What Are Board Shorts and How To Style Them

When it comes to women’s swimwear, there are a couple of different bottoms to choose from. From string bikinis to swim skirts, there’s something for everyone. So where do board shorts fall on this list of choices? For women who want extra coverage, practicality, and modest style, board shorts should be at the top of their list.

But what exactly are board shorts? And how should you wear them? Read on to learn more about this sporty, beachy pair of shorts.

What Are Board Shorts?

Board shorts are swim bottoms that can be worn by both men and women of all ages. They are sporty shorts that offer full rear and thigh coverage both in and outside of the pool. Most board shorts for women feature panty liners for extra comfort and security. While they can vary in length, board shorts tend to fall halfway between the hips and the knees. 

What Is the Origin of Board Shorts?

The first board shorts were created in Hawaii. In the 1950s, eager surfers flocked to the island to hit the waves. Local tailors saw a need for comfortable, practical swimwear that would prevent their thighs from sticking to waxed boards. Thus, the board short was created. Brands in California and Australia helped further popularize the style. 

What Is the Difference Between Board Shorts and Swim Trunks?

Board shorts are generally longer and sturdier than swim trunks. While board shorts are on the boxier side, swim trunks tend to be soft and loose. Board shorts are better for wearing outside of the pool as they are made to hold their shape; swim trunks, on the other hand, are made of flexible mesh. Lastly, board shorts are worn by men and women; trunks are typically menswear.

Can You Wear Board Shorts Outside of the Pool?

Board shorts are perfect to wear as bottoms outside of the pool. They are generally made of durable material that can look just like any other pair of shorts. They also have pockets, which are handy for on-the-go ease. If you’re looking for practical bottoms that offer extra sun protection by the pool, board shorts are a great way to go.

Why Should You Own a Pair of Board Shorts?

Board shorts aren’t just for surfer dudes anymore. They have long been a staple of a woman’s wardrobe for pools and beaches. Not only are board shorts a great transitional piece from the water to the lounge chair, but they also provide modest coverage without sacrificing style. Pockets are another great functional benefit of having these shorts.

On What Occasions Should You Wear Board Shorts?

Board shorts are typically meant to be worn around the pool and beach, dipping your feet into the water or lounging on a towel. However, there are plenty of other occasions where board shorts can be perfectly appropriate attire. On a downtown stroll in the summertime, at a picnic in the park, or having dinner at a beachside resort –– these are some of the many times that board shorts can create a chic, casual outfit.

How To Style Board Shorts


Technically, you can match any sort of footwear with board shorts, seeing as they are often indistinguishable from regular shorts. However, in beach and pool settings, sandals, flip flops, and sneakers aren’t just the most appropriate; they also tend to be most comfortable.

Beach Cover-Ups

Since you’re wearing bottoms already, a full-body coverup won’t be necessary with board shorts. However, shawls, blouses, and other breezy tops are easy and stylish garments to throw over your torso.

Swimsuits and Tankinis

One of the reasons board shorts are so practical is that they can be worn either on their own or over one or two-piece swimsuits. Pull them on over your swimsuit when you get out of the pool, or simply pair them with a tankini top to lounge on the beach.

Mix-and-Match Colors

A solid-colored board short is a versatile item to have in your closet. You can pair it with several different kinds of tops, swimsuits, and cover-ups. If you have a lot of volume at the top of your torso, white board shorts can help draw the eye away from the chest and balance out the figure. 

On the other hand, black or navy board shorts will slim the waist and hipline. Of course, you don’t have to stick to solid colors –– feel free to make your board shorts as colorful and lively as you are.

The Right Length

Choosing the right board short length is all up to your personal preferences. Shorter board shorts might allow for greater movement and flexibility. Longer ones offer extra leg coverage and modesty, as well as added protection from the sun. 


Beach and poolside accessories are a fantastic way to stand out and make an otherwise ordinary outfit extraordinary. Headwear, such as a broad-rimmed white sun hat, is chic and helpful for sun protection. Sunglasses serve a similar dual purpose. Waterproof watches are an excellent accessory that you don’t have to worry about getting wet.

Extra Coverage

When the day transitions into the evening, it can be helpful to have extra layers on hand for added warmth. You can never go wrong with a beige knit sweater or long wrap cardigan. For a sportier look, try a fleece quarter-zip or a light jumper. While it’s unlikely that you will need much more than that while on the beach, it’s a good idea to be prepared for a brisk breeze.

Tiki Bar Fun

If you want a bit of spice and color in your life, go for some bright colors and fun patterns to go with your board shorts. A striped bathing suit top or vibrant floral pattern is a wonderful way to usher in the good times. Paired with a puka shell necklace and woven flip-flops, you’re sure to have a good time.

Golf Cart Glamor

Board shorts can easily be worn away from the water and on the golf court. If you plan to look chic for a game of golf, a polo shirt and white tennis shoes are a great addition to your board shorts. Tie a pastel cardigan around your shoulders; if you like, a discreet necklace and earrings can add some shine.

Poolside Sporty

If you are all about a practical style, this is the look for you. A pair of board shorts over a one-piece swimsuit is the basis for any sporty casual poolside look. Combine that with solid-color flip-flops, broad sunglasses, and a baseball cap. Bring along a waterproof watch and a quarter-zip hoodie for the evening, and you’re good to go.

Beachy Chic

If you’d like to opt for that classic, breezy, bohemian feel, light colors are the way to go. A pair of white or beige board shorts are a staple; if you’re feeling a bit more colorful, turquoise or soft pink can reflect a tropical aura. Paired with a long, light necklace, matching sandals, and a billowing white blouse, you can’t go wrong. For a bit of flair, seashell-embellished jewelry is a nice touch.

Classic Elegance

Contrary to what you might think, board shorts can actually be dressed up for an elegant look. Create a black and white ensemble with board shorts and a blouse, or a breezy satin top. A pair of pearl earrings add a feminine flair. Dark flats or boat shoes are the last steps to making this a yacht-ready outfit. 


Board shorts as poolside wear have been around for a while now, and it looks like they’re not going anywhere. Both men and women enjoy the ease and coverage this style allows. If you don’t already own a pair of board shorts, now is your time to get one.

With the added length, high-quality fabric, and easily accessible pockets, it’s the must-have for any practical-minded beachgoer. Hopefully, this article has left you with plenty of ideas and tips for donning your favorite pair of board shorts. Enjoy this stylish look on your next beach vacation!


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The Evolution of the Aussie Boardshorts | GQ

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