How to Wear a Pocket Watch and Look Dapper
Think pocket watches are dead? Think again!
Pocket watches are back and in a big way! Whether due to the influence of the super-popular 20th Century BBC TV show Peaky Blinders, or the return of more traditional, older styles of clothing, we’re seeing more and more men delve into the world of the pocket watch. They’re beautiful portable time-pieces, often laced with intricate, detailed shells and covered in designs and jewels. Plus, although they tend to require a little more care than your typical wristwatch, some pocket watches can be just as ‘clunky’ and robust. Either way, wearing a pocket watch is sure to make a statement at your next big event or occasion!
History of the Pocket Watch
Thought to have been first invented in the 16th Century, pocket watches were originally created for gentlemen to display their wealth, as well as integrate a portable clock into men’s fashion. Therefore, pocket watches were worn as a status symbol. Having said that, poorer folk weren’t completely excluded, but their pocket watches were simply made from much cheaper, more common materials. These materials gave a good insight into the wealth of their owners. Gold and silver pocket watches indicated their owners were among the highest classes, while the less wealthy tend to own a brass pocket watch.
Originally, pocket watches were worn as pendants around the neck of their owner, although these were both chunky and ill-protected, as they lacked a glass casing over the watch face. Eventually, however, designs became slimmer and higher quality, and pocket watches found homes in specially-crafted pockets of gentlemen’s jackets.
There have previously been problems with the synchronicity of pocket watches when a famous train wreck occurred in 1891 due to an engineer’s pocket watch stopping for 4 minutes. This led to the death of 9 men. Accordingly, this caused the adoption of much more stringent standards for pocket watch use across the US railroading industry, including the introduction of the General Railroad Timepiece Standards in 1893.
Unfortunately, pocket watches went largely out of fashion in the 20th Century during both world wars, since they no longer fit the needs of their target buyers. Due to the fast pace of war, men required a quicker, more convenient method of telling the time, thus, wristwatches saw their popularity spike as pocket watches became inconvenient.
Nowadays, you can find both open pocket watches (without a metal covering over the watch face), and more traditional styles of pocket watches, equipped with a chain and all the trimmings. Plus, commissioning one-off pieces are not unheard of, and with the rise in popularity of the trend once again, it’s really up to you to decide just how far to take it.
How to wear a pocket watch in true 1920’s style
As previously mentioned, Peaky Blinders is a hugely popular UK television program set in the 1920’s Birmingham. Based on the happenings of a real-life gang, ‘the Birmingham Boys’, the show explores the events after world war one, including the infamous Wall Street Crash of 1929. The characters are very well-dressed for their era, and we often see Thomas Shelby, the lead character (pictured below) peering down at his pocket watch to check the time.
Image source: peakyblindersofficialgang
As seen in the image, the pocket watch is worn suspended from a chain, which fixes at the pocket of his waistcoat. This is known as a ‘Single Albert’ chain, and is fixed to the clothing with a ‘T-bar’ pin through a buttonhole of choice. It’s classy and leaves the pocket watch handy to grab, which could be deemed just as useful as a wristwatch.
Alternatively, a ‘Double Albert’ chain is also available, with the same fixing, but has two ends sitting in a pocket on either side. Not only is this type of chain more memorable and impressive, but it could also be useful to look after other items. Common features hung from the Double Albert chain include pen knives and other fobs.
Image source: aarni_riitasointu
Below, we have a table displaying the multitude of chain types and accessories to help attach your pocket watch to a vest. This is potentially the most well-known and classical style of wearing a pocket watch.
Pocket Watch Chain
Single Albert with Drop
Single Albert with Demi Drop
Double Albert with Drop
All images sourced at PocketWatcher
All of the above chain types draw attention to the pocket watch, alluding to the fact that it is worn as a status symbol. The ‘Birmingham Boys’ were a wealthy gang, and the pocket watch is just one item of their style that highlights this.
However, as well as hanging from the waistcoat, pocket watches may also be worn:
- In trouser pockets
- In blazer pockets
- With Jeans
How to wear a pocket watch with a suit
Since their rise in popularity, pocket watches tend to be worn with three-piece suits and baker boy hats, among other accessories.
Image source: @garrisontailors
In most historic images, you’ll find a pocket watch worn with a tweed suit, complete with waistcoat and black, leather shoes. Tweed originated as a workingman’s cloth in Scotland before proving popular amongst wealthier men in the 1920’s and 30’s. It’s derived from wool, and there are several different variations. Some tweed types have a much thicker, coarser and rougher woolen texture, whereas others are more subtle, thinner and therefore more suitable for formal events. If you opt to wear tweed today, these textures should be considered to aid you in avoiding a stuffy, uncomfortable jacket and pants choice.
Furthermore, this style of outfit is never complete without a traditional Baker Boy Hat! A Baker Boy is a rounded flat cap, with a slight platform over the forehead region.
Image source: @AndsonsUK
Following the common theme, flat caps (such as the baker boy in the image above) were originally worn among working-class crowds and strangely became popular in the UK after an Act of Parliament was passed to aid the declining wool industry. Any male over the age of six was forced to wear a flat cap on a Sunday or risk a fine! This then spread to the US and other parts of the world.
