10 Men on Bathing Suits and Body Angst

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Photo: Mac Gramlich/Getty Images

Being half-naked in public is a little weird for everyone, regardless of gender, so we asked ten young men how they feel about bathing-suit season. What are their insecurities? What are their preferred styles? How do they get ready for the beach, and how do they hope to look once they’re there?

Read on for their reflections on Speedos, waxing, and Brad Pitt.

1. “Of course I’m not beach body ready. Shut up.”
“I feel uncomfortable in a bathing suit — especially living in New York, where we’re surrounded by the most beautiful people in the world. Body image has been a big topic of conversation among women, but men think about it a lot, too. When you are surrounded by images of the best-looking people, that can subconsciously get to you after a while. Like the advertising that they have going on at Union Square — are you beach body ready? — that’s the worst advertising campaign. To see that in the morning is such a bummer. Some super-beautiful babe in a bikini saying, ‘Are you beach body ready?’ No, of course I’m not beach body ready. Shut up. I’m on the way to work.” —Marketing Coordinator, 24

2. “Someone told me I had girly knees.”
“One time when I was like 9, someone told me I had girly knees, and it stuck with me forever. My knees and my elbows and my shoulders stick out and they are not supposed to — based on conventional guy mythology. I am self-conscious about them. The first thing I do when I take off my shirt and put on my swim trunks is look in the mirror and make sure I don’t look emaciated. I want to be robust, which might require either fat or muscle, and I don’t have much of either. I have a little bit of chest hair but it is kind of scraggly. In my family, we don’t get it until our mid-30s. Sometimes I’ll brush my leg hairs to look at least like they’re groomed.” —Actor, 28

3. “Back hair is real easy to fix.”
“I waxed yesterday, and I liked it. I have a line of back hair that I have had for several years — it wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for any woman I’d be attracted to, but it’s not attractive. There are things about me that aren’t attractive that aren’t easy to fix, but back hair is something that is not attractive and real easy to fix. There’s a place around the corner from me, and they were offering a free treatment, and I’m somewhat adventurous, and it was something new that I hadn’t done it before. So I tried it. And I liked it.” —Filmmaker, 34

4. “My dad loves Speedos.”
“For a bathing suit, I wear fake Vilebrequins, otherwise it’s board shorts. I can’t wear Chubbies, the American brand, because they are too short. I don’t wear Speedos after I was given a pair of spare Speedos that were too small for me. There’s a swimming pool close to my house in France that would only allow Speedos in the pool — they had a pair that was way too small for anyone and it was just not a pretty sight. It was pretty horrible. They had been used at least 400 times and the bottom was dropping out, and it was so small and tight. But my dad loves Speedos. His belly rolls over them, and it looks like he’s not wearing any pants.” —Oil Trader, 30

5. “I want that upside-down triangle look.”
“I’m more comfortable in a bathing suit than I am shirtless. I can pick shorts that are tailored enough to look good on me regardless of what that area looks like, but when you take your shirt off, there’s muscles, there’s skin tones, there’s hair … I do Labor Day with my family, so when everyone else is aiming for beach bodies for early summer, I’m always aiming for September. I’ll do the thing where I’ll be eating very few calories for probably three to four days beforehand and push-ups, sit-ups for the few weeks going into it. At the beach, I want to have broader shoulders and a thinner waist — it’s that upside-down triangle look that I think everyone kind of goes for. I’ve never wanted to be muscular; I don’t want to be bulking out of my shirt, but the Brad Pitt look in Fight Club — very thin but also showing some muscle.” —Writer, 31

6.  “I’m always adjusting.”
“I typically don’t like being in a bathing suit, but I like being around other people that are in them. I’m always concerned about my farmer’s tan on my upper arms. There are times when I just say I’m worried about skin cancer, and then I don’t take off my shirt, but I’m more worried about my appearance. I usually just wear gym shorts to go swimming, out of laziness and an inability to shop, but the downside is that when shorts get wet they tend to adhere to the things underneath a lot more than board shorts, so you get the full contour of everything. I am aware of it constantly, and I’m always adjusting.” —Veterinarian, 30

7. “A monogram is key.”
“I got a bathing suit from Lands’ End, just a basic seven-inch bathing suit, and it’s literally the perfect preppy bathing suit. I think a monogram is really key; it signifies a level of taste that borders on corny, and if it is un-ironic that’s good. But obviously monograms are not for everyone. I think solid colors are classic and the way to go. I like red. But obviously it does increase your chance for shark attacks.” —Student, 25

8. “How I feel depends on who is on the beach.”
“I will work out before getting into a bathing suit and start a couple of months before. Like, all right, let’s go, summer is coming, going to the beach soon, let’s get ready. I’ll do a lot of running, a lot of cardio, and a lot of abs. But how I feel depends on who is on the beach. If it’s an older crowd, it’s like no one really cares, but if it’s younger people, I feel like there’s a lot of judging.” —Advertising Analyst, 26

9. “Guys size each other up.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt super comfortable in a bathing suit. Guys by nature size each other up a little bit. If there are other guys around who are in better shape than you, who are a little bit more built than you, I think that can be kind of intimidating sometimes. You don’t want to try to draw any attention to yourself if you think it is going to be negative. But I’m not much of a beach guy, I never really have been, but when I’m out of shape, I’m even less of a beach guy.” —26, Advertising Account Executive

10. “There was a guard checking every bathing suit.”
“I went to McCarren Pool last summer. I hadn’t been to a public pool before in the city, and there was massive security — there were two metal detectors. In the shower area, there was a guard checking every bathing suit to make sure it had a mesh liner. It weirded me out that it was a requirement for entry into the pool. Now I make sure to wear mesh liners.” —Law Student, 25

10 Men on Bathing Suits and Body Angst