If you’ve been on a beach in Europe—or if you vacationed with your parents at any time during the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, you were highly likely to have spent time surrounded by one of the most iconic and controversial types of swimwear for men: the Speedo.
The company itself has a history as long as its men’s swimwear is brief. In 1914, the company, (originally named McRae Hosiery), started manufacturing socks for the Australian Army during World War I. Afterwards, the business shifted to beachwear with the growing interest in surfing.
In 1928, manufacturing debuted swimwear made of cotton and silk instead of wool (yes, it was once a thing) for better speed. The name came from an ad slogan—“Speed On in Your Speedo”—that had proved successful.
Speedo recently reported that sales of budgie smugglers (as those in the U.K. and Australia call them) are up and orders across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa have risen more than 200 per cent in 2023 compared to the year previous. The U.S. saw a 54 per cent increase in sales from 2020 to 2021 and should exceed expectations for 2023.
Whether you’re wakesurfing, saluting boaters from your dock, or chilling on your own secluded patch of waterfront, there’s no shame in starting your Speedo game. “If a dude feels like he wants to rock a Speedo-style bottom, then kudos to him!” says Ashley Eady, a custom swimwear designer and the owner of Teeny Weeny Bikini in Rosseau, Ont. She feels that anywhere is an appropriate venue to wear one—but that the chances of being overrun by a nation of banana hammocks is unlikely. “Fashion has always swayed to its extremes (full coverage vs. no coverage), and there have been those that follow these trends like the gospel,” says Eady. “On the flip side, there are also those that do their own thing depending on what they’re comfortable with.”
As a swimwear designer, Eady says the most flattering style for men depends on the body type. Eady tells her customers this all the time. “The Speedo fit was intended for a functional purpose: speed! Then, like all innovation in fashion, there is a trickle down effect that happens,” she says, noting the style was also adopted by beach goers for its other benefits: tanning.
In terms of style, Eady is partial to swim trunks. “Right now, I like to see a swim trunk that isn’t super long in the leg, drops off the hips with a fitted flat waistband, with a leg that’s straight and stops short a few inches above the knee,” she says. “But again, that may not work on someone with really long legs.”
The freedom to well, free yourself of more loose-fitting styles and expose your upper thighs and buttocks is your choice to make. Still, if, at the end of reading this, no memories of Uncle Tony lounging in his tiny togs have surfaced…that’s probably a good thing.