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Many pools in Belgium prohibit the use of swimming shorts, citing hygienic concerns with people concealing their underwear beneath them as well as safety concerns with them getting hooked on protrusions and the like. The main alternative is Speedo-like swimming briefs, but I feel naked and insecure in them. This is the biggest reason why I haven't been in any swimming pool in about a decade, back during my puberty.

Since it's that long ago since I have last been in a public pool, none of my swimwear fits me anymore, so I need to buy new. However, I don't want to wear briefs because as mentioned above, I feel very uncomfortable in them.

I checked some websites, and http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/07/22/swim-suit-men/ mentions the most prevalent options. Of those, trunks, board-shorts and swim briefs are right out. the other options give more coverage and would likely make me feel less naked. In fact, I would prefer to wear a wetsuit wherever possible, but I'm not sure whether most swimming pools even accept those, since they might cite the hygienic concerns they have with swimming shorts.

Are wetsuits accepted in Belgian and Western European swimming pools? or should I look for another option?


I want to clarify that it's not attracting attention that I'm concerned about (as most people have assumed in their answers and comments). I'm concerned about running around in a small piece of fabric that covers very little, more specifically a speedo-style pair of briefs, and is quite easily depantsable (although that's not as much of a risk anymore in my mid-twenties). Being nearly depantsed as a teen by a trio of teen girls in a crowded pool is not that healthy for nakedness insecurities...

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    A wetsuit would seem like a strange choice for a self-conscious person: wearing something radically different from everyone else attracts, rather than diverts, attention. – David Richerby May 24 '15 at 23:42
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    your best option would be to get used to it and go with what's customary. There's no reason to feel naked in proper swim trunks... – jwenting May 25 '15 at 4:19
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    This is an interesting AND useful question, with several answers, again both interesting and useful. However, I must point out that it appears the OP is asking how to deal with a social situation in his or her home town. Not really travel-related. (Yes, I understand that travelers may also benefit from it.) It might be better placed in Expatriates (although not really) or Sports (again, although not really.) I will end by saying I did upvote it. :) – CGCampbell May 25 '15 at 13:48
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    @CGCampbell I asked a question about this on meta. The conclusion was that this is equally useful since it is domestic tourism. I'm on mobile so I cannot link to the question. – Nzall May 25 '15 at 14:07
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    @DavidRicherby The problem is not attention; the problem is the exposure of one's body. These are two different things. – jpmc26 May 26 '15 at 7:34
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As mentioned in other answers, the rules against shorts should be understood as rules against normal clothing, so you can't just jump in with the clothes you were wearing when outside the pool. But swim trunks are very common for recreational swimmers.

An example of the dresscode of a random public pool in Belgium explains what I mean (these are the allowed swimsuits):

Dresscode of Spillebad Roeselare

But keep in mind that a life guard that had to deal with annoying teenagers all day can feel exhausted, and make incorrect judgements. Maybe you can have a quick chat with them before you enter the water? "Hey, I have these swim shorts, just wanted to let you know they are not regular trousers, is this ok for you?" That will get you out of the "possibly annoying teenagers" group in no time.

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  • I have been reprimanded by a guard at a pool for having swimming shorts on. – Nzall May 25 '15 at 14:14
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    Does the sign mean that all the pictured options are okay? If so, can you edit that into your post for those of us that don't speak Dutch? – starsplusplus May 25 '15 at 15:56
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    Consider the possibility that the guard was wrong, and that if someone was to escalate it, the guard would have been corrected? I note that Roeselare is not the only swimming pool to have this kind of dress code. – Chris F Carroll May 25 '15 at 23:15
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    All those men's swimwear options look like they're the tight fitting trunks that @NateKerkhofs is trying to avoid. If a guard at that pool kicked him out for wearing loose fitting swimming shorts, it seems he would be justified. – Ross Ridge May 26 '15 at 5:52
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    @RossRidge There are roughly 4 types of swimwear: loose shorts, tight shorts, Speedo-briefs and full-body swimsuits for triathlons or diving. Loose shorts are mostly banned for safety and hygiene and I'd rather not wear Speedo-briefs because they make me feel naked. tight shorts are usually allowed, so are full-body swimsuits. – Nzall May 26 '15 at 20:27
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Different European countries, and often pools, set different rules. I live in the Netherlands and in the pools here there are no rules on what you can wear, as long as it is swimming gear and not underwear.

