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Should you wear a G-SHOCK watch with a suit?

image of a grey g shock gw2100 floating against black bg

The G-SHOCK is an iconic watch series that has long-been touted as the toughest watch available on the market, but how does it fare with formal wear?

Its boxy body and high-tech design is among the most easily recognizable watch brands out there, celebrated by fashion nerds, environmentalists, rappers, Navy SEALS, divers, and more. Designed to be put under the greatest amount of stress possible, the G-SHOCK watch sets the industry standard for bombproof timepieces. It has a cool history and cultural influence since its inception, a timeline that can allow us to better understand this watch, its many models and thus, its possibilities for styling.

Without spoiling anything, I believe you can wear a G-SHOCK with a suit. While I have the nerve to give James Bond grief for wearing a fabric-strapped dive watch with a cream tux, I believe that depending on the G-SHOCK and depending on the suit, there absolutely is a combination. After learning a bit about the G-SHOCK story, we’ll get into some different styling options based on specific watch models and contexts.

Let’s dive in!

G-SHOCK history

CASIO Men's GW2310FB-1CR G-Shock Shock Resistant Multifunction Watch

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In the way all important innovation begins, the G-SHOCK exists because someone saw a need to improve and better already-existing technology.

For those who don’t know, the G-SHOCK line comes out under the umbrella of Casio watches, the Japanese electronics company whose scope stretches everywhere from digital watches and alarm clocks to high-end synthesizers, classical pianos, mechanical parts, and medical devices. Casio has always been a company striving to innovate in all the fields they make products in and the G-SHOCK is definitely no exception. Shortly after Casio’s founding in Japan, 1946, they would release the first electric compact calculator, later leading the industry in digital cameras, electronic keyboards, then mass-produced watches. The Casio series of watches have been iconic since their release and have recently seen resurgence in the internet-core vintage revival of 90s tech aesthetics.

The G-SHOCK watches, while directly linked to the Casio company, have now taken on a life of their own and become iconic in their own separate way. They are one of the most visually-recognizable types of watches and are among the best-selling chronographs ever made. The story begins in 1981 with a Casio engineer named Kikuo Ibe who saw the need for durable, drop-proof watches after breaking a pocket watch given to him by his father. Furthermore, according to a few interviews, Ibe saw that many of the construction workers in his development division at Casio were using power tools and jackhammers without a watch, as the vibration of the hammers and type of work they did prevented them from wearing timepieces. In a time before smartphones and immediately-accessible clocks other than the watch, this could be an issue that would have rippling logistical effects, on top of bare inconvenience. With an awareness of a niche in the market and heartbroken by the loss of his family heirloom, Ibe immediately set to work on creating an unbreakable watch. By the time he was done developing what would come to be known as G-SHOCK, his watches would be resistant to high-impact, intense water pressure, and strong centrifugal forces. They would literally change the world of timepieces forever.

Ibe’s design philosophy revolved around something he called the “Triple 10”. To Ibe, the unbreakable watch needed to meet three criteria at the very least: it needed to be water resistant to 10bar, have a minimum battery life of 10 years, and easily handle a 10 metre drop. Where the watch was traditionally known as a fragile and fancy accessory, Ibe and his team would develop a product that would completely redefine the role of the timepiece in everyday life. Their central design philosophy was the utilitarian nature of the watch, not as a fashion accessory. The development would revolve around creating watches that were built for a specific purpose, i.e., diving watches, watches for construction workers, watches for military or police, etc. Beginning with mud-resistant watches for the construction workers, Ibe would follow this design process and cater specifically to different professions and environments, creating the G-SHOCK Frogman and others in form of organic development. The unique utilitarian purposes of the watch would then be catered to a specific design intention while maintaining the Triple 10 criteria across the board.

When he decided to focus completely on the G-SHOCK series, Ibe started what is now affectionately referred to as “Team Tough”, a three-person team of hand-picked Casio engineers that could devote themselves to the seemingly impossible task of the unbreakable watch. The development process would take over 2 years, 200 prototypes, and likely infinite headaches.

Casio Men's XL Series G-Shock Quartz 200M WR Shock Resistant Resin Color: Matte Olive Green (Model GA-700UC-3ACR)

Despite this, Ibe found inspiration in a simple place – visiting a playground. He saw a rubber ball and recognized that the center of the ball, the core, was protected while the outside rubber would absorb the majority of the force. Where the quartz mechanic and watch movement were the most fragile parts of the timepiece, Ibe and his team realized they could encase the fragile parts in a single module that was structurally protected by the body of the watch. This was their first breakthrough.

