The Styles of AMC's Mad Men – Menswear of the 1960s
Who ever thought the 1960s would be so good? 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!
This article unpacks the personal style of Harry Crane, the Head of Media at Sterling Cooper (and later Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce)
In a show all about sharp-dressed men, Harry Crane stands out. He's not a bad dresser, but his bow tie and truly unfortunate glasses make you wonder if he just doesn't quite get something that his fellow Mad Men know intuitively.
As it turns out, that's deliberate: costumer Janie Byrant described Harry saying “I wanted his character to seem more like his wife is shopping for him.” So it's no accident that Harry's a little frumpier than the rest of the firm — but that doesn't make him badly-dressed.
Mad Men Style: The Traditional Suit & Jacket
If we want to be kind to Harry, we can just call him “a little old-fashioned.” The rest of the Mad Men are mostly progressive in their fashion: they've embraced the modern American sack suit with its soft lines and tapered waist, sport skinny ties, and are starting to make more daring choices in color and pattern than the plain gray flannel suit and white dress shirt.
Harry is more of a classic model, wearing mostly solid-color sack suits with untapered waists — and of course, the old-fashioned bow tie.
Harry's jackets are either three-button or the 3/2 style, where two buttons are placed further apart than on a true two-button suit, with the top button high up on the chest to give the impression of a three-button coat. The exception is his summer suit, a white pinstriped number he wears only once.
It's likely a seersucker, though it's hard to tell without getting close enough to see the characteristic wrinkled texture, but at the very least it's made to look like one, and that puts it squarely in the category of old-time summer wear.
Notice that the other Mad Men have worn light-colored monochrome suits — a more modern summer style.
The key thing to remember here is that Harry still looks pretty smart — he's just a more conventional dresser than some of his more experimental fellows. He has a very classic look, and the solid dark colors he favors are the dead-on right choice for his broader body type and dark hair.
The Classic Art of Wearing a Bow Tie
The most noticeable thing setting Harry apart from the other Mad Men is his preference for bow ties. Considerably less common in office settings than “regular” neckties (both then and now), the bow tie was and remains a perfectly acceptable alternative — even a touch dressier, in no small part because it demonstrates a degree of extra care and skill on the part of the wearer.
The rest of his outfits are very standard-issue for a corporate worker of his time, but the bow tie helps him stand apart a bit, and he seems to know how to choose them and wear them well.
No plain black bows here; Harry wears interesting colors and patterns, always impeccably tied.
Contemporary men might even want to take inspiration from Harry's example — a properly-tied bow tie in a well-chosen color is an excellent way to demonstrate a level of sartorial skill that the average blue-shirt-red-tie wearer lacks.
Mad Men Fashion in Dress Shirts
The office standard of the early 1960s was a plain white dress shirt, and there really weren't any other options. Colored shirts were strictly evening and casual wear, and would remain so for another decade. Harry follows step with ordinary white shirts and regular point collars (button-down collars were also considered too casual for business wear at the time), but he's different from the other Mad Men in one key way: he wears short-sleeved business shirts.
And he's the only one, too…
This is a notable deviation from Harry's otherwise classic style. Short-sleeved dress shirts never really made it into the pantheon of classic business wear, and even today are considered fairly silly on anyone that doesn't work for the Miami Police Department. By wearing them at the office, he's not really breaking any rules…but he's not going to impress anyone that sees him with his jacket off, either.
It's an interesting quirk that can go mostly hidden, but tells us a lot about the character when we see it — and it's definitely not a style to emulate.
Details of Harry Crane's Style
Like all the Mad Men, Harry does pay attention to details that many modern men now overlook. His hair is obviously well-maintained, and we never see him wear a wristwatch that doesn't match his belt reasonably closely. He carries a pocket square, though without the elaborate folding that some of the other Mad Men prefer — his is reliably a neat horizontal line across the breast.
Harry also matches his hose (socks) to his trousers, rather than his shoes, a key choice that many modern Americans are unaware of. This allows the line of his leg to remain unbroken all the way down to his shoes, whereas socks matched to the footwear would create a band of jarringly mis-matched color around his ankles whenever his trousers rode up.
We don't tend to see cufflinks on Harry as much as we do on the other Mad Men, largely because of his preference for short-sleeved shirts, but when he does wear a long-sleeved dress shirt he is sure to show a half-inch of sleeve past the end of his jacket sleeve:
And he's reasonably good at keeping his hands out of his pockets, which is an issue for all the Mad Men in their single-vented jackets. With only a single slit in the middle of the back, their jackets tend to bunch up around the wrist if the wearer puts his hands in his pockets.
Harry's good about keeping the lines of his suit clean and unbunched.
At the end of the day, Harry's not going to be the most interesting of the Mad Men to look at. What the viewer should take away from his style is the careful maintenance and attention to detail that go into keeping him looking crisp and clean and just a touch more formal than the rest of the crew. And with a new season starting, he may yet surprise us all…