The way we watch television changed fundamentally this decade. With the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, in addition to offerings from standard and premium cable channels, countless numbers of new shows premiered—and the unprecedented competition ushered in a new Golden Age of TV. With all these new programs came countless new characters, stories and, yes, new styles too.
This decade saw the end of one goliath, the rise of another, the return of old friends and the rise of endless obsessions. And a large part of what underpinned the best of these programs was
From its 2007 debut through its final episode in 2015, Mad Men had a seismic impact on the way American men dress. While it was on the air, the tailoring industry exploded, and the generously cut suits guys stopped wearing in the 1990s were soon replaced by slim-cut, modern answers to what the guys at Sterling Cooper would have worn.
Helmed by visionary designer Jamie Bryant, each bit of costuming served not only as a guidepost for a radically shifting sartorial landscape but also as visual character development. Don Draper’s suits incorporate bolder colors and patterns during periods of “happiness” (insofar as that can exist for the character). Ever in the shadow of the man he so desperately wants to emulate, Pete Campbell’s wardrobe eventually starts to look like Draper’s early days at the agency. Late-season additions like Stan Rizzo and Michael Ginsberg hip up the joint in anti-establishment looks far too liberal for the adults in the room.
But no matter which character they identified with, at some point or another, it was hard not to see yourself (or a personal style you liked) on screen. Which is why it was so successful in getting guys interested in clothes again, and why its costumes are an indelible part of its legacy.
If there’s a worthy successor to Mad Men’s sartorial throne, it’s undoubtedly Succession. Jesse Armstrong’s pitch black HBO comedy about a media dynasty was a relatively slept-on show during its first season, but was jettisoned to the forefront of the culture in its second season.
Designer Michelle Matland worked tremendously hard to convey the arcs of each character in ways that aren’t immediately noticeable. As the head of the Roy family, patriarch Logan (Brian Cox) has bespoke suits that convey his sense of power. Comfortable, yet still elegant, it’s a representation of his status within the power struggle; he’s the puppet master pulling all the strings from on high. Kendall (Jeremy Strong) starts off in high-end corporate mufti before heading for earthier tones once his arc brings him out of the stratosphere and back to ground level. Roman (Kieran Culkin) starts dressing like an actual adult in his attempt to become more legitimate. Poor Tom (Matthew McFayden) never feels 100 percent comfortable in his skin (a point Matland confirms herself) and therefore feels the need to let everyone know his status, going so far as to wear a Moncler vest in an attempt to peacock at a conference. Everyone makes fun of him for it.
Making a show about the one percent of the one percent without nailing the look is a surefire way to lose an audience. Fortunately, that’s never been an issue with Succession, as its costumes have been as purposeful and pointed as Logan himself.
Twin Peaks: The Return
The first episode of David Lynch’s legendary series dropped viewers into a rain-soaked Pacific Northwest town where everything seemed to be idyllic. Over the course of its two seasons, ardent watchers quickly realized there was a deep, dark world lingering in between the gilded veneer. That’s how the wardrobe worked for many of its characters: appearances led you to assume one thing, and reality subverted those expectations entirely.
So when Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost decided to open up the doors to the Black Lodge once again in 2017, long-time fans were curious to see how the denizens of this mysterious town would change for a modern era. Costume designer Nancy Steiner faced considerable challenges (there were no notes or existing wardrobe leftover from the show’s run in the 90s), so she started almost entirely from scratch.
Looking at the results, you’d never be able to guess this was the case. Just like its first two seasons, the clothing is as American as Coop’s love for damn fine diner coffee and cherry pie. Characters like Michael Cera’s Wally Brando wear leather jackets worthy of, well, the actual Brando. The three (!) different versions of Kyle MacLachlan that we see throughout the series each have their own distinctive looks: Bad Coop’s Man-in-Black ensemble (accented with a snake print shirt!) is as chilling as his persona. Dougie Jones and his garish green sport coat further add to his idiotic charm. And, of course, Coop’s eventual return brings back the classic black FBI suit.
In the 25 years since Twin Peaks was off the air, designers have mined the show’s style for inspiration constantly (just look at how Raf Simons used stills directly from The Return in his most recent collection), proving once again that the gum you like will always come back into style.
Master of None
One of Netflix’s early standout shows, Master of None was lauded for its uncanny ability to be a container for all the different things its creator—multi-hyphenate Aziz Ansari—was interested in. As a noted menswear enthusiast himself, it tracks that Ansari’s character Dev would also have an elevated style. That sharp eye comes courtesy of costume designer (and stylist to Aziz himself) Dana Covarrubias.
While there’s some level of overlap between the man and the character, Dev initially favors brands that are pricey—but not prohibitively so. As the narrative progresses, Dev has access to more discretionary income, and begins to incorporate items from beloved European brands like AMI, Caruso, Isaia, Brunello Cucinelli, Zegna and Boglioli. The most memorable piece from the series was, arguably, a buffalo-plaid shearling jacket from Saint Laurent; like the show, it plays with Americana in a really interesting way.
Master of None put on a masterclass in showing just how timeless style can be—no matter the era. Even if the show never returns for another season, it will long serve as a surefire template on dressing well for generations of men to come.