It’s important to consider both the color and texture of your Baker Boy. Colors deemed too similar to that of your suit or coat may clash and look odd next to one another. Furthermore, the texture of your Baker Boy hat is important for comfort, since different seasons generally have distinct weather conditions, and therefore may require separate materials.
Baker Boy Cap Material
All-weather material i.e. corduroy
Fashionable in the medium temperate climate
Lightweight material i.e. linen
Cooling effects to ward off heat around the head
Thicker material i.e. Saxony tweed
Water-resistant against the high rainfall often seen in Fall seasons
Coarse woolen material i.e. Harris tweed
Insulating against the cold weather, often wind and snow
If you want to emulate the fashion around 1920’s pocket watches, then a tweed suit and baker boy flat cap are essential additions to your outfit. Choosing the right colors and styles should help sufficiently frame your pocket watch and aid it in becoming the star of the show!
For an occasion encouraging a formal style of 1920’s wardrobe, a light grey suit with brown shoes would accentuate a golden pocket watch. You could even highlight your pocket watch further with a golden Double Albert Chain. This might particularly suit gentlemen taking part in a wedding, or attending events such as an annual horse race.
Alternatively, if you’re going to a fancy dress party in the 1920’s gear, you have a little more leeway in the outfit features you choose. Perhaps a darker suit made from a rougher tweed material, such as Harris Tweed, would give off more ‘working class’ vibes and appeal to the less formal side of the 1920’s style. To emulate this further, a plain black waistcoat and baker boy cap might suit your look. Also in this case, a brass pocket watch would be more ‘true to form’ as a classical working-class watch, and a simple, understated fob chain may be a more authentic choice.
How to wear a pocket watch in today’s styles
If you’re looking to integrate a pocket watch into 21st Century fashion, you’ll probably be looking to work with different materials and styles. We’re looking into wearing a pocket watch with jeans, vests and a whole host of funky accessories to match the quirky timepiece you’ll be sporting.
How to wear a pocket watch with jeans
Image source: @quality___time
Although traditionally hung from the vest, pocket watches by no means have to feature at this part of the outfit- they can be slipped into the trouser pockets for a more subtle look. In 2019, jeans are a popular staple wardrobe item among the average man. They can contribute to a cool outfit, and are definitely the ‘casual’ aspect of a smart-casual dress code. Jeans are often used to dress down other aspects of your wardrobe. Having said that, a jean pocket could be the perfect house for your pocket watch. In fact, jeans and pocket watches were paired together when denim designs originally grew in popularity, and the two features have a historically strong relationship together.
Image source: t.troyc
Of course, adding a pocket watch brings ample amounts of quirky style to your look, but when worn with jeans, you can avoid an experience of ‘flashy’ nature, and instead fit the pocket watch more discreetly into the side pocket of your denim pants. There’s also a secret pocket in the waistband of certain trouser styles for the exact purpose of storing a pocket watch! If you get a single pair of this type of pants (aiming for them to be universal in color and style), they can form as part of your capsule wardrobe, worn among a range of styles and in conjunction with multiple other pieces. You’ll never have to worry about having a dedicated place to conceal your time-piece again!
There are many types of men’s jeans to choose from depending on your particular style, including:
- Selvedge Jeans for a rougher-textured and raw outfit
- Skinny Jeans with an oversized shirt to serve an edgy look for the slender man
- Straight-leg jeans for a more classic and formal finish
In fact, a pocket watch could even work with a pair of black jeans or other black pants for a more formal look. Pair a warm-toned pocket watch (such as gold or brass colored), with chestnut or tanned brown shoes and a pair of black pants, and you’re in for a winning combination!
How to accessorize a pocket watch outfit
There are many additions you can make to your outfit to take it to the next level. If you’re attending a fancy dress event and wearing a vest, try featuring one or more of these items along with your pocket watch to double the impact:
- A Monocle
- Quirky Socks
- Tie Clips
Pocket watch + monocle + vest = a dapper gent
How to wear a monocle in the 21st century? Adding a monocle as part of your eyewear is definitely on the more comical end of the scale! Particularly favorable for a fancy dress party, monocles add eccentricity to your outfit like almost no other accessory can! We love pairing a monocle with a pocket watch to repeat the theme of circular accessories within your outfit.
Beware though, the monocle just might steal the show from your pocket watch! After all, the eyes naturally gravitate towards the face before the body, so monocles are the perfect feature to make sure your fellow attendees notice your fancy dress effort. You’ll find these items act as a brilliant conversation starter in various situations, too!
Image source: danny_boy_south_london
Fun socks + vest + pocket watch = Mr. Fashion
We think that if you’re going to wear ‘wavy garms’ such as a pocket watch or monocle, you may as well go all out with the crazy socks! Let’s face it, we’ve all got a pair in our wardrobe, and a fancy dress party is the perfect excuse to wear them.
