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Orlebar Brown swimming shorts

28 October 2011

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that with casual items like T-shirts, polo shirts and shorts I like simple designs, clean lines and plain colours. I first became interested in Orlebar Brown because I wanted swimming shorts that met all of those criteria. I remained interested because of the technical and craft aspects of their shorts.


Most swimming shorts are made out of two identical panels of material, stitched together, with a one-piece waistband running around the top. You make them fit with a drawstring.

Orlebar Brown swim shorts have a four-piece waistband. This allows the pieces to be curved, ending up higher at the back and lower at the front. The main body of the short is also cut in two pieces at front and back (again allowing the shape to be different) and the back pieces are darted above the pocket, to help that fit above the rear.

This isn’t rocket science – it’s how any half-decent pair of trousers is made, bespoke or not. But few companies bother to do it with swimming shorts. The shape you can achieve with these panels also means the line of the leg can be better controlled.


“I’m over 40 now and rather more hesitant about taking my clothes off in public,” admits founder Adam Brown. “When I do, a short that fits like this through the back and rear, down into a clean leg line, is great because it’s more flattering. That applies to anyone, fat or thin, whatever age.”

You can see his point. The draw-string model, which tends to be rather shapeless and bunch all the cloth together around the waist, is hardly becoming.


Other nice aspects: the fly is constructed in the same multi-panel way, producing a short that you can wear to a café or restaurant without the risk of popping out; the side pockets are angled forward and contain good, deep bags; and there is a strap-and-buckle on each side to get the fit just right.

Having tried other products in the range, I can also attest to the T-shirts and the long-sleeved polo shirts. Both are cut to curve slightly downwards in the front and back hem, meaning they look good untucked but don’t bunch at the sides. It’s much more practical than the polo model with one long tail at the back and a short one at the front.

My only criticism of the polo shirt at the moment would be that the collar is a little short in the stand, and unstructured. This makes it too floppy to wear with a jacket. Adam tells me the next iteration of the shirt will change this though. Nice to know.

The swimming shorts are all made of a polyamide, like any short, but in an unbrushed version that gives them a nicer, cotton-like handle. They are all made – and the various pieces of cloth and hardware come from – various places around the EU, including France, Italy and Portugal.

To see aspects of the construction, have a look at the ‘Inside OB’ video here.