The Styles of AMC's Mad Men – Menswear of the 1960s
Who ever thought the 1960s would be so cool? With the success of AMC's “Mad Men,” tight-fitted gray suits and crisp spread collars are suddenly getting a second look.
There's more going on than a simple “man in the gray flannel suit” look, however…join us in a series of articles taking an in-depth look at each of the Mad Men's personal style!
If it's a spoiler to say that Salvatore Romanao is Mad Men's token gay character, you weren't paying much attention to the costuming.
Mad Men costumer Jamie Byrant has described Sal's costuming as being not only flamboyant, but also tight-fitted and muti-layered to echo his repressed personal life. But does it work for him as more than symbolism? We'll take a closer look, but overall the answer seems to be “yes”…
Salvatore's Mad Men Style: Creative at Work
“Odd Jackets” and Trousers: Classic Menswear
Salvatore seems less dedicated to the full suit than his fellow Mad Men, often sporting unmatched jackets and trousers (“odd jackets” and “odd trousers” in the old-fashioned parlance) around the office. When we do see him in a matched suit, he's often wearing a differently-patterned waistcoat underneath it.
The look is a touch informal for the business world of the 1960s, but it's worth remembering that Sal's the Art Director. He's the creative side of the business, and people expect him to look the part.
Making an unmatched look like Sal's work takes a bit of careful choosing. With three, four, or even five colors all going on at once, he can't opt for basic complementary colors or other comfortable contrasts — at that point, the variety would just become garish. Instead we see him in outfits all based around a basic palate, with each piece coming in a different shade of the same basic color.
Brown suit, pants, tie, and pocket square; even the shirt is a rich, cream-colored off-white.
When he can, Sal also likes to vary up the textures of his clothes. The smooth front of his tie in the shot above is broken up with the repeating dot pattern, and the jacket has a rough weave that gives it a distinct texture of its own. The brown pants are smooth but not nearly as fine as the shirt, making them yet another distinct element that still blends with the overall impression.
The careful coordination of color and pattern makes Salvatore's odd jacket/trouser combination business-appropriate for in-house meetings at least, but we do occasionally see him sporting a matched suit — then and now, there is no substitute for true business dress.
European Style, American Suits
Beside making it clear that he's a creative and colorful character, Salvatore's costume design also emphasizes him as a lone European among the Sterling Cooper WASPs. He does not wear a true European suit as they were thought of in the 1960s, which would feature more squared shoulders and a tighter fit through the chest and hips, but he does wear a higher armscye (the hole where the sleeve meets the jacket) and a tighter shoulder than most of his fellow Mad Men, and his pants fit snugly throughout the thigh.
Despite their tighter fit, Salvatore's jackets are still fundamentally American, however — loose in the waist and hips, they're usually vented in the back and softer at the edges than anything a European businessman would have worn at the time as well. He sometimes wears very small peaked lapels as another American take on classic European style; in both of the photos above his jacket lapels are technically peaked, but subtly so.
The gray suit in particular could easily be mistaken for the more common notched lapel style.
Details of the Mad Men: Dress and Style Accents
Shirts and Ties in the Mad Men Style
Like all his co-workers, Salvatore wears a white dress shirt to work. His wardrobe is more colorful, but he still observes that much of basic business etiquette. Nothing else was appropriate in the early 1960s (and white still remains the most formal option in dress shirts). He wears French cuffs like many of his fellows, and his cufflinks tend to be more flamboyant than theirs:
The red cufflinks are a bold statement for office wear — but they match the tie perfectly.
Salvatore also sports a wider-spread collar than most of the other Mad Men, which fits his broader face well. He leans toward smaller, tighter knots for his neckties, which helps keep from making the small “V” of fabric above his habitual waistcoats appear completely smothered.
Appropriately, it would be almost impossible to claim that Salvatore favors a specific pattern or color of necktie — we see plaids, stripes, figures, solid colors, and anything else imaginable in the business world of the early 1960s around his neck at one point or another.
Pocket Squares — Classic Men's Style
Some of the Mad Men have a distinctive approach to pocket squares; a few choose not to wear them at all. Salvatore seems to mostly like variety, sporting rounded “puff” folds one day and very crisp, straight folds the next.
He steers clear of the pointed peaks that we often see on Roger Sterling, perhaps out of deference — something about Sterling's triple peak certainly seems to evoke a crown, befitting the boss of the office.
Regardless of the style, though, we rarely see Salvatore without some form of pocket adornment. Like many of his fellows, he seems to simply view it as a necessary accent for a truly well-dressed man.
Shoes and Hats
Salvatore's outerwear is another European nod, with very tight-fitted and flat-soled shoes in a brighter leather than the other Mad Men's. The only hat of his that we see is a soft felt casual number with a sporty little feather, in a very classic country green.
His vests make it hard to tell if he wears a belt or suspenders, but the latter seems more likely — a belt would be a difficult addition to work into his style, and would likely be less comfortable with Salvatore's close-fitted trousers as well.
Part of the gang, but still just a touch of an outsider.
Wearing Salvatore's Style: Creative Dress in the Workplace
Most of the lessons to take from Salvatore's style are about moderation: he mixes and matches articles of clothing but always keeps his color scheme very thematic, he borrows interesting styles like peaked lapels but wears them in very minimal forms; he breaks some of the rules of conventional office fashion but only one at a time.
As a creative voice rather than a strictly business advisor he enjoys some extra leeway, and takes advantage of it. Too much more leeway, and he wouldn't be dressed in appropriate business style anymore.