Solid Tie, Striped Watchband: GHWB & The Preppy Wrist


In remembrance of George HW Bush, we revisit this post from 2013.

* * *

Last month we paid a style tribute to George HW Bush. But since then the preppiest prez has made news a couple more times, so we’ll give him an encore with a focus on one of his trademark style quirks.

No, we don’t mean his socks.

True, it was his hosiery that got mentioned in the media this week when President Obama toasted Bush for his charity work. Bush, who’s lately been known for his wacky socks, came bearing a sock gift for Obama. (President Clinton, you’ll recall, had a cat named Socks that roamed the White House, but no penchant for colorful hosiery.)

And previously, on the Fourth of July, GQ paid homage to Bush with a slideshow that included a couple of photos we hadn’t seen before. These photos included Bush’s preppy penchant before he turned to socks, namely striped watchbands.

Nylon watchbands evidently have their origins in the military, but when and how did they become associated with prepdom? If you have any insight, please leave a comment and share.

Striped watchbands were already a preppy classic/cliché by 1979, when the “Are You A Preppie?” poster was made:


Today they continue to show up in Tradsville on the wrists of preppy bloggers….


… and forum personalities…


…not to mention Ralph Lauren ad campaigns:


They’re also perennially available at J. Press. But considering they’re now coming standard issue from startup brands such as Daniel Wellington…


And have been a staple at J. Crew for a number of years:


Played out, or a timeless classic? — CC

48 Comments on "Solid Tie, Striped Watchband: GHWB & The Preppy Wrist"

  1. Lamplighter | July 17, 2013 at 2:31 pm |

    I’ve been wearing my watches on nylon straps ever since my junior year of college when me and my friends rediscovered the glory of James Bond movies and we watched Goldfinger. Seeing Sean Connery’s submariner on that nylon strap looked so cool to me. This was also circa 2006 or seven before J.Crew started marketing the straps and they became “in.” I threw my CWC Royal Navy Diver on a black and gray striped “James Bond Nato” and got compliments on it where ever I went. I still wear the majority of my watches on nylon straps today. They’re fairly sporty and are great for the summer when your wrist is sweating. I try to keep the colors fairly subdued. If I do go with a strip combination I try to make them colors that have some personal significance. As I type this I’m wearing my Hamilton khaki field auto on a plain black smart turnout strap.

  2. Note the button down. Both he and his old (even preppier) chum James Baker wore them before they came to D.C. The latter well into his term as Sec. of State.

    Back on topic: I prefer a tartan watchband. Black Watch or Dress Gordon. If someone makes a Forbes (Dress Modern), let me know.

  3. I wore striped nylon or maybe acetate watchbands bought at BB or Jack Harper Custom Shop in State College PA, in college in the mid-1960s; then stopped but in the past year I have started wearing them again; I got some at JPress NH & NYC shops and again at Jack Harper. They are fun to wear, great in summer, clean up well with liquid soap & baking soda. I think the ones from Smart Turnout” made in England are the best. I have to credit JCrew for bringing them to my attention but find the JCrew bands inferior to ST.

  4. D'Invilliers | July 17, 2013 at 6:18 pm |

    A few watches that look good with striped bands:

    Omega Seamaster
    Rolex Submarinier
    Daniel Wellington
    Any classic Girard Perregeuax
    Orvis Field

  5. I stopped wearing a watch 2-3 years ago. Feels strange wearing one now. SS Rolex sits in a drawer. Smart phone gets it done for me.

  6. I have the Rolex Submariner with the 60th anniversary green bezel. I’ve long considered putting it on a nylon strap, but couldn’t figure out what’d look good with an admittedly somewhat loud watch. Thought?

  7. @Rut. Don’t do it!

  8. It was originally a functional accessory: a thrifty replacement for a watchband with colorful flair. Now it’s been reduced to a style signifier for wannabe preppies who are trying to make a statement (and enjoy looking at the homoeroticized preppie porn, ie Ralph Lauren ads) .

  9. I have seen numerous pictures with GHWB wearing a grosgrain watch band. I have worked in offices where ties were prohibited and a striped watchband was my way of adding variation to my blue ocbd/khakis/loafer uniform. I switched it monthly, if not twice a month. Now that I can wear a tie I rarely change my band.

  10. Grey Flannels | July 18, 2013 at 1:11 am |

    One more clownish, Crayola, accessory.

