Mad Men, 1970 Style – Sterling’s Sporty Turtleneck
John Slattery as Roger Sterling, aging ad man
New York City, Fall 1970
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “Person to Person” (Episode 7.14)
Air Date: May 17, 2015
Director: Matthew Weiner
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Mad Men style typically evokes thoughts of men in sleek, ’60s-cut business suits, raising a glass of whiskey behind a veil of Lucky Strike smoke while juggling accounts and affairs. Of course, even a Madison Avenue man dresses down on the weekends.
By the series finale, set in the fall of 1970, we’ve already spent more than a decade of the show’s timeline with those in the Sterling Cooper orbit, watching them absorb everything from mergers and acquisitions to murders and assassinations. The world has significantly changed since the pre-Camelot days of the pilot episode and with it came slackened dress codes and a looser sense of decorum overall.
Roger Sterling’s world has changed considerably as well. A decade after his first of two heart attacks suffered from living like he was “on shore leave”, the ad man has been twice-divorced with scores of casual affairs and drug experiences. As the tumultuous 1960s come to a close, the quintessential accounts man is looking at a future without advertising, having met the [age-appropriate] love of his life, grown a mustache, and secretly fathered a son with his former lover, Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks).
A decade after their affair had all but ended—the fruit of that “all but” in the form of five-year-old Kevin—Roger and Joan have reached a platonic detente as Roger acquaints himself with the product of his impulsive alleyway assignation with Joan. Following an afternoon together leading up to Halloween, Roger sits Joan down and declares that he’s revised his will to bequeath a portion of his estate to Kevin.
“That’s a pretty expensive way to mark your territory,” responds Joan. She has every right to be cynical, as Roger has spent much of that decade asking his beloved “Red” to return to his bed, but he surprises her again by announcing that he’s taking his romantic life in a new direction to spend the September of his years in hedonistic glory with Marie Calvet (Julia Ormond), the fiery French-Canadian mother-in-law of their colleague Don Draper.
“That’s spectacular,” a reassured Joan laughs. “What a mess!”
What’d He Wear?
Roger squires Joan and Kevin around Manhattan in a fall-friendly gun club check sport jacket and turtleneck, a fashionably contemporary look in an era where Steve McQueen’s rollnecked eponymous character in Bullitt (1968) was epitomizing cool.
As Alan Flusser defines it in Dressing the Man, the Scottish-originating gun club check consists of a warp and weft “arranged in three colors and woven in a two-up, two-down twill… an even check pattern with rows of alternating colors and, usually, a white background.” In this case, the soon-to-retire Roger wears a larger-scaled gun club check consisting of an alternating black and olive houndstooth pattern against a stone-colored ground.
Roger’s napped woolen single-breasted sports coat has broad notch lapels that, while not as broad as those popularized in the decade to follow, stretch closer to the armholes than to the center of the jacket and are finished with a sporty edge swelling that’s barely noticeable against the busy check. In addition to the welted breast pocket, the two-button jