted handkerchief hats and union jack shorts, but when it comes to looking sharp on the beach, the average British male still compares poorly to his European neighbour, not to mention those from still warmer climes. That’s particularly the case with swimming trunks, a sartorial area in which good taste seems to be an entirely void notion.

The sands may be shifting though, with a small – but growing – number of British companies attempting to address the national shortfall in beach style with classic, retro-cool design and the odd cool pattern. The latest is Chucs Mountain & Dive Shop, a project launched earlier this year by film producer, publicist and man-about-town Charles Finch, who decided if you can’t find the kind of togs to suit the sunning-it-in-St Tropez-and-Mustique lifestyle, you may as well make them yourself. And he had the good sense to harness some Savile Row talent in this endeavour, roping in former Kilgour designer Sophie Gordon to bring English sartorial elegance to beachwear and clothes for outdoorsy types. The range of men’s swimming trunks is very natty indeed, with simple prints and colours in classic, old-fashioned styles – buttoned waistes, zip flys, and side adjusters. “It’s the sort of thing you can wear on the beach, round the pool, for lunch, to play tennis in, and always look smart,” says Gordon.

Chucs joins Orlebar Brown, another British company, in creating classic, preppy-chic swimwear that feels both jetsetty and quintessentially English.

Taking a different tack is FB Collection, a range inspired by the style and confidence of modern Brazil but set up by a couple of former City men, Harry Brantly and Max Leese. “This is all about the new Brazil, which is young, powerful and sophisticated,” says Brantly, a former wealth manager for UBS who was born in the South American country. FB Collection’s shorts are lightweight, cool and beautifully made – they’re designed for movement, whether that’s surfing or playing Brazilian beach tennis (FB Collection started out importing cool “frescobol” bats and balls).

Whatever the activity, English style – with a bit of international glam mixed in – is the way to go on the beach this year.