When it comes to the intersection of fashion and pop culture, sometimes it’s hard to figure out where a certain trend begins. The same can’t be said for Stranger Things and the return of ’80s fashion, as there’s a seemingly direct connection between the two.
Washed out double denim, camp collars, corduroys, striped polos and tees, Converse, patterned-puffers and flannel shirts are as much an essential part of Hawkins as the Upside Down seems to be. With such a wide swath of clothing options across the show’s sizeable cast, there’s more than likely a style or two that viewers can connect with, making it a nostalgic treasure trove of inspirations—apt for a program that’s not shy wearing its influences on its sleeve.
Some shows take extravagant pleasure in showing off the wardrobe of their characters, but Atlanta’s approach (under designer Kairo Courts) is a little bit more subdued. Earn’s (Donald Glover) proclivity to wear sometimes cheesy graphic tees fits within the financial trappings of his character. Paper Boi’s (Brian Tyree Henry) style apes early Kanye days of pink polos and backpacks, but it also could be seen as reclaiming and remixing part of the standard-issue uniform of Southern frat boys; he’s found comfort in making it a uniform of his own, wearing variations of the staple in a cornucopia of different patterns and tones.
But it’s the wardrobe of Lakeith Stanfield’s Darius that most closely aligns with the show’s surreal tone. As Atlanta‘s undisputed sartorial champion, Darius has a unique and eccentric sense of fashion, mixing and matching elements of high and low fashion like a chemist experimenting in a lab: Relaxed cardigans are paired with wildly-patterned pants. Rollneck sweaters are layered under sport coats and paired alongside sweats and a beanie. Vivid shirting is contrasted with neutral earth tones to create dynamic pops.
The style of Atlanta is a layered and nuanced approach to a world that’s ever so slightly off-kilter from our own—just like the show itself. Its impact sneaks up on you, but leaves an impression that lingers long after it fades from the screen.
Writer Peter Morgan has made a career chronicling the lives of the powerful, with a particular focus on the British monarchy. As the showrunner of Netflix’s The Crown, Morgan has realized that no matter how accurate (or inaccurate) the historical facts might be, they’re nothing without the right look. We have to imagine that large amounts of what’s rumored to be one of the most expensive series Netflix produces go towards the lavish costume design.
Across its three seasons, The Crown has employed three designers (Michele Clapton, Jane Petrie and Amy Roberts respectively) to ensure top historical accuracy across all of its designs. The clothing of the Royals is regal beyond compare, offering a compelling template on how to elevate one’s style. For Philip, this means a lot of sharp tailoring (and full military regalia) that show a sense of refinement and class. And, of course, a show about British heritage wouldn’t be complete without some Barbour jackets.
The entire show takes painstaking effort to re-create infamous looks, offering a flawlessly accurate depiction of what real power looks like. Short answer? Good as hell.
American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace
Costume designers Lou Eyrich and Allison Leach probably relate to the high ambition of Ryan Murphy’s second installment of American Crime Story, as legend has it they had to work to create the stunning designs of the beloved fashion house without the support of the house of Versace. You’d never be able to tell in the final product though, as every single one of the show’s designs is worthy of the icon institution (Eyrich and her team ended up buying a considerable number of vintage pieces from collectors to better outfit the series). It’s something seen directly in the portrayals of Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez) and Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss). Versace, of course, has extravagant wealth (seen in his elegant and vivid designs), whereas Cunanan only has its pretense. The costumes highlight the difference between the two.
Fashion has always been a shorthand to show the world how an individual defines themselves. American Crime Story understands both the agony and the ecstasy of this very phenomenon—and realizes it fully.
Little Drummer Girl
Spies have long had the best toys. But Little Drummer Girl continues the long-standing tradition of ensuring they have the best clothes too.
That idea is very much at the core of the 2018 television adaptation of the best-selling novel from acclaimed writer John le Carré. As helmed by visionary director Park Chan-wook, with costumes from Sheena Napier and Stephen Noble, Little Drummer Girl is flush with late ’70s style that has seen a resurgence of late. Alexander Skarsgård’s Joseph Becker is first introduced in a luxurious forest green suede jacket (and he liked it enough to apparently spring for one of his own) and a red shirt that look more like he’s heading to a Christmas party than on a secret spy mission. Later, he opts for camp collar shirts in mustard yellows and linen sky blues that pop against the dire situations.
Tailored clothing is always going to have a meaningful place in a man’s wardrobe. But if there’s someone that still needs convincing about the impact a sharp shoulder can have, Peaky Blinders should clear those misconceptions right up.
Costume designer Stephanie Collie outfits the Birmingham gang in a number of clothes that appear decidedly simple upon first glance. However, a deeper inspection of the uniform provides a level of dedication to detail that’s intensely admiring and aspirational. Wild West cowboys had their dusters, the Blinders have chunky topcoats with peak lapels (pun intended). Three-piece suits are tapered and cropped to better frame the elegant lace-up boots. Penny collar shirts are buttoned all the way to the neck for a bold air tie look. Classic British heritage textures and patterns like herringbone and tweed dominate, providing both style and warmth against the English winter. Oh, and no Blinder’s outfit would be complete without the classic baker boy cap.
The Shelby family’s business is often nasty in nature. But credit where credit is due: Even when they’re breaking bad, they look damn good doing it.