As the Houston heat index rises, more wardrobe adjustments are in order other than a new pair of sandals and a signature guayabera shirt. Summer time brings people to the pool and beach, which season after season, leaves men with a "boxers or briefs"-style paradox: Speedo or trunks?
Understandably, not many men find themselves wrapped up in this conundrum. Almost all Americans opt for the shorts over the swim brief, and since men rarely subject themselves to the same level of self-scrutiny as women, it's unlikely they'll change course ever over the course of a lifetime.
Yet in the new decade, the debate of Speedo vs. trunk has come to the fore, as more and more men, both gay and straight, reconsider their swimsuit orientation.
"I refer to mine as a weanie bikini," jokes Lawson, a 25-year-old Houston native who works in insurance, and always has a girlfriend.
Typically the domain of European shores and geriatric men with gold chains, the Speedo has crept onto American coastlines faster than a Gulf oil spill, leaving open many questions about the association of Speedos with the fey and French.
"I actually have a couple," explains Lawson, whose name was changed for this article. He first bought a Nike brand swim brief a few years ago at sports store Academy — a gateway Speedo of sorts — and has since moved on to Hugo Boss weanie bikinis from Saks.
The choice isn't necessarily a matter of clean lines and sophisticated flair. "It gets looks, which I'd describe as partial intent. When I'm laying out on Tiki Island, I see people pass by on their boats and give me looks saying, 'What the hell is this guy doing? He's not in France.'
"The thing is, I don't feel insecure when I wear it," he proclaims. "Some people don't know how to accept it.
"The no tan lines are a bonus, too."
Alice (whose name has also been changed) is a 24-year-old Houstonian who recently ended a relationship with a boyrfriend who insisted on wearing a Speedo.
"I think he was confident about his penis size," she divulges. Indeed, when "shrinkage" isn't a worry, there's no reason not to bare all. But in time, her beau packed on a few pounds, yet continued to don the briefs for the sake of soaking up the sun.
"Frankly, by the time we broke up, I preferred that he not wear it around me. But usually when we were out by the beach, we'd be drinking, and I guess that 'liquid courage' would translate to him wearing that ... thing."
Alice points out, however, that the Speedo was not a divisive factor in their split. "To be honest, I'm a fan of them. These awful, baggy things most guys wear — how could they be comfortable?"
Alice is referring to the board short model preferred by many a bro, which, in its trashiest form, is littered with tropical flower shows and bad plaids. Of course there are more refined versions of swim trunks. Murray Penner, of stalwart mens retailer M Penner, exclusively offers designs by French label Vilebrequin. The family-owned atelier pairs their iconic prints with suave linen shirts, "which make for a great summer coverup."
Penner notes that customers arrive only looking for trunks, as well as longer board short cuts. When asked if a patron has ever searched for a swim brief option, he replies, "The answer is 'no.' Not here, at least."
On the other side of town, at the more sexed-up shop M2M Fashion, manager Adrian Spence cites that he's seeing a drop in men in the market for trunks. "More guys are coming in and asking about square-cut swimsuits," he observes. With their slim silhouette and ability to cover just a bit of leg, are square-cut suits the new way to go? Maybe, maybe not.
"In my market," Spence adds, "briefs aren't going anywhere."
Yet it seems that the rules of tiny trunks are much the same as nudist beaches: Those who bare all are the very ones we would have preferred to keep under wraps, while the fit guys down the beach throwing Frisbees all seem perfectly happy in knee-length billowy shorts.
As star designer Valentino once observed, "No man should wear Speedos unless he has a really great body to show off."