When I swim the competition team is also training and all of them wear tight Speedo and Adidas swimgear, male as well as females. As that is something I am used to, I would say that all that covers you including your buttocks, tight fitting or not, will be the minimum.

The maximum is depending on the local rules. There are many swimming trunks that are not as tight and revealing as the sport ones and will be acceptable. I would advise you to go to a shop in the town/city you live where they know the rules of your local pool, and see what is available there.

Wetsuits might be acceptable, they are in my pool, but you will stand out and they are more revealing that many swimming trunks.

But remember, you might feel it is revealing, the others in the pool have seen worse. And most of the time we will not see your gear at all as it is hidden in the water. And not having big stretches of wet fabric will make is much nicer to be out of the water.

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As Willeke notes, the specific rules may vary between pools (and possibly regions), but in my experience, anything that clearly looks like swimwear, as opposed to underwear (or, worse yet, streetwear) will likely be acceptable.

If in doubt, just go to your local pool and ask. I'm sure the staff can explain what they consider acceptable swim attire. Or, assuming the swimming area is not completely hidden from view, just look around and see what everyone else is wearing.

Anyway, at least around here in Finland, the most popular style of mens' swimwear these days (excluding loose-fitting shorts, which, as you note, many swimming pools still don't allow1) seems to be the body-hugging square-cut type. If those are acceptable for you, they ought to be a safe enough choice, and you're unlikely to stand out of the crowd. But if you'd prefer to go for a full-body (or just full-torso) wetsuit, that should be OK too; many competitive swimmers do wear them, and at least they cannot be mistaken for anything but swimwear.


1) I remember those "no swimming in shorts" signs appearing back in the 90's or so, when swim shorts first got popular. The main reason given at the time, like you mention, was that some people (mainly teenage males) decided that the easiest way to stay fashionable was to just go swimming in their gym / skating / etc. shorts. Since it's kind of hard to tell shorts designed for swimming apart from other types of shorts at a glance, and since the pool staff quickly got tired of arguing with kids trying to sneak into the pool with shorts they'd been wearing all day, they found it easier to just forbid swimming in shorts altogether. Some places may have relaxed their rules since then, but some may not have.

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    In France, most (if not all) public swimming pools prohibits shorts. As a male (child or adult) you are limited to swim briefs or square legs suits. – audionuma May 24 '15 at 19:56
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Here in London, loose-fitting swimming shorts - what the article you linked to calls 'trunks' or 'boardshorts' - are the norm for adult males.

Be aware that in British English - or here in London at least - 'swimming trunks' or 'trunks' means the item of clothing that the article you linked to calls 'swim briefs' or 'speedos' - i.e. budgie smugglers.

A wetsuit in a public swimming pool would be considered weird, unless you're attending a scuba diving class.

Some people for religious reasons wear full-body swimming suits which cover all of them except their head, hands and feet, and those are fine - but I've never seen them on a man, only women and girls.

Your best options for maximum coverage without attracting attention are:

  • boardshorts in a swimming pool, or

  • wetsuit in the sea.

Remember that - certainly here in London - nobody is looking at you. Because:

a) nobody cares, and in any case

b) politeness requires that strangers ignore each other in virtually all settings.

