RAPID CITY, S.D. – For proof that “Mad Men” and the 1960s are influencing men’s fashion lately, look no further than Matt McDonald’s hair and Paul Mitchell’s eye glasses.
McDonald is a 22-year-old college student and part-time bartender in Rapid City with tattoos and Don Draper’s close-cropped haircut.
Mitchell, 19, wears the same thick, black horn-rimmed glasses that his grandfather did when World War II ended, while selling men’s suits with skinny lapels and slim pant legs at Halberstadt’s in the Rushmore Mall.
“This is such a defining moment to show how pop culture drives what we’re all doing,” said Chelly Halterman, stylist and co-owner at The Factory. The popularity of 1960s fashions has affected trends in clothing, hairstyles, interior design and even cocktails.
Banana Republic recently released its second year of a “Mad Men”-inspired ready-to-wear clothing line. Men’s wear designers have redefined men’s business attire in recent years to reflect the classic look of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
“Go to any bar and ask bartenders what the young men are ordering now. They’re starting to drink Old Fashioneds. It’s crazy, seeing young men with what we think of as grandpa drinks,” Halterman said.
Halterman recently returned from a week at the Sassoon Academy in Santa Monica, Calif., where she studied how to cut men’s hair with true barbering techniques to flatter their head shape and face structure.
“Barbering to me is something very different than the typical ‘pick up a pair of clippers and put a guard on it’ look,” she said. Sassoon now offers a barbering course for people in the cosmetology industry, and Halterman will be training The Factory’s stylist staff in the method. “They’re seeing that there’s going to be a need for those skills in our industry,” she said of Sassoon.
That demand comes from younger customers like McDonald. About a year ago, he started getting his hair cut with a classic barbered look instead of the “DIY – do-it-yourself – punk rock, shave your head” buzz cuts he had favored earlier.
“It’s something kind of different. I’ve gotten a lot of positives on it,” he said. “I’ve become a fan of getting a haircut … when it’s done right by somebody who knows what they’re doing.”
People often tell him he looks like Captain America, or make a Don Draper comment. His hair sends a classic message about his looks, according to Dennis Halterman, creative director with The Factory Salon Systems. “The signal from his hair is conservative. It’s his style, and it works for him. It sends a signal about what he’s trying to say about who he is,” Halterman said.
Once he graduates from Black Hills State University, McDonald expects his new hairstyle to be an advantage in the job search. “Oh, definitely. I’ll just have to wear a suit and tie and I think I’ll be set.”
Never a big “Mad Men” fan, McDonald insists he takes his close-cropped hair fashion more from actor musician Ryan Gosling than Don Draper.
“It comes with the underground music scene. It’s kind of popular in hardcore music,” McDonald said of his haircut choice.
He watched about six episodes of the show’s first season, but it didn’t appeal to him.
“I really got turned off by him,” McDonald said of Draper’s complex, morally bankrupt character. The show, now in its fifth season, is the only television show to win four Emmys in a row for best drama series.
Love it or hate it, “Mad Men”-inspired fashion has redefined men’s wear in recent years, Halterman and Steve Johnson, manager of Halberstadt’s, agree.
“The ties have gotten narrower, the lapels have gotten smaller, the pant legs have gotten slimmer. It’s the slim look,” said Johnson. “That show influences other shows and pretty soon you’re seeing the slim look in lots of places.”
“The beauty of those shows is that they’re incredibly decadent,” Halterman said of “Mad Men,” and “Magic City,” a Showtime series set in 1959 Havana. “They’ve got suits and ties on; they’re drinking Scotch before noon and having affairs with their secretaries. There’s a lot of things we probably don’t want to go back to, but there’s a lot that comes with it, fashion-wise, because of that message about how we look.”