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“Mad Men” is not the first TV show or film to influence the suit. Here are seven iconic moments on the small and silver screens that redefined men’s tailoring.
This story first appeared in the October 15, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Dr. No,” 1962
Ian Fleming created in James Bond an enduring symbol of masculine power — one that was made flesh by a tuxedo-clad Sean Connery in the first Bond film. “Suits project masculinity and stability — all values associated with James Bond,” said Andrew Bolton, curator at The Costume Institute. “007 reflects this masculine ideal of being in control; he renders suits cool.”
When a suit-clad Cary Grant hopped into the shower in a seminal moment in the movie, he confirmed a nation’s developing taste for both seersucker and fabrics that could be washed. “His suit reflects the culture’s wider desire for technological advancement,” said Bolton. “Central air had allowed lighter-weight fabrics, which in turn permitted suits to become more versatile and part of a lifestyle.”
“The Tonight Show,” 1968
Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s appearances on American TV in the mid-Sixties ignited interest in the lapel-less jacket that bears his name. But it was Johnny Carson’s adoption of the mandarin collar coat that turned the Nehru into a full-fledged, if short-lived, trend.
“The Great Gatsby,” 1974
Ralph Lauren dressed Robert Redford in the classic American style his brand would come to define. But the suits in the film also advanced the decade’s penchant for dandyism, said Bolton. “It really shows the Seventies interest in 1920s America. You see it in the width of the lapels.”
“American Gigolo,” 1980
This film signaled a new direction in men’s wear and gave the movie’s wardrober, Giorgio Armani, his first break in America. After a decade of excessive disco style, Armani presented an alternative that not only showed that tailored clothing could be relaxed, but also heralded the rise of the designer market.
“Miami Vice,” 1984
Don Johnson’s signature look — T-shirt, jacket, loose pants and shoes with no socks — became widely popular when this police drama first aired. “It subverted this idea that tailored clothing was formal,” Bolton said.
“Wall Street,” 1987
Spread collars, Hermès ties, colored braces, banker stripes — Gordon Gekko’s wardrobe, designed by Alan Flusser, popularized the power suit. “This movie typified the aspirational yuppie,” explained Bolton. “Instead of being associated with disco or leisure, the suit became a requirement for the white-collar worker.”