Team Tough began anew and in 1983 they would finalize and launch their first G-SHOCK, the DW-5000C. The testing was rigorous. In interviews, Ibe stated that he and the team would take them to the third floor bathrooms of the Casio building and drop them out the windows, measuring how the impact rattled the internal quartz module and how it affected the electronics. The original G-SHOCK was built with 10 layers protecting the timekeeping modules, including the now-iconic shock-absorbent urethane bumpers on most G-SHOCKs. The case was built out of stainless steel, the crystal was a hardened mineral glass, the case back was screwed in (not clipped), and the quartz was placed in a “floating module” that allowed the crystal mechanism to ‘float’ in a foam cradle. Buttons would be routed through with highly-flexible cables and lastly, the strap would be built from a highly-resistant and flexible material that would even help the watch bounce before any impact hit the body itself. Awesome.

Sales weren’t great at the beginning of the G-SHOCK launch. Dress watches, automatic movements, and mechanical engineering were still sought-after standards for timepieces. Where Omega, Rolex, Tag Heuer dominated, Ibe and Team Tough hoped to illustrate the places where G-SHOCK could do that which the titans could not. Casio released a promotional video that used the DW-5000C as a hockey puck that gained a lot of traction, especially by people claiming the commercial was false advertising. When people began testing the DW-5000C, including a number of news channels, consumers were incredibly surprised to see that the watches did exactly what they were advertised. After this point, the G-SHOCK name spread like wildfire and the watch line began to grow in popularity. With outdoorsmen and firefighters leading the charge, the G-SHOCK line was quickly accepted for its durability and iconic look.

Over the next 15 years the G-SHOCK line would emerge with over 200 unique models and were pushing 20 million units sold. They would expand into women’s durable watches with the Baby-G G-SHOCK and started experimenting with size for unisex models. Team Tough was now much larger than three people: they would have entire buildings devoted to research and development, experimenting with unique technology in atomic clock synchronisation, solar-powered batteries, GPS, diving capabilities, Bluetooth, and even luxury dress-watch offerings with the same durability standards of the entire line. They hold a Guinness World Record for the heaviest vehicle to drive over a watch, with a 25-ton truck rolling over a DW5600E-1 and the watch being completely fine after. They are the only watch company to ever have successfully passed this test by a long shot.

These watches have been to space on the International Space Station, survived high gravitational forces in fighter jets and race cars, and adorned the wrists of athletes, scientists, hip hop legends, and more. In 2017, Casio celebrated 100 million G-SHOCK sales worldwide, a recognition of its cemented place in the watch world forevermore.

G SHOCK in hip-hop and streetwear

Casio G-Shock GW6900-1 Men's Tough Solar Black Resin Sport Watch

With the huge variation in models and colorways, G-SHOCK would transcend the utilitarian intentions of its design and make its way into popular culture and fashion. In the same manner that techwear brands like Arc’teryx would be worked into graffiti and skate culture, G-SHOCK would partly find its way in the public eye through its relationship with hip hop culture and streetwear. It would remain iconic forevermore in these circles.

In the mid-late 2000s, the G-SHOCK brand would explode on the scene, largely through the influence of the Young Money artist group and other prominent musicians. Figures like Lil Wayne, Kanye West, and Kid Cudi would sport the boxy and brightly-colored G-SHOCKs in photoshoots, album covers, and paparazzi snaps courtside at NBA games. Iconic musician and fashion guru Pharrell is an avid lover of the G-SHOCK brand and has many different models he’s worn in photographs. From these influential figures, the G-SHOCK would remain prevalent in hip hop society with Cam’ron, UK grime artist Skepta, and Big Sean. Out of hip hop – which since the 90s has been one of the central influences in nearly all levels of popular culture – celebrities would begin sporting the G-SHOCK in all contexts.

In the late 2000s fashion, it was all about loudness. Neon colors were the standard, highlighted by Kanye’s bright polos and shutter shades or Andre 3000’s multi-layered multicolored fits taking inspiration from 80s colorways merged with modern brands. Even Canadian darling Justin Bieber would sport brightly-colored G-SHOCKs in his photoshoots and public appearances with Usher. The G-SHOCK was everywhere and being incorporated into all levels of fashion culture – as such, the variation of color and the many available models made personalization and styling extremely easy. Whether you were wearing the big boxy Frogman models with oversized box tees, or the more minimal 5600BB-1 with a checkered sweater vest (as was seemingly popular), the G-SHOCK has shown its versatility, durability, and fashionability (not a word I know), time and time again.

