How men swimwear has evolved throughout the years

How men swimwear has evolved throughout the years

Today, swimwear for men seems fresh and functional. However, it has involved several revolutions in style, fabric, and fit in the last 100 years. From modest pieces to modern swimming trunks, how men’s swimsuit has transformed will amaze you.


Believe it or not, before the 19th century, most countries accepted men getting naked when bathing, even in public places. It was not until 1869 when Frédéric Bazille painted Scène d’été where some men are chilling out near a pond wearing swimwear that looks very much like modern-day swimming trunks. This French Impressionist painter had used zebra, leopard patterns, and solid colors to draw men’s swimming shorts.


In the 1900s, thanks to bathing regulations, the demand for swimsuits increased and paved the way for some companies such as Bradley Knitting Company from Delavan, Wisconsin, Oregon-based Portland Knitting Company, and Bentz Knitting Mills (Catalina) to enter the market.


In the 1910s, tank suits in black or navy were the most favorite bathing costume for men. Then in the 1930s, people used to prefer tan skin as a symbol of enjoying leisure or sporty activities. This preference resulted in producing simple swim trunks or shorts. In those days, blue and bold stripes were the most popular color. 


The 1950s lived the transformation of men's bathing style by using more bright-colored patterns and fancy details. Men in this century had matched the swimming trunks with a terry-lined shirt to form a “cabana set”, which was an iconic combo for backyard barbecues and pool parties.


Swimwear for men in the 1960’s, was influenced by the famous moon landing. Bright and psychedelic color palettes were used, as well as “space-age fabrics”. Another significant landmark was when Peter Travis designed men’s swimming briefs for the Speedo brand. 


People were crazy for hippie style in the 1970s, and of course, this ideological trend transformed the swimwear style again with bright colors and exotic cuts. 
In the 21st century, men now had various choices, and we can see there is no limit for the swimsuit. From the Brazilian sunga swim briefs to trunks, from the board shorts to full-body suits, men can feel free to choose their swimwear based on their own needs and taste.


Swimwear for men has developed throughout the years. In each century, swimwear has fulfilled the need for men in both style and performance. From 2021, another trend that we believe will make history for swimming trunks: social responsibility. That is why Island Threads has used recycled water bottles to produce swimwear for the man of today and tomorrow. You can have a look at the new season on our website.