When Mad Men began, in 2007, many men – myself included – were wearing the same scoop-necked, vintage band T-shirts, too-skinny jeans and winklepickers we had started the millennium in. It was a time when Hedi Slimane’s pipe-cleaner menswear silhouette was still worth skipping lunch for, when Peter Doherty and his band of rakes were roaming the back alleys of Camden, inhaling the last vapours of indie rock credibility.
Then Don Draper waltzed in, with his grey suits, heavily pomaded, side-parted hair, billowy white shirts and perfectly neat pocket square. He looked like your dad, but sharper: like James Stewart in Rear Window, or Steve McQueen in the original Thomas Crown Affair. His scurrilous behaviour was hidden by his perfectly groomed exterior, and he oozed timeless style. From silvery Prince of Wales check suits to high-collar brown trenches, to perfectly narrow ties, to the fact that he wore PJs to bed, the 60s details were faultless – thanks mainly to the obsessive eye of show creator Matthew Weiner.
For fashion writers, Draper became a totem of a new era of formality in menswear. Designers caught the 60s bug, with the show inspiring collections from the likes of Brooks Brothers and Banana Republic. Draper had imbued the humble two-piece with a sense of cool, a sense of modernity, so much so that the number of men in my office who began wearing one to work – with neither a court appearance nor a job interview due – rose exponentially.
Rather than the uniform of The Man, a well-tailored suit became the perfect sheep’s clothing for wannabe wolves – carrying you all the way through the day with elan, whether you knew the direction you were travelling or not. For me, this switch couldn’t have come sooner. There’s nothing quite as tragic as seeing a 30-year-old ageing hipster forcing his legs into pleather jeggings alongside some 19-year-olds in Topman. Draper’s influence allowed me to grow up, gracefully.
Still, one wonders what Draper’s style legacy will be. The years (and six series of the show) have ticked by, and while other characters have grown beards and experimented with bell bottoms, embracing the looser, wilder times ahead, Draper has stuck to the grey suits. He has become a staunch style conformist. What started seven years ago as the slick personification of one man’s inner mojo has ended up feeling like something of a cliche.
So what next? Walter White from Breaking Bad hasn’t ushered in the next great age of chemistry teacher-inspired attire. Yes, we have Sherlock, but that’s one coat (Belstaff) and not much else. Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who with his “air tie” and DMs? Doubtful. Nor is there much hope for HM doing a collaboration with a Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones – although personally, I’d be partial to a little light armour as outwear this coming autumn/winter. So far as TV style icons go, men are in short supply. Don’s TV reign may be coming to a close, but his sartorial impact will be shopped for sometime to come.
• Jonathan Heaf is features director of GQ
His look: from the start, Campbell has sought to emulate Don’s cool – first deferentially but increasingly with that now-familiar foot stomp of a spoilt child. At first glance, with the well-cut suits and Brylcreemed hair, he succeeds. But Campbell is woefully uncool – that’s one of the aspects that makes watching him so compelling. His clothes reflect this brilliantly – they’re just that little bit too pin-sharp, starched, uptight and totally in character.
Style moment: it’s got to be the pyjamas. He has an array of excellent sets, all of which give a disarmingly innocent look to Mad Men’s resident snake. They have a cult following too, with a Tumblr dedicated to them.
Where to buy: best to go for the pyjamas over the suits. Brooks Brothers has lovely pairs that would look great accessorised with a finger of whiskey and a dark secret to mull over.
His look: a relative newbie to the Mad Men gang, Ginsberg first appeared in series five. His style was a breath of fresh air right from the start, reflecting the younger generation that overruled grownups such as Don from the mid-60s onwards. Ginsberg is as eccentric in his wardrobe as he is in his manner. He wears loud, checked jackets, chunky cardigans, printed shirts and a moustache that has a bit of a comedy anchorman about it. Nothing matches, but put it all together and a picture comes into view.
Style moment: yet to come. Judging by the publicity stills from the new series, the 70s suit Ginsberg. Expect his penchant for a statement printed jacket to run riot.
Where to buy: there’s something Prada-esque about some of Ginsberg’s clothes. On the high street, head to Topman, where print is having a moment.
His look: it says something about Roger Sterling that even when he takes LSD in series five, he does so in an immaculate suit. Throughout Mad Men, Sterling’s suits have been a constant – up there with Don’s infidelities and Joan’s iron rule of the secretarial staff. Fond of a three-piece style, sometimes with a double-breasted jacket, his silver hair following a strict Lego-like template. Sterling wears his clothes as armour and, in the battle to stay relevant as each new intake of alpha males arrives, they’re his secret weapon.
Style moment: take your pick – the strength of Sterling’s style is that it’s a uniform. A steel-grey three-piece suit, accessorised with sunglasses and cocktail in the back of Harry Crane’s convertible last series was a high point.
Where to buy: Cos is partial to grey tailoring and can be relied on to give just a little twist to update Sterling’s signature suit.