  11. Boston Bean | July 18, 2013 at 2:34 am |

    @Grey Flannels

    The solid-color leather watchband has now become a mark,of individuality.

  12. There are as many (if not well more) photos of GHWB wearing a leather banded watch. So, let’s not go too far with this. A ‘trademark’? No more so than pork rind eating, eh?

    The one he’s wearing is likely a simple navy blue-white number. Not crayola-ish.

  13. Grey Flannels and Boston Bean – Don’t forget about the solid olive band. It is far from crayola.

  14. @JKW, someone went to PSU!

    @Rutt, it’s the 50th anniversary Sub, not the 60th.

  15. Grey Flannels | July 18, 2013 at 9:39 am |

    @oxford cloth button down

    Re: solid olive bands. You’re absolutely right. They are so authentic that they surpass the label “preppy”.

  16. @oxfordclothbuttondown – I’m curious – where did you work that forbade ties?

  17. Yeah, the forbidding neckties thing is weird, sounds vaguely North Korean: “that which is not mandatory is forbidden”.

    Were you in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where the tie is thought to be a crypto-crucifix?

  18. It was right here in the USA and I am not sure why. I guess I would say that business casual dress is the reason or maybe even “that which is not mandatory is forbidden.” Anyways, it was not an item listed in the handbook, but I was asked to refrain from wearing a tie or jacket by management.

  19. A.E.W. Mason | July 18, 2013 at 12:58 pm |

    Personally, I think such bands are inappropriate for business and, frankly, look silly on men over a certain age unless worn in very casual settings.

  20. On forbidding silk neckties:

  21. Any word on The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) opinion on Weejuns?

  22. A.E.W. Mason
    Yes and no, it depends on your business, it depends who one is doing business with on any given day.

  23. NaturalShoulder | July 18, 2013 at 2:03 pm |

    I like wearing striped bands to the office on more casual days and on weekends. I think the key to wearing them is moderation like anything else.

  24. I never understood these watchbands. They look silly.

  25. A.E.W. Mason | July 18, 2013 at 4:23 pm |


    Yes, quite. To clarify: I’m mean stuffy kinds of businesses and professions in which no one would dare show up to participate in any business or professional activity without wearing a suit and a tie.

  26. Vern Trotter | July 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm |

    GHWB stopped wearing the striped watch bands as well as preppy eye glass frames when he ran for national office either right before or when RR picked him for his VP running mate. They made him look too elitist.

    I first remember the bands in the 60’s at Eddie Jacobs in Baltimore with the crossed tennis racquet logo. I do not remember when the stripe first arrived, although I have always worn them since soon after 1970.

    The Smart Turnout in London make a nice product but are a little expensive after you pay the freight and exchange. I still like Central Watch Band @ Grand Central in the passageway beneath the Yale Club.

  27. @ Vern Trotter: The JPress bands are made by Smart Turnout[see the buckle] and go on sale from time to time on

  28. I wore grosgrain ribbon watchbands in the early 70s in high school. I didn’t know anyone else who did that. I also wore grosgrain ribbons in my hair, usually big bows at the end of long braids. I had never heard of preppy anything. I don’t think I heard that term until sometime in the 80s. This was in the Bay Area.

  29. I always thought the look of a Timex “Easy Reader” on a nylon strap gave the wearer a sense of moral authority. It said you could afford a nicer watch, but that would be frivolous. It’s like driving a Volvo station wagon when everyone else is driving their newly leased Audi, BMW or Range Rover. It puts the wearer on a different level. It says I don’t need to competing for attention, That’s why it’s incongruous to wear a nylon strap on an expensive watch. It identifies the wearer as a poser. The nylon strap can be striped, as long as the colors are not too flashy, or the stripes too busy. When I used to practice law and had to impress my clients, I wore fancy watches. When I became a Judge, I put the fancy watches away and wore a Timex “Easy Reader” with a solid navy nylon strap. The strap is now faded and frayed around the edges. Attorneys come into chambers wearing expensive suits and four, sometimes five figure watches. I can tell it sometimes irked them to argue their big monied cases to a Judge wearing a twenty five dollar watch with a nylon strap. The watch puts me on a different plain. The Timex gave a bigger impression than any of the fancy watches I’ve worn. I don’t miss my fancy watches. And yes, I drive a Vovo station wagon.

  30. Christian | July 19, 2013 at 4:28 am |

    I suppose if anyone should be walking (and driving) around with a sense of moral authority, it should be a judge.

