The metro

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 April, 2009, 12:00am

I have a confession to make: I own about 12 Speedo-style bathing suits. Control your laughter - there's a reason.

I was in the swimming team when I was at high school, before ergonomic, wave-defying Michael Phelps-endorsed wetsuits were de rigueur at swim meets. More than 10 years later, I am still swimming laps and I've found that I am most comfortable in Speedo-cut swimsuits when doing so. Board shorts drag your body, making your strokes less fluid. And I haven't taken a liking to wetsuits just yet, because I'm afraid other swimmers will mistake me for Shamu the orca if I dive in clad entirely in black.

I didn't know I owned so many swimsuits until I started researching this topic. I unearthed pieces dating back to my college days. There were tight black Speedos, brightly coloured Arenas and risqu? Aussiebums. Horrific. My favourites, however, are a classic cut white pair from Dolce & Gabbana.

Of course, not all of my suits are European style. I have swim shorts, which I wear when I am at the beach because I don't know if I can muster the courage to don daring, triangle-shaped swimsuits now I'm no longer 20. Gravity and age are starting to affect my body. I applaud Valentino, Giorgio Armani and Roberto Cavalli for having the guts to bare it all at fiftysomething.

Recently in Singapore a 51-year-old man was reportedly reprimanded for wearing excessively tight, tiny neon-green swim trunks at a local beach. I wonder how the triumvirate of Italian designers would react if they heard that news.

In case the police are looking to arrest men in skimpy swimsuits - watch out Ricky Martin - I went in search of more modest swimwear. I skipped the sporting goods store, where they sell Speedos and Arena swimsuits. I also ignored the call of board shorts because I think they're sloppy looking - a little too American for my taste.

The first two pieces I found were from Paul Smith. One was a pair of drawstring swim shorts in black and white gingham, cut on the upper thigh. Think of those red shorts the Baywatch lifeguards wore. You can wear them sans shirt should you wish to show off your buffed summer body or pair them with a thin knitted polo shirt from Prada and a Panama hat for a pool party.

The other swimsuit I found at Paul Smith was the tight, manhood bulge-suffocating variety (above). However, they are cut on a square, which makes them less of a baloney bag than the triangular kind. They come in a dizzying paisley, so I'd recommend them for destinations such as Mykonos, Ipanema or Ibiza, where such styles are worn by the locals like a second skin. Definitely avoid the American Club in Tai Tam.

Herm?s did the whole shorts and thin knit polo thing in its spring collection, and it's one of the best summer looks I've seen in a while. It brings to mind the clothing worn by Jude Law in the movie The Talented Mr Ripley.

Although Dolce & Gabbana likes to show off super-skimpy swimsuits, I found a very nice pair of shorts that are great for swimming and sports (left). They come in white or black, they're cut high on the thigh and the side seams are perforated like a Dri-Fit sports shirt. What I like about them is that they are shape-friendly: you can be slim, defined or beefy and they won't make you look as if you're trying too hard.

But if you must buy a pair of Dolce & Gabbana's sexier swimming trunks, such as the ones that come in a 'nude' colour, make sure you have the six-pack abs and the killer legs to carry them off; I'm pretty confident that Stefano and Domenico wouldn't approve of love handles or chicken legs anywhere near their designs.

I'd also recommend La Perla Uomo swimming shorts, if you can get your hands on them. I bought a pair of pastel purple shorts with a white floral print at the airport in Venice, and people compliment me whenever I wear them.

So unless you're trying to achieve the look of a newly-minted Russian or a provincial Frenchman, ban the skimpy swim trunks from your summer wardrobe. And lose the wraparound sunglasses and gold chain necklace while you're at it.

Shopping list

Dolce & Gabbana, Alexandra House, Central, tel: 2877 5558

Paul Smith, The Landmark, Central, tel: 2523 5868

Herm?s, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2522 6229