What are Board Shorts? The Ultimate Guide to this Favorite Swimwear

What are Board Shorts? The Ultimate Guide to this Favorite Swimwear


Boardies, baggies, half jams, togs, crossies, swimmers, bathers.

What do all of these crazy-sounding words have in common? They're all Aussie slang for an article of clothing that you're likely to see everywhere this summer.

Board shorts.

But what are board shorts, really?

They're the epitome of the surfer style, where it starts and where it ends. Whether you've ever touched a surfboard in your life, putting on a pair of board shorts instantly puts you in that famously laid-back state of mind. The world is your oyster!

Or at least, the nearest hammock and a cold Corona are.

These shorts are known for their bright colors and vivid patterns, with styles for both men and women. Although they can be found everywhere today, don't take these flashy, stylish, and sometimes even quirky shorts for granted.

Life didn't always used to be this good.

The Firsts Surfers

Although today board shorts are worn by surfers, swimmers, and loungers alike, they were originally created exclusively by surfers, for surfers.

The very first surfers, however, didn't wear board shorts. In fact, they didn't wear anything at all. When good ol' Captain Cook stumbled on the first Hawaiian tribes of Kauai, they were surfing buck naked! Of course, the Catholic missionaries rectified that immediately.

Thanks for that, guys.

At that point in the 1800's, going anywhere near the water was strictly for bathing and in no way recreational. Even after surfing was brought from Hawaii to North America, the expected attire looked NOTHING like the board shorts we all love today.

Standard attire for men was a thick wool body suit that went from neck to knee. Can you imagine?!

Evolution Pays Off

Swimwear during that period was overly modest and not at all functional. It wasn't until the 1930's that things finally began to change. Duke Kahanamoku was a native Hawaiian and competitive swimmer who popularized surfing in his day.

He dared to be bold by being one of the first to don the now vintage belted swim trunks. Cotton, high-waisted and cut short, they were a giant step away from the unbelievably strict standards for bathing suits at the time.

Though, unlike the bright colors and eye-catching patterns of today, they were all mostly black. It was after a good 30 years that a soon-to-be world-renowned surfer named Greg Noll added a pattern to his.

By his own words, he got so tired of being mistaken as one of his rivals that he took some jailhouse pants and had them made into surf shorts.

And they were a hit!

From there, as the culture of surfing spread like wildfire, retailers began to catch on. The cool, charismatic, laid-back vibe of the surfer lifestyle had turned into a fad, and there was money to be made. Everyone rushed to have their own answer the questions "What are board shorts?!"

With the 70's came all sorts of new brands, styles, and patterns. Cotton was replaced with quick-dry nylon, and belted waistlines were replaced with flat bands, lace ties, and scalloped edges.

Cringe-worthy as old photos seem now, these shorts were high tech for their time. Progress was progress, and these new styles of board shorts were finally starting to look fashionable as well as functional.

Though, the industry certainly didn't slide straight into home base. There were some rough patches along the way.

Enter the neoprene board shorts. Akin to modern cycling shorts, this new phenomenon solved the problem of chaffing all together and offered complete mobility.

They stuck around as wetsuits for divers, but were only popular in the surfing industry for a single season. Then they just disappeared.

While they functioned perfectly, the style just didn't cut it.

What Are Board Shorts Today?

Board shorts today are a staple for any trip to the beach, and the styles are literally endless. Form has completely caught up with function, so it's never been easier to have the exact style you want no matter your needs.

For experienced surfers, the classic athletic board short is best. Most of these designs will have 4-way stretch fabric for flexibility and comfort as well as Velcro and lace ties that stay secure when you wipe out (which you will). Watch Benji Brand and others as they ride the waves in Imperial Motion's perfectly engineered board shorts and wetsuits

For relaxed or low-key swimmers, a more casual or volley board short will do just fine. Since constantly being pounded by waves won't be on the agenda, the waistline can be more relaxed; often times a combination of elastic and a lace tie. Many of these styles are also shorter than their more athletic cousin, a couple inches above the knee

More room for that nice beach tan!

For the ultimate versatile style, the hybrid board short is best. Most of these are designed to look like regular shorts, but the quick-dry fabric allows you to jump straight from the pool to lunch with friends without having to change. Every possible combination of length, color, and pattern are available. Go crazy!

All that being said, you lead a busy life, and what are board shorts if they can't keep up? No matter the style, Imperial Motion never sacrifices durability. Every pair of board shorts is made with Nano Cure Tech for strong, long-lasting, water-resistant shorts.

Never Established, Always Evolving

Imperial Motion is a lifestyle brand that embodies what it means to be a surfer.

What it means to be free.

In 2002, the three founders, Eric, Spencer, and Steve dropped out of college to set up shop in their parents' garage. Talk about starting with nothing but a dream. But what are board shorts to these boys now?

Though the brand has expanded to regular clothes and wetsuits, their initial passion remains.

Their mission was to ignore the nay-sayers and be the best in the business, and the pursuit of these amazing standards led to Imperial Motion.

What started off as a young dream has transformed into a brand dedicated to the free spirit in all of us. Imperial motion represents the "Underachiever", the one who won't settle for being labeled. They live by the motto "Never Established, Always Evolving."

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