Calling all Dad Bods: Orlebar Brown’s ultimate swim short guide

Kuala Lumpur-born Adam Brown trained and worked as a photographer before dipping his toe in the men’s swimwear game in 2007. The idea for Orlebar Brown came about after Adam and a group of friends travelled to Rajasthan to celebrate a 40th birthday. As Brown remembers it, around the pool the women all looked great, but the men did not.

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Transition and versatility remain central to everything that Orlebar Brown does: sun lounger to sundowner, work to play, day to night and home to hotel, the OB shorts can manage them all. In 2010, the brand expanded off the beach, out of the pool and into resort. Today, it sells a full lifestyle collection that includes tees, shirts, sweats and trousers for men, women and children.


Here are Adam’s top ten tips for looking and feeling great this summer:

1. The personality test

‘There is no point trying to carry off the craziest print around the pool if you aren’t the one cartwheeling his way through the holiday. Quiet types suit simple, block colours, or small, subtle repeats. If you’re the life-and-soul however, then go bold as you dare. I love our photographic prints, because they add a romance to the swimwear story. In the end, your swimming shorts are a reflection of your personality.’

2. The colour conundrum 

‘If you are dark skinned, then you can really celebrate colour on the beach, but if, like me, you are pale and interesting, then avoid anything too bright or too soft. Pale pinks are a complete no-no when you have a classic English complexion; instead go for a strong neutral like navy or grey.’

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3. Get ready to show some thigh 

‘Things are getting shorter this summer. Men are becoming braver, and are finally moving away from that ubiquitous board short style. I’ve emigrated up in length too, mainly because I don’t want to have wet fabric down to my knees after I swim. The shorter length also looks better. When I look back at pictures of my grandfather on holiday in the Fifties, his shorts were always so neat. We’re trying to emulate that Talented Mr Ripley heritage feel.’

4. To lunch or not to lunch?

‘Orlebar Browns are not a swimming trunk; they are a short that you can swim in. Our design is based on the traditional suit trouser pattern and because of this, they are as comfortable on the beach as out to lunch. You could even go and have a post-beach drink in your OB’s if that takes your fancy.’

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5. Dad Bods on the beach - SOS

‘Dad Bods can look just as good as any other kind of bod on the beach, as long as men remember the importance of a good fit. The question is, why do so many men wear an elasticated waistband when it makes their stomach bag over the top? The waistband is key if you’re self-conscious. At Orlebar Brown, ours are cut high at the back and scoop under the tummy, which stops any unnecessary muffin top situations. Then, just remember not to wear your trunks too tight or too baggy, because both play havoc with your silhouette.’

6. Quality or quantity 

‘Quality every time. Your shorts will look better and you’ll get more wear out of two good quality pairs, than you will from five high street versions. Cheaper brands have cheaper hardware, which means there will be inevitable corrosion and the fabrics will be less durable. All Orlebar Brown products are made and sourced in Europe and we have complete provenance transparency. This means that if you forget to wash them out once in a while or leave them in the sun to dry they won’t deteriorate.’

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7. Proportion is key 

‘Short styles might be taking control this summer, but there’s no point following the trend if you have basketball player proportions. If you’re very tall, short shorts will just look silly. And using the same rule, those who are a bit more vertically challenged, shouldn’t go for anything too long. It’s a simple equation of length and height, but it’s one that really matters if you want to look your best.’

8. Style me up 

‘When I’m in Ibiza I wear my OB’s in a different way to how I’d style them in Cornwall. If I’m holidaying in St Tropez, it’s another look again. At the Blue Marlin in Ibiza, I wear a navy Setter style with a coloured shirt and a pair of flip-flops. In Cornwall, I wear the same shorts with a Morley sweatshirt and some deck shoes and when I’m in St Tropez I like to wear them with a Terry towelling polo and some leather loafers by Car Shoe. That’s what works for me, but really it isn’t about having a prescriptive recipe, looking good is about wearing a decent pair of tailored shorts and feeling comfortable.’

9. The bottom line 

‘Men, remember your bottoms and how they’ll look on the beach. Whether yours is generous or slight, how you look from behind matters. Approach your trunks as you would a pair of work trousers and choose the right fit for your body – and bottom – shape.’


10. Matchy matchy 

‘I get the appeal of Dad’s and son’s matching, and I can be a sucker for a matching photo opportunity, but really, I like each to have their own individuality. I’d rather my son chose his own shorts rather than looking like a mini version of his Dad.’

Five of the best swimming shorts to try

Bulldog swim shorts in cobalt, £135, Orlebar Brown 

Bulldog swim shorts in sway with me chilli, £225, Orlebar Brown

Bulldog swim shorts in Menton print, £195, Orlebar Brown 

Bulldog swim shorts in Arroyo sphere print, £165, Orlebar Brown

Bulldog swim shorts in Aerial Abu Dhabi print, £225, Orlebar Brown 

Available at Bond StreetKingstonNewcastle

By Alice Olins