Monday, August 8, 2011


Wearing a watch with a long-sleeved shirt is problematic for me, and I wear long-sleeved shirts most of the time. I have 8.5 inch wrists, quite large, and I like my watches sized loose. Consequently, most of my watches won't fit comfortably, or won't fit at all, under most of my cuffs. Many other men must have this same problem. What to do?

Style guru Alan Flusser maintains that only thin and inconspicuous watches should be worn with formal dress. A bulky sports watch worn with a dress shirt, he says, is a gaff. Well into the 90s, most men wore very small and thin watches, compared to those of today. They fit under cuffs just fine. But that looks stylistically to a past era.

Big sports watches are the predominant style now, even with dress
shirts. It takes confidence today for a thick-wristed man to wear a vintage 32mm watch. Many of my vintage watches look girly compared to my new ones, even though I don't really have or like overly big watches (say, over 42mm).

In the high-style era of the 30s through 60s, as men transitioned from pocket to wrist watches, watchmakers competed to see who could make the thinnest watch. At the same time, men often wore generous French cuffs and had shirts tailored to fit, including bespoke cuff sizing. Fitting a watch under you cuff was not at all an issue. The Italians introduced tight-fitting cannon cuffs, but style mavens like Gianni Agnelli just took to wearing their watches over them. You still see this occasionally, but it's hardly conventional. GQ says that the "only cuff [a watch] should be worn over is that of a wet suit."

The clothier Luciano Barbera, with watch worn over shirt cuff.

Most men, it seems, just bunch their sleeve up above their watch. I can't stand this myself. I either roll up my sleeves or leave my left cuff unbuttoned. But these are workarounds, not solutions. The real solution is of course to have your cuffs tailored to size. If that's not in your budget (it's not in mine), some men just relocate the left sleeve button out further toward the cuff edge, and may also have it shanked (hung from a longer, knotted thread). This can give you an extra half inch or more.

But frankly, as an ideal, Flusser certainly has it right. If you're dressing up, just go thin.

Addendum:  The photo above is many years old, but I just came across a recent one that shows Luciano still wearing his watch over the cuff.

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