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    Note that the rules in France and Spain seem to be stricter than in the UK, which has caught me out a few times when my normal UK swimming gear has been in some way incompatible with that pools in those two countries have required – Gagravarr May 24 '15 at 20:38
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    As a fellow British English speaker, I disagree with your definitions. Swimming trunks is what I've always heard the shorts-like swimwear called; "swim shorts" sounds rather American to me. – starsplusplus May 25 '15 at 14:43
  • @starsplusplus, it could be a regional difference? – A E May 25 '15 at 15:52
  • Yes, I suspect it is. That's why I didn't like the blanket assertion ;) – starsplusplus May 25 '15 at 15:54
  • @starsplusplus, I've amended. ;) – A E May 25 '15 at 15:57
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I just want to add another point that I haven't seen mentioned yet:

  • In a wet suit, your body will really warm up when moving.

It strongly depends on the material and thickness, but the type (neoprene, soft-shell) that scubadivers, sailors, surfers, etc... use are truely overkill for a public swimming pool. They are meant for temperatures of at most 20°C. The heat gets uncomfortable (even unbearable) very quickly.

What might be an option for you is the one-piece bathing suits used in triathlon. They are usually thin material, and also tight-fitting, but since they go up to your shoulders, your entire torso seems connected with your hips and thighs, taking away focus from one's mid-section.

Plus they are usually tailored in a way that makes one look more athletic than they actually are : P

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Of the swimming pools I can easily find instructions for, a couple have the same kind of rules as Roesalare that @Jan-Fabry mentions. The St Niklaas rules seem helpful, since they show a picture of 'tight' swimming trunks with no pockets, which presumably successfully address the hygiene concern.

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Many of these swimming pools have shops or vending machines selling the appropriate attire.
You will have a lot more success in life if you learn to do these things, rather than leaving yourself with the phobia for all of your life. Good search terms are "sungas" & "aquashorts" then click on "images" and choose the one you like.
Styles will vary depending on if it is for relaxation or an intensive workout.
Also chlorine will slacken them over time so for chlorine avoid a too slacker a fit. Spend some time thinking before you buy. It may be good to have more than one style of sunga for different social situations, or depending on how you are feeling at the time.

SOME STEPS TO MAKING THE MOVE.... I have now had a proper read of your question's backstory, and my experience with similar things - is that I have had to make a concerted effort, and gradually introduce myself.... You will need to overcome the chicken and egg problem of getting a good fit before you are seen by people, and gradually introduce yourself to being seen by others, when you have a style you are comfortable with.

PURCHASING.. The first step is to own a pair or pairs that fit you well. You can usually buy the sungatrunks (form fitting, easy medium style) without swimming in the pool, where you can take them home and try them on. Online there are many also. swimwear365 and ProSwimWear UK are examples of that.

FIT & STYLE.. A medium side height of about 15 to 16 centimeters makes a good style which is not so brief, but passes well with locals. Avoiding having a vertical seam that goes up the middle of the front will be more comfortable. Another thing to experiment with is colours and livery. Trunk style sungas are good, because if the fit is on the firm side, they will tolerate that and slacken with age.

BEING SEEN.. When you move to being seen in them, then this shall be a stage that may come relatively easily, or may take some doing. A thing for sure I think - is that once you progress to a certain stage, people will be very helpful, like when you are learning a language. As you do this, you can first go quickly into the water, but then move to letting yourself be seen more and more. Copy what others are doing. You have there a good environment to practice in.

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  • You may have to wear them a few times or maybe quite extensively in order to get used to them and no longer to feel uncomfortable. – teknik Jun 20 at 15:04
  • A lot easier if every one else is doing it. It was harder for me to learn because I had to do it in an environment where boardshorts were quite common. It helped to clock up some time wearing them at home. I am now winning. – teknik Jun 20 at 15:06
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    Are you sure that the pools have shops or vending machines which do sell swimming gear? I have seen those in the UK but never in the Netherlands and I do not have experience with public pools in other countries. – Willeke Jun 20 at 17:45
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Websearch: 'men's Jammer'

enter image description here

I'd get these myself, but around here loose shorts are acceptable ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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