Image source: Soxy
Whether it’s a funky foodie pair of men's socks like in the image above, or you’d prefer some stripes or chequers, adding a novelty pair of brightly colored socks is sure to invigorate your look! In fact, crazy socks have become fairly mainstream within casual business culture. Not only are they bold, these styles will also give you the opportunity to step away from the norm of matching socks with trousers. They’ll help you liven up an otherwise boring outfit and show your fellow colleagues that you don’t take life too seriously!
Tie clip + great suit + pocket watch = instant classic gentleman
If you’re looking for a subtler declaration of accessory love, figuring out how to wear a tie clip with a dapper suit may be better suited to formal events.
Image source: thedressedchest
Tie bars and clips were originally invented to prevent neckwear against the elements, but are now worn to strap the back and front of the tie down onto your shirt. According to GQ, they should be placed between the 3rd and 4th button of your shirt. They’re usually worn as decorative pieces, but are actually surprisingly useful if you’re a professional that leans over a lot, such as a doctor. Tie clips pair well with pocket watches as both usually feature metallic hues.
What about facial hair?
Although not exactly a fashion accessory, crafting your facial hair into an eccentric mustache will also add a special 1920’s authenticity to your look. The ‘Great Gatsby’ era is known for wide-brimming handlebar mustaches and sleek pencil thin mustaches. Plus, with the popularity of ‘Movember’ and other beard grooming events around the world, it could be the perfect time to get growing! These facial hair looks in combination with slicked back, wet look hair paint you as the perfect 1920’s gentleman.
Styles of mustache popular in the pocket watch era of the 1920’s include:
- The Handlebar Mustache
- The Pencil Mustache
- The Full-Bodied Mustache and Beard
Image source: jamescuevasixviii
How to wear suspenders with a pocket watch?
Otherwise known as braces, suspenders were another staple in a gentleman’s wardrobe in the 1920’s. But, how to wear suspenders with a pocket watch? These were originally worn with as a substitution for the belt, although nowadays are mainly on display for fashion purposes. They usually attach to your trousers and form an X or Y shape over your back in order to keep separated. We think they pair perfectly with suits, as their traditional nature is in keeping with the 1920’s era and will match your pocket watch style. Alternatively, pair them with a plain white tee and some chinos for an edgier look!
How to wear a pocket watch with a vest
The pocket of a vest (or waistcoat) is the well known, traditional placement for a pocket watch, which is usually worn under a formal blazer of a suit or long coat. But did you know that not all vests are made equal?
When it comes to pocket watches, you would (obviously) require a pocket to place your watch. But there are various styles of vests, each with differing pocket placements, which could entirely affect the overall look you’re trying to achieve. For example, popular styles of vest include:
- Basic: exactly as you would imagine, a traditionally-shaped vest with one pocket situated on either side
- Asymmetric: one lapel overlaps the other with four pockets situated geometrically (in a square shape)
- U-neck: a deeper, scoop-neck with fewer buttons and two parallel pockets
- Double-breasted: both lapels are more pronounced with four pockets in a square shape
- Mandarin: buttons reaching to high neck, again four pockets available in a square shape
Image source: mensweartips
The type of vest you choose will influence the type of chain you pair with your pocket watch. For example, a Double-Albert may look strange with an asymmetric vest when compared to a Fob or Single-Albert, whereas a basic vest would suit the majority of chain styles. In general though, T-bars or bolt ring chains are the most universally flattering when paired with vests, as they seamlessly attach through a button hole and leave your pocket watch dangling for all to see.
Usually, you would expect to find a vest as part of a three-piece suit or other style of formal outfit. This means that pairing a dark vest with a classic, crisp white shirt can ensure that you emit chic, elegant vibes at any high-class event you choose to attend. Furthermore, a pair of formal shoes, such as Double-Monks or Wingtips would combine brilliantly. As a general rule, black shoes are the most universally suited to formal trousers, so if you’re wondering what color pants to wear with black shoes, just pick any! Plus, wearing a monochromatic suit, which could be described as basic or plain, is more likely to make your pocket watch ‘pop’! Especially on the occasion that you’re the lucky owner of a pocket watch composed from fancier materials (such as gold or silver), if drawing attention to your pocket watch is what you’re after, a monochromatic outfit is the way to go!
Perfect occasions to wear your pocket watch
Apart from a fancy dress party, there are actually many other occasions that are suitable for wearing your pocket watch. In fact, it can be perfect for formal events too:
- Weddings: add a touch of class to your outfit with a silver pocket watch
- Date nights: if you’re looking to impress, this just might be the perfect detail
- To school or college: let a pocket watch allow you to appear older and wiser than your years
Whether you already own a pocket watch or are now prepped and primed to get one, we hope you can walk away knowing just how to style it for any occasion! Remember, they’re not just for Gatsby era fancy dress. Pocket watches can be easily integrated into your everyday style to add a rare chic and modern energy. Plus, we hope you’re up for a few chats because when your pocket watch is on show, it’s sure to be a conversation starter. If you’ve had enough of following the trends, it’s time to invest in a pocket watch and start your own!