Style / July 2017

The Enduring Influence of Mad Men Style

Over a decade after it first aired, the legacy of AMC’s Mad Men lives on, through both the show’s sublime storytelling and the classic, tailored style of its lead protagonists.

Roger Sterling (John Slattery) and Don Draper (Jon Hamm) travelling in style.

Fun fact: according to Forbes, between 1998 and 2014 suit sales doubled in the US. This may or may not have something to do with the enormous success of Mad Men, the peerlessly sophisticated TV drama that aired from 2007 until 2015. The series has many qualities (Cheever-worthy characterisation, tantric pace, forensic sixties mood), but most unusual is a sartorial texture so dense it has been deciphered for clues ever since. 

It also changed the way men dressed. The mid-noughties taste for smarter, more minimalist menswear may well have been a reaction against the casual nineties: compare, for example, J. Crew’s slim-cut Ludlow suit and Mad Men-inspired collections from Brooks Brothers and Banana Republic to the scuffed trainers and baggy sweaters popularised by Seinfeld and Friends. 

Mad Men’s visionary costume designer Janie Bryant has said that for series one, set in 1960, the men favour skinny fitted suits, skinny ties, flat front trousers, lapels, tie bars, collar bars and “club collars”. Nostalgia-chic seems to work in forty-year cycles: just as Mad Men helped the noughties fetishise the sixties, the club collars worn by patrician smoothie Roger Sterling hark back to the twenties and thirties, reviving a look that became popular again in the late fifties. As the series wends its way through the decade, however, there’s a shift to kitsch - wider ties, plaid, more colour, more facial hair.

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Contributor

Ed Cripps

Ed is a screenwriter and journalist. His TV CV includes Episodes, Fresh Meat and Made in Chelsea (his first series of which won a BAFTA). In 2016, his piece on The South Bank Show came second in The Observer's Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism. In addition to The Rake, he has written for the TLS, MR PORTER and Little White Lies.