Throughout this phenomenon G-SHOCK would make a very smart marketing move by taking this cultural popularity in stride. They would collaborate with iconic streetwear brands like KITH and A BATHING APE (BAPE). These collaborations are still highly-sought after and incredibly important components of the history of streetwear culture. Over their long history, G-SHOCK has collaborated with brands like Stussy, CLOT, Pigalle, BEAMS, Staple, Burton Snowboards, Takashi Murakami (POM), Nigo, Asics, X-LARGE, even the Air Jordan brand.

Styling with a G-SHOCK

Men's Casio G-Shock Analog-Digital Carbon Core Guard Army Green Resin Strap Watch GA2110SU-3A

Now we start getting to the meat of the question: if the G-SHOCK has so much variability and can work in many different contexts, how does it fare in the world of formal and semi-formal wear?

There are a number of things we need to keep in mind while we discuss how to style this watch. For one, let’s talk about the look of the watch itself. G-SHOCKs are well-known for their iconic look: this look is largely due to a unique and peculiar shape. The bumpers of the watch give a square-ish feeling to the G-SHOCK that seem to evoke the feelings of ruggedness that the timepiece’s design and construction perpetuates. In many ways, this shape is very well suited to casual looks given the overarching ‘sportiness’ of the watch. Furthermore, the tough, flexible rubber (urethane) straps may not, on first impression, seem to match the dressiness of a stainless steel bracelet common to the juggernauts of dress watch manufacturing.

And yet, the G-SHOCK can still work well in the context of dressing up and could easily be suited to a bit of a formal and semi-formal look. For us, it’s all about context. As such, I wouldn’t really recommend wearing your G-SHOCK to a black tie event – in a context that enforces uniformity, the G-SHOCK might not be the best option given how loud the profile is. This isn’t a stark line however: as we’ll see later, G-SHOCK has thought about this at length and has been releasing models over the years that balance the iconic shape and look of their watches with more muted and downplayed designs. By playing with slimmer shapes, muted pallets, and new faceplates, the G-SHOCK line begins to push out of the world of simply sporty and utilitarian.

For our purposes, the G-SHOCKs that we may shy away from with a suit are the hyper-complex and massive ones, as well as the very brightly-colored. A trillion dials, a neon body, and a massive face may be too bold for the context of a suit, which often demands a uniformity and cohesiveness among all the parts of the suit. Instead, the G-SHOCKs that we’ll look at are a little more downplayed, retaining the sporty and rugged feeling of the originals but able to play a little nicer with a tie and blazer.

There are a few small notes that are more personalized: depending on the size of your wrist, the type of suit you’re wearing, even the context that you’re wearing a suit, your possibilities will change. For someone with smaller wrists, wearing the bold Mudman model might look good for a casual weekend hang with sporty clothes, but too large and loud with a suit.

G-SHOCK Models and how they pair with suits and formal wear

We’re now going to do a few snap takes on many different G-SHOCK models and see how well they might pair with a suit or a more formal look.

 

Casio Men's GA-100CF-1A9CR G-Shock Camouflage Watch With Black Resin Band

G-SHOCK GA-100 XL

Let’s start our exploration with a bit of a polarizing option. This is the G-SHOCK GA-100 XL, a large, bold, and quintessentially G-SHOCK timepiece. It is quite busy on the face, with a large body out of which protrude those important shock-absorbent bumpers that keep the floating quartz module safe from being messed up after a bit of roughing around. It’s also graded to 200M below water, which is pretty neat.

There are a ton of dials on this watch: four analog chronographs that list the time, seconds, altitude, and magnetic direction, as well as two digital displays that facilitate stopwatch access as well as day-date display. This model has a muted camouflage design on the face that contributes a little to the busy nature of the watch as a whole. The body, however, is actually relatively downplayed for how chunky the G-SHOCKs tend to be: I quite like that it’s one solid, uniform colour with minimal labeling across the timepiece (save for the G-SHOCK label and the PROTECTION indicator at the bottom).

Here’s the polarizing take: I actually think this could work with a suit fit. Definitely not the black tie gala, sure, but this colour way, as well as the Grey (and maybe even Black-Gold) actually could fit with someone wanting to add a bit of a sportier, louder look with some formal attire. It would likely work for the business casual look and would only need a little bit of tinkering with to pair well with a business formal look. The main thing with a watch like this, especially given the XL body, is that the wearer’s wrist has to fit it right, otherwise it comes off looking way too oversized. Small wrists stay away. All in all, despite the busy-ness of the watch, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the possibilities this style of watch could adapt to given the formal context.

