Here in the world swimwear capital, it seems a man could find any style of trunk imaginable. Even if he hasn't exercised since George Bush was president.
But would it flatten his gut? Slim his hips? Make his thighs appear tree trunk-like? Beef up the caboose area? Would he care?
Maybe you don't hear the same disappointed sighs of disgust and muffled whimpering from males that one catches drifting from women's dressing rooms. But some men do suffer swimsuit angst.
Yes, men care some about how they look, retailers and designers say, but society doesn't expect them to care as much as women care. And, unlike women, men don't discuss it.
Just listen to what was not said as men bought swimwear at the mall and at coastal shops recently.
"I need a size medium," says the middle-aged man at a store at MainPlace/Santa Ana. "Do you have it in this rust color?"
The sales "associate" offers to check in back and finds the trunks. He asks the man--who resembles an aging lifeguard with what appears to be a 36-inch waist and a 20-pound fanny pack of flesh spilling over his belt--would he like to try the trunks on? The man shoots a "what a dim bulb you are" look and shakes his head.
In five minutes, the guy has bought a swimsuit. It all seemed so painless, so devoid of suffering.
Oh, all right, so they go to war. Men do not agonize over "full coverage" on their swimsuit bottoms or whether they are tight enough to slim but loose enough to allow circulation.
But men point out that they do not have the choices women do with swimsuits. While it may be disheartening for a woman to switch from a two-piece to a one-piece--or, yikes, a skirted suit--women at least have a choice.
"You have it easy," says Hatley Mason, a Times graphic artist bemoaning his few extra pounds. "If you're wearing a bikini, that's one thing, but you have the option to wear a one-piece suit. We are completely exposed from the waist up," he says, patting his stomach.
And though they may not spend hours talking about it, some men interviewed say they are mindful of looking as trim as possible.
"Guys like me? I always go for the elastic waist," says Jay Lafayette, 18, who just graduated from Loara High School in Anaheim, the school, he adds, "where the 'No Doubt' girl came from."
As he helps customers to dressing rooms at Beyond the Beach in Santa Ana, the salesman fingers the five silver chokers around his neck, which match his nose ring, and admits that he is a tad overweight.
He did buy a pair of board shorts, a look popularized by the buff Southern California surfer.
"But I just bought mine a little looser, so they're more comfortable."
And he also bought them in steel blue--with vertical stripes--an old trick most women have long been on to, although some designers say you don't want to overdo the vertical stripe.
"Instead of slimming, you look like a vertical tent," says Mr. Blackwell, the fashion designer whose trademark is the annual Top 10 Worst Dressed List.
To help the average male shop, we tried eavesdropping outside dressing rooms for tips. But that went nowhere. So we asked merchants, designers and men at the beach what they look for in a suit and which styles most flatter various physiques.
About the only consensus is that none dare don the unforgiving Speedo unless one is a competitive swimmer or has a nearly flawless shape.
"If I was 30 pounds overweight and had to wear a Speedo," says one fortysomething professional who surfs, "now that would be some major angst. I'd be better off wearing drapes, or a muumuu wetsuit."
At ground zero for surfwear, Huntington Surf and Sport, not a single male utters a word exiting the dressing rooms--except "I'll take this one." Usually he has taken in all of two swimsuits to try on. Two, a woman is thinking, what a joke!
The premier male swimsuit in these parts is the board short, which has a lace-up closure, fitted waist and rear and is fuller in the leg, which is knee-length.
It dominates the coastal market in swimwear, say the Surf and Sport sales staffers, who must love a job where every workday they get to wear baggy T-shirt, drop-butt shorts and flip-flops.
Does anyone ask them for the most flattering trunk?
"Not at all," says Jasen Nielsen, 21. "We carry 40, 42, 44s [waist sizes], but we have like one of each, maybe." He says no matter what size they are bought in, men are buying darker or neutral colors with reflective strips.
Stussy, Counter Culture, Gotcha, Split, Rusty, Katin, Billabong, Quiksilver and other Orange County-based swimwear companies--or the surfers who wear them--cut the edge on swimwear trends globally.
Board-short makers say they give little attention to flattering a certain body type.
Paul Mittleman, a designer for Irvine-based Stussy, says longer and baggier legs are what hard-core surfers wear now.