As Mad Men’s unflappable account man Roger Sterling, John Slattery tended to wear a fairly standardised costume of light grey three piece suit and white shirt; right up until the season 2 episode ‘Three Sundays’, when he donned a sharp double breasted suit for the first time.
Showing the main Sterling Cooper line-up away from their desks and enjoying (in some cases) a relaxing Sunday, this episode culminates in a last act, last minute pitch for American Airlines. Evidently landing such a prominent account would elevate ‘Sterling Coo’ into the big leagues so everyone has to be ready and raring to go, or as Lane Price (Jared Harris) would put it when the British arrive in all their pomp and RP finery, “ship shape and Bristol fashion”.
Aware of the importance and clearly enjoying the “chase” as he calls it, Roger stands ready to deliver with his golden handshake and confident glow. He is wearing a double breasted suit, which is the first time his character has done so on the show. Popularised in the U.S. by Prince Edward (then Prince of Wales) during the 1930s, the DB brings forth an air of formality and boxy American machismo, bestowing stature and power to those tall and slim enough to wear one. John Slattery is the ideal fit:
Mid-Grey with fine red, white, grey stripe double breasted suit; 6-on-4 button configuration, high peaked lapels, broad rope shoulders, flap pockets, three button cuff, no vents; narrow single pleat trousers; white double-cuff shirt with collar pin, light grey dotted pattern silk tie; light grey tucked in handkerchief.
This is not a fashionable suit for the era, not as such, though Roger is not a fashionable man. He is traditional, stiff, lets his colourful tone cause offense rather than his clothes. Notice how the bottom of the jacket crumples up with his hand in his pocket? That is because it’s ventless. This is far more common in America than Europe, where it is actually considered rather slouchy and bad manners to stand in such a way.
Interesting then that the double breasted suit should be championed by a man who epitomised the concept of ‘dressing soft’; the Prince of Wales’ unusual fabric choices and sometimes outlandish travel attire were mainly comfort orientated. His DBs were generally cut looser than Roger’s too. Certainly in regards to the column silhouette, i.e. broad shoulders and slim waist, the Mad Men DB takes its lead from Savile Row tailor Frederick Scholte’s ‘London Cut’ of the thirties, yet the jacket would have run a little longer.
Just a year after season 2 was set, angry young Mods in two-tone suits were fighting it out with leather clad Rockers on the beaches of Brighton in the UK, and two years later The Beatles would arrive in New York wearing slim single breasted jackets and drainpipe trousers. This youthful exuberance is light years away from Sterling Cooper, even with their younger additions to the firm. To Roger’s credit he does understand that he is a dying breed, he just does not choose to accept it yet. And does he not look solid and powerful in that high-cut double breasted suit? Even with Don Draper standing just inches away, Roger owns the room.
There is a fabulous shot of the core Sterling Cooper team facing Duck Philips as he slips sheepishly inside to tell them the meeting is off. Bert Cooper is sitting centre stage in his bow tie looking like Colonel Sanders of the advertising world; Don is uncharacteristically tense with his hands clasped by his groin. And there is Roger, chest out, shoulders back, just a few moments prior warming up with a Lucky Strike and neck stretches.
It is no surprise that the DB worked its way into costume designer Janie Bryant’s rotation for the character. Roger wears it better than the Prince.
You can watch John Slattery in Mad Men at LOVEFiLM.com.
Mad Men season 4 is released in the UK on DVD and Blu-Ray on 28th March.
© 2011 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.