 

Men's Casio G-Shock Analog-Digital Carbon-Resin Blue Camoflauge Dial Watch GA2000SU-2A

G-SHOCK GA2000SU-2A

Another semi-polarizing choice that I actually found myself enjoying and seeing as viable with a suit outfit. The GA2000SU-2A is a lovely watch that maintains a consistent pastel-muted blue color. It has a main analog chronograph and then a few digital displays and dials across the body. The case is a really interesting carbon fiber resin mould, which gives the watch a lighter and more durable composition. I also really like the negative digital display, which helps pull the oft-bright digital screen further into the design of the timepiece’s face.

This watch also has a bit more of a minimal strap, made up of urethane but maintaining a semi-uniform quality which I think adds to the potential of this watch with a suit. This is a watch that really straddles the line between being able to be worn with a formal outfit or being reserved to the realm of the sporty and casual. While it leans toward the sporty and casual, the GA2000SU-2A has a few things going for it in regard to possibilities for dressiness, including how the colours in this watch are consistent the whole way through. Blue, black, white, and a single spatter of orange help the watch maintain a unified aesthetic and thus blend better with your suit choices. 

Furthermore, the buttons on the side of the body are large and accessible, but they don’t protrude in a way that makes them aesthetically distracting. Instead, it serves to accent the profile and silhouette of the watch quite minimally. While this isn’t the perfect watch for the formal fit, it can absolutely look good with a suit, especially a blue or even tan fit. For the sporty individual hoping to keep that vibe in the boardroom, the GA2000SU-2A is a viable option.

 

Casio G-Shock GA-2100-1A1DR Analog Quartz Black Resin Men's Watch

G-SHOCK GA2100-1A1DR

MAMMA MIA that is a beautiful watch. I’m absolutely in love with the 2100. This is part of the series G-SHOCK was doing to try and make their way into a bit more of a downplayed, everyday wear watch for the streetwear scene, and wow did they ever succeed. It maintains the durability and design intention of every G-SHOCK made thus far, but with a bit of heightened focus on aesthetics. The colours are unified, the functional parts are muted and the labels are not brightly displayed. In my opinion, it’s genuinely a beautiful watch.

This watch has what is called an Ana-Digi display, meaning it combines analog and digital features within the watch face. We have the main chronograph dial in an analog model, with an analog day dial on the upper left. On the bottom right, tucked against the bezel, is a small, muted digital display that shows the date, a digital representation of the time, and likely some other small features like alarm settings and stopwatch display. While it has these features and multiple displays/dials, the face doesn’t look busy at all: in fact, the many features of the watch face seem to complement each other very well.

I particularly like the bezel of this watch as well: the octagonal body is evocative of different models of dive watches that retain a bit of a rugged look to them without losing their elegance, reminding me of the sportier Omegas and Breitlings. For this reason, I believe that the GA2100 is a really good option to have for a suit. While it may not be fancy enough for the black tie event, I think this watch would look really good with the business casual and business formal suit outfits. Man, this is a beautiful watch at a really good price point. Casio rules.

 

CASIO G Shock Quartz Watch with Resin Strap, Black, 30 (Model: DW-5600BB-1CR)

G-SHOCK DW5600BB

Here’s where I admit a little bit of bias: I love this watch. Like, love this watch. I own one, have given a few out as birthday gifts, and probably wear it more than any other watch I own – even the nice ones. The DW5600 is a direct reference to the earliest models of G-SHOCK ever created, with a lovely downplayed look and a minimal design in the body, face, and strap. It is a purely digital display with the bare minimum features of day, date, time, stopwatch, and alarm clock. It is battery powered, light, and the face/bezel have a rounded feel that allows it to blend into your outfits.

Furthermore, my favourite feature of this watch is the negative digital display. It seems to subvert the typical digital display of most watches, which really serves to accent how casual and sporty those models seem to be. This one makes the digital sleek, sexy, and minimal. I think they absolutely nailed the design on this bad boy and for the price point (sub-$100) it is very hard to beat in terms of stylish and functional.

