To every towel there is a purpose: Some are meant to be kept impeccably clean and demurely folded over bathroom racks, while others -- cut from heartier stock -- are the kind you want to have your back when you lie down on scorching beach sand. So the next time you hit the surf, leave the monogrammed terrycloth at home, and dry off with these bright, cheery, and made-to-endure cheapies.
Tommy Hilfiger's Hawaiian prints ($19.99 at Macy's stores) are at the very top of our heap -- they're big enough to stretch out on and thin enough to stash in your bike basket. Also at Macy's, you can sun with the fishes ($8.99) without swimming in debt. Ralph Lauren towels ($19.99 at Bloomingdale's) are pretty and not pricey; same goes for the jumbo Davidson Cotton Company softies ($19.99 at Bloomingdale's). Portico's oversized, thick mini-blankets (on sale for $20.99 at Portico stores ) will be a perennial favorite, and Gracious Home shows similarly solid style -- just slightly larger, thicker, and more expensive ($25 at Gracious Home stores). If you're going through stacks a day (a troop of kids?), stock up at Kmart (250 W. 34th St., near Seventh Ave., or 770 Broadway, at Astor Pl.) -- just $6.99 for a largish striped towel.
PLUS: This Week's Sale Picks