Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about rash guards—despite the fact that I still can’t stay upright on a surfboard for longer than about six seconds. This probably stems from my longtime fascination with vintage bathing suits—both the halter-style, ruched maillots favored by the likes of Marilyn Monroe (and Lana Del Rey!) and the crazy-conservative shorts- and skirt-bottomed suits beachgoers used to wear to Coney Island in the early 1900s.
Like both of those swimsuit styles, a rash guard—typically worn for water sports like surfing or wakeboarding—feels like actual clothing, not just a skimpy little something you’re supposed to wear to the beach and then conceal under a cover-up the second you step off the sand. But unlike those vintage suits, "rashies" are 100 percent modern; in fact, they pair just as well with your favorite jeans or skirts as they do with a surfboard and salt water. For proof, click through the gallery above, where I’ve taken five of my favorite summer rash guards and styled them into five very different looks that don’t involve the beach in any way. And consider this: rash guards, unlike normal cotton tops, have built-in sun protection (at least SPF 50, typically)—making them not just a stylish summer buy, but a smart one your skin will thank you for, too.