  31. These watch bands used to come embroidered with tiny little ducks, crossed tennis rackets or skis, etc. Now you can also get them, for some reason, with skull-and-crossbones (reminiscent of Yale’s Bones or Himmler’s SS, or both). The stripes supposedly signify British military units, although the colors sometimes match those of lesser organizations like bowling-league teams, NASCAR clubs, outing groups sponsored by Chicago taverns, and Ivy League colleges. Other than the plain black ones, these bands are ugly and should never be worn by anyone at any time.

  32. DSF – I heard somebody once say that skull n bones is the modern requivilant of the 70s happy face. I’m inclined to agree.

  33. Gary Ward | July 20, 2013 at 8:32 am |

    I’ve been collecting and wearing grosgrain watch bands since the early 1970’s. currently have over 30 and buy any new stripe I can find. I wear them with an Omega Seamaster or my 1947 Wiitnauer chronograph.

  34. Have one on right now (olive green though, not striped), with a Swiss Army watch. Why? On a hot summer day they don’t make your wrist sweat like a leather band would. And if they get dirty, you can take them off and scrub them clean in the sink.

  35. fred astaire | July 22, 2013 at 11:06 am |

    Been wearing striped watch bands for years and years. Durable. Practical. Always get a compliment.

  36. Nylon bands or grosgrain? Are the nylon ones for sailing or something? I used to get my grosgrain bands (striped and plain) at Brooks. Spiffy with a Timex.

  37. @BC They put you on a different plane, Your Honor, not plain.

  38. My late father wore nylon striped or solid watch bands as long as I knew him. I even inherited two when he passed, one of which I am wearing as I type this. Cannot miss another chance to point out a flaw at BB. Their striped bands, while beautiful, are cheaply made and the grommets fall out quickly. In addition, due to the thickness of the grommets the pins must be removed from the watch in order to change bands.

    Dad also wore khakis exclusively until he became old and stopped caring about style. I remember him saying he could not understand how or why anyone would wear jeans which are so uncomfortable, and cold in the winter and hot in the summer. I am my father’s son.

  39. My vote is for “played out,” at least among the younger set. It seems to me to be a bit inauthentic or ironic for millenials to adopt this. I recently switched to back to leather watch bands, although I still keep my Seiko field watch on a plain olive band.

    In my observation, the new preppy watch is something along the lines of the Garmin watch. To me it reads, “look how sporty I am.” Granted, these watches may be expensive, but they don’t look expensive…which I think is the point.

  40. “Monitary value” is misspelled in that picture. Call the editor before the next print is released.

    I haven’t worn a grosgrain anything since college. Now needlepoint…

  41. I’ve been wearing these watchbands since the late 1960s. Before that I wore an OD nylon band on the WWII field watch my dad gave me, my first watch.

    Trick is to have a watch for all occasions. Granted they’re cheap watches, but they’re for all occasions, like shoes. 😉

  42. Back in “supply-side,” “trickle-down” economics…was “voodoo”!

  43. Back when, rather.

    Glad they found the clip.

  44. Wonder what color watchband wrist he had on when he was groping women.

    Obviously the readers of this blog only read picture news about hosiery and not grown-up sources of real news. But yes, he also made the news for alleged sexual harrassment.

  45. Trey:

    Neither harassment nor the false accusation of harassment are fodder for your facetious musings. There’s a great many people who make the news for a great many things which turn out to be spurious and slanderous. A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.

  46. One reason GHWB wore them was to avoid ruining leather band jogging. He could throw them in the wash.
    In 1982 I recall his limo stopping at the K Street Brooks for the sale to buy some slacks. In those days Brooks would have had a dozen different suit fabrics to choose from on clearance. Bush’s security was hardly apparent. A few years later I kdded him at an event but noting he wasn’t wearing a 3/2 roll where upon he opened his jacket and the and announced its a Southwick! as if had abandoned his preppiness.

  47. @Trey:
    Yep. I knew it was only a matter of time before someone brought that up. Ding, ding, ding! You’re the WINNER!
    Now if you only can find a way to bring race into the conversation. That would probably be the Holy Grail for you!

    Post your musings elswhere.

  48. Henry Contestwinner | November 19, 2017 at 9:52 pm |

    As I recall, “Richard” of WASP 101 infamy like to match his watch strap to his belt. I wonder if he also coordinated his tie and socks to his watch strap and belt.

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