Now this is the hard part: does this watch go with a suit? With a heavy heart I need to be blatantly honest and speak my truth. I don’t believe this beautiful little watch can really go with a formal look, largely because of the digital display. As much as I love this watch (I’m literally wearing it as I write), I think it feels just a touch too sporty to really make its way under a blazer. With a business casual outfit without the jacket, absolutely this works and brings a minimal sporty look to your outfits. For a formal event or formal business context, I think it may begin to detract from the outfit. You should still get one though.

 

CASIO Men's GW-9400-1CR Master of G Stainless Steel Solar Watch

G-SHOCK GW-9400-1CR ‘Master of G’

What a mouthful! The Master of G series is an iconic and long-running line of G-SHOCK watches that is well-loved for its performance and technical specifications in all sorts of situations and contexts. It boasts a boatload of features like solar recharging, digital compass, altimeter, barometer, tachymeter, atomic timekeeping, sunrise/sunset timing, memory for 5 alarms, 660-foot depth rating, stopwatch, and more. This thing packs just about everything you could possibly need inside of a sport watch in a single body and frame. It is the bombproof G-SHOCK and likely one of the peak designs Ibe had in mind when he wanted to create the unbreakable watch. It’s also wayyyyyy too loud to be worn with a suit.

For one, this is a purely digital watch. There is nothing analog about this beautiful watch and is one of the main reasons that it likely wouldn’t work with a suit. For one, the face has two separate classic digital displays with an altimeter (I think) on the top left of the face. These make the watch face very busy and potentially distracting from a formal outfit. Then we have the body: for a watch meant to withstand crazy depths, G forces, and high-altitude drops, it makes sense that the watch looks the way it does. The body is extremely large to protect the inner computer and the features are designed purely around utilitarianism. In a situation where you need your watch to do something quickly and efficiently, the large buttons and bright display make it easier than with other styles of watches. There are big labels all over the body to clarify what needs to be pressed and when, constructed wholly with the intentions of being a tool to facilitate your work, not a fashion accessory.

For this reason, I believe the Master of G series, while a marvel of engineering, is absolutely not the right watch to wear with a suit. It is far too busy, far too large, and far too intense to pair with a suit. It looks like something you need to disarm before you put it on, and maybe not the best for the formal context. It really is a cool watch though.

 

Casio Men's 'G-Steel by G-Shock' Quartz Solar Bluetooth Connected Resin Dress Watch, Color: Black (Model: GST-B100-1ACR)

G-SHOCK ‘G-STEEL’ GST-B100-1ACR

I thought I’d end the exploration with a bit of a middle-ground watch quandary for the reader. As we established earlier, wearing a G-SHOCK with a suit is really about context and your own personal style. I personally don’t really love the look of a digital display with a watch that’s meant to be paired with a suit – I think it looks a little too sporty and takes away from the formality of the entire fit. Equally, my own fashion taste means that I prefer more minimal looks with my watches: while I can appreciate how bolder faces like dive watches can look really smart with a suit, it’s not my personal look. As such, the reader should recognize that all of this fashion advice comes through a screen of my own tastes. Fashion is relative. Wear what makes you feel good.

The G-STEEL series G-SHOCK is a beautiful middle-ground in my opinion. In the same way some of the more iconic dive watches straddle the line between sporty and dressy, I believe the B100 does an excellent job at maintaining the rugged feel of G-SHOCK watches with a significantly elevated look. The brushed stainless steel is an amazing choice for the bezel, giving the body structure and face a bit of ‘pop’. I particularly like the fact that this watch is not an Ana-Digi model but instead relies solely on the analog watch hands. It feels evocative of a bit more of a traditional watch design but retains the feeling of a G-SHOCK. Even the multiple analog dials give the feeling of a dress watch like a Breitling, especially given how downplayed they are. Paired with a beautiful and minimal urethane strap, the BB100 looks like it would fit right at home on the sporty individual wearing a business-formal look. I dare say it could even be snuck into a black tie outfit and still feel structured and appropriate (a bold choice, I admit). I’m a huge fan of this watch as it subverts a lot of the business I’m not usually liking in these sporty timepieces.

So again, we arrive at a point where one sees the true nuance of styling a watch with a suit. It really ends up being up to you: what kind of event are you going to? Do you feel comfortable with a bigger, bulky body? Are you going for sporty or traditional? What kind of suit are you wearing? How big are your wrists? It’s important to take all of these factors into consideration when picking out your watch for a formal occasion. With this in mind, you’ll be able to develop your own watch style and work it into all your fits, no matter the event.

Wearing a DW-5600BB-1 on my wrist and loving it, this is Graham. Thanks for reading.

Further Reading