Beachwear refers to clothing suitable for wearing on a beach or urban beach. In terms of how much material is on the body, beachwear usually falls somewhere between swimwear and what a person wears when fully clothed.
Nowadays, however, beachwear is becoming more and more like swimwear, i.e., trunks for men and bikini for women, and may be worn elsewhere too.
In the 1800s and early 1900s beachwear consisted of heavy garments which covered most of the body. Women's beachwear usually covered from neck to ankle, including long sleeves. Men's wear usually consisted of knee-length trousers and a loose, usually sleeveless shirt. Both styles were made of fabrics such as flannel.
More recently, the appearance of urban beaches has created a demand for beachwear that, unlike swimwear, is appropriate to be worn in an urban setting, such as the downtown core of a major metropolitan city.
In some places, especially temperate coastal regions, many people like to remain "beach ready" at all times, i.e., to wear something that can be spontaneously transformed into beachwear. For men, simply wearing black shorts that have an integral belt made of nylon webbing (rather than shorts that have a drawstring) underneath regular trousers, together with a shirt that has a nice collar, for example, allow them to transform from formal attire to beachwear easily. This allows spontaneous unplanned visits to an urban beach that is usually located within the downtown business core of a city.
Transformable beachwear makes lunch hour trips to the beach possible, reducing the need to find a place to change, or to carry an additional set of clothing. Good beach shorts will mostly be hydrodynamic, and will dry within 10 to 15 minutes of sunbathing on hot black granite or dark cement that absorbs a lot of the water. Because urban beaches usually have roughly-textured black surfaces that absorb both water and sun (thus, heating up easily), good beachwear can usually be dried while it is being worn on the body, simply by lying down to sunbathe for a few minutes.
Beachwear is not necessarily used for swimming or bathing, and may be used just for lounging around a beach. It is therefore not mandatory to be hydrodynamic or fast-drying, but specifically designed beachwear is as a rule either or both; some swimwear, notably diving suits, is rather unfit for use on land.
Beachwear can be classified within a hierarchy of formality as follows: