This post is an excerpt from our friends at Hodinkee. Click on through for the full article!
The trend in men’s style over the last few hundred years has been towards less and less complexity, but every once in a while, one still gets an invitation that says, “black tie.” There’s a tendency to think of the black tie dress code as something rigidly fixed, but despite that, there’s still room for sometimes very varying ideas on what, exactly, is or is not okay for a gent to don at a black tie event – and one of the subjects we’ve seen HODINKEE readers wax right wrathful over, is whether or not you should or should not wear a watch. Let’s get into this delightfully contentious subject and see whether or not, whether pro or stridently con, you’re on the right side of history and custom.
The idea that one should not do it because it is against the rules ignores the fact that the rules have been mutable over time in any event, and that in the case of the dinner jacket, one is dealing with a semi-formal, rather than formal code, which is by definition more elastic. The idea that you shouldn’t do it because it looks bad is disposed of with one glance at Mr. Fred Astaire up above, who is wearing full-on white tie with top hat – and I challenge anyone reading this to look as good without a wristwatch as he does with one on.
…The final nail in the coffin for arguments against wearing a wristwatch with a dinner jacket or white tie, as far as I’m concerned, comes from none other than Mr. Alan Flusser, author of what many regard as one of the most important and definitive guides to dressing well: Dressing The Man: Mastering The Art Of Permanent Fashion. Flusser’s whole approach is that dressing can and should be a creative act, and that following rules slavishly is uninteresting. He feels there are common sense guidelines that most of us do well to follow (a patterned jacket over a shirt with the same size pattern is usually a terrible idea, for instance) but that, fundamentally, good taste is a much better guide to style than a set of rules. As you might expect, he’s pretty non-doctrinaire on the subject of watches with tuxes, saying:
“Simplicity should govern the choice of jewelry for formal wear. Studs and matching cufflinks can be made of plain gold, black enamel, or semi-precious stone. Mother-of-pearl, also handsome, is perhaps more appropriate for white tie. Fine sets of studs and matching cufflinks can be found in antique shops that specialize in old jewelry (the most interesting examples are those made between 1890 and 1930). You might also look for a gold pocket watch and chain. If you choose to wear a wristwatch, remember that the thinner the watch, the more tasteful it is. Black bands are recommended.”
This is just applied common sense and good taste.