There was a time, not that long a go, that if you wanted a pair of swimming shorts after the July sales, you were left with either a pair of dodgy looking 'professional' Speedos or a tiny selection of ugly, drawstring-type shorts.
Fast forward to about 5 years ago and we've seen an explosion in premium men’s swimwear brands. This is swimwear as fashion statement; swimwear to be seen in, rather than to swim in. During this time, men’s swimwear has become a category in its own right and an important part of the holiday wardrobe.
Left - Cariocas playing the game, Frescobol. Should be in the Olympics. Where do we sign up for this?!
Lots of brands have been springing up to supply this new demand. As the world's eyes turn towards Brazil for the next World Cup and Olympics, who better to inspire our next holiday purchase. Frescobol Carioca, has just opened a store in London’s Marylebone. TheChicGeek caught up with one of the founders, Harry Brantly, to find out more:
CG - What is your background? What did you do before Frescobol?
HB - We set up Frescobol Carioca having both worked in finance, but we could not see ourselves wearing suits for the rest of our lives. I was born in Rio de Janeiro and Max is a Carioca – a resident of Rio - by heart. It was on one of our trips together to my house in Rio that we came across our idea of bringing the real carioca way of life to the world.
When we first started selling handcrafted wooden frescobol bats, in 2008, we were both still working in the City – I was in private banking at UBS and Max worked for property firm DTZ . We would work on this project on the weekends, which was great because it allowed the business to grow while we were in the safety of our jobs. It also meant we had things really well planned-out before we left our jobs in 2009.
The summer before we left, we were getting five or six sales a day on the website, having done no PR, no marketing and with a skeleton website and a very basic product offering – this showed us the potential of the idea. So in September 2009 we embarked on the Frescobol Carioca project!
CG - You launched in 2009, where did the idea for Frescobol come from?
HB - The idea came about when I gave Max a set of frescobol beach bats for his birthday one year. In the same way that every house in Brazil has a football, most houses have a set of frescobol beach bats, particularly in Rio, where people can easily access the beach. Our bats are made to a much higher specification, hand crafted one by one from left over pieces of wood. They are then heat branded with our logo and finished with a special resin. They are works of art!
Right - Inspired by the streets patterns of Rio. Tailored Ipanema Swim Shorts - £145
So why not make this carioca game known to the world? We wanted to bring not just the beach bats, but build a whole carioca universe. The interesting thing about Rio de Janeiro, are the rich influences in terms of culture, music, art, body and nature, and this ignites a deep curiosity from around the world.
CG - What does the name mean?
HB - Frescobol is the sport born in the spectacular beaches of Rio de Janeiro, played by everyone, all the time. Carioca is the local name of an inhabitant of Rio de Janeiro.
Left - The Frescobol wooden bats
The name of our brand is not just about the game of beach bats from Rio but we want to translate a whole way of life; we want to show the world that in Rio people live life in a different way, enjoying the mixture between, city, beach, body and soul. It's a very aspirational lifestyle, which we think the world wants to experience and hear more about.
CG - What do you think British men have to learn from Brazilians?
HB - We think there is a lot to learn from the Brazilians, not just about how to dress in the summer but about living and enjoying life in a different way. Our brand is not just about a tailored pair of shorts or a beach towel. We want our customers to truly enjoy their time on the beach, learning from the cariocas, who do it the best. Cariocas wake up blessed by Rio’s nature and go to bed after a caipirinha by the sea with friends.
CG - What makes your shorts so special and different?
HB - Rio de Janeiro is the world capital for beach wear, for the body culture, for this obsession with beauty. Our products, from the beach bats to the swim shorts, are made with one objective - translate this carioca spirit, this cool beauty. We want our customers to feel good on the beach. That’s why we spend a lot of time developing special fabrics, shapes, colours and patterns that reflect the best of the carioca way of life.
Right - Orange polo shirt - £85
CG - Why do you think swimwear has become such an important category in menswear?
HB - This is a big trend, not just in fashion, but also in the whole male universe. Men are taking better care of themselves, spending more on personal items from fashion, interior design to cosmetics. Today’s man wants to experience new things. Swimwear is an important arm of this new consumer behaviour and we are trying to link up this desire for innovative items together with a culture which most people don’t know much about beyond Brazil’s football and Havaianas! We are here to surprise our customer with the best of our beach lifestyle.
CG - Tell me more about the British tailoring element?
HB - England is known for its creative fashion scene and London for the tradition in men’s tailoring from Savile Row. On our trips to the beach we were tired of seeing our friends wearing long and baggy surf-style shorts, so we went back to the drawing board and realised that tailoring was a trend we could help evolve thus bringing a new sophistication to the beach with a Brazilian twist. We therefore invited Oliver Benjamin, a well known British tailor to help find a way to mix the beauty of British tailoring with the freedom of traditional swim shorts.
CG - Where do you find your inspiration?
HB - Our inspiration comes from Brazil - the sun, the sand, the sea. It comes from the view from Arpoador, the Bossa Nova, the caipirinha with friends after work, from the coconut trees, people’s shadows on Ipanema beach sidewalk. Our inspiration is Rio de Janeiro, our homeland, where our heart lives. Do you know any better inspiration for a beachwear brand than Rio?!
CG - What’s next for the brand? Tell me more about the new store.
HB - We are planning amazing things for the near future. We want to become not just a beachwear brand but “the beach specialist”. Our idea is to provide our customers with everything they need to go to beach anytime of the year. From the boardwalk inspired prints on our trunks and our quick dry Linen Towel to our top tips of where to have the best lunch in Ipanema or which beach to visit on Ilha Grande.
Right - Artist's impression of the new store in Marylebone
That’s why we are opening a new store in London, which will be our extension of Rio’s beaches. We want people to come along, to have fun, read a book about Rio, have a Caipirinha or a coconut water - we want to show people how to enjoy the beach in the Frescobol Carioca way. All our employees are Brazilians, and they are truly ambassadors of this way of life. We hope to have you around soon!
This falls into the 'Gandy-in-a-boat' type of underwear. We wanted to give you something to challenge you a little bit. Beckham rocked a white pair of trunks a few years back and if you've got the tan and the body for it, then why not. Our only advice, you'll need to accessorise with a supermodel and Sicillian beach house and if anybody asks you're training for Rio 2016!