Keep it short and chic in the summer heat
Hanging out at the beach is the best opportunity to indulge in bright colours and patterns. I often see men looking rather dull wearing a random pair of black swimming trunks. Without any colour or patterns to distract you, these black trunks highlight every flaw in your physique (and plain white ones are even worse). Unless you look like Hidetoshi Nakata in the Calvin Klein X underwear ads, avoid all-black swimwear at all costs.
If you do have some hard-earned muscles, why not top them off with Versace's low-waist, square-cut stretchy nylon trunks in a tortoise print? These look fantastic worn with strappy sandals, provided you have well-formed legs. Something more retro but equally sexy is Paul Smith's square-cut swimwear in red checks (5) or blue stripes. Things to avoid: jockstrap styles (sorry, but they flatter no one) and denim swimwear (which is just wrong).
If you need to camouflage your flaws, all you need is the right type of swimwear. For those who haven't been working out as hard as they should, board shorts are an option. I bought one of my favourite pairs at KLCC Suria in Kuala Lumpur. They are by Reef, with watermark patterns of random items such as a crab, a beer can, a pair of shades, a skeleton, a human hand, a video camera and a giant curling snake. This creepy and seemingly arbitrary print combination looks surprisingly good on swimwear. The weave of the polyester fabric allows the shorts to dry really quickly so you can avoid a crinkled mess sticking to the buttocks and upper legs.
Knee-length board shorts, however, are daunting to people who have short legs, and this year swimming trunks are also shortening. Ted Baker is offering a few options of boxer-style swimming shorts that are not challenging to wear and would look decent on anyone who isn't suffering from a weight disorder. Patterns include palm trees with a little red lobster (3) subtly thrown in and another one that is crustacean-crazy. Either way, they suit men of all ages - whimsical enough for younger ones and not too over-the-top for gentlemen.
It's important to bring a top that matches your swimwear when heading to the beach. No, they needn't - and shouldn't - be the same pattern as your swimwear. You can match floral against checks, or stripes against pretty much anything. Alternatively, a very thin white linen shirt or a T-shirt that picks up one of the colours on your swimwear will do. You wear this top on your way to the beach and put it on in case you need to stock up on snacks and drinks at the shops. I don't care if you have a six pack - when you're browsing the supermarket shelves for a six pack you shouldn't be half naked.
Accessorising, of course, can also do wonders. There is something very sexy about a man who wears board shorts and a shirt with all buttons undone, topped with a casual necklace, like the black woven leather one with oval metallic closure (4) from Versace.
Don't underestimate the importance of a decent towel. It is not uncommon to see people bringing beaten-up rags, sometimes even the convenience-store variety. Going to the beach is not just about getting wet and drying off; it's about having fun and looking great - a colourful beach towel is part of that.
Elegant men's swimwear brand Vilebrequin is famous for its product's quick-dry material and fun prints. The Moorea line of trunks that feature prints ranging from turtles to floral patterns (1) is my favourite. But it also features beautiful beach towels with patterned rims, including a red one with prints of figs and fig foliage on the edges. If you're a Louis Vuitton fan, the brand's beach towel with its famous monogram blending with a pattern of starfish and brown, grey and turquoise stripes is worth considering.
With all the sand and seawater, flip-flops are the most practical footwear. A pair of Havaianas always work. I have also spotted a pair of flip-flops with a rubber sole, wicker top and fabric Y-shape straps in a tribal-art pattern at Zara. Yachting deck shoes from brands like Paul & Shark are also appropriate, especially when you have plans to head back to town afterwards and don't feel like strolling around the busy streets in flimsy flip flops.
Finally, top off that beach look with a pair of red-framed Gucci shades (2) and a Panama hat that is omnipresent this season (including a beige number with contrasting black band from Underground), and you are beach ready.
Gucci, Elements, 1 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2196 8088
Louis Vuitton, The Lee Gardens, Causeway Bay, tel: 8100 1182
Paul & Shark, Prince's Building, Central, tel: 2522 3710
Paul Smith, The Landmark, Central, tel: 2523 5868
Ted Baker, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2918 9609
Underground, available from I.T, Cleveland Street, Causeway Bay, tel: 2504 0025
Versace, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2737 2628
Vilebrequin, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2918 0263
Zara, Times Square, Causeway Bay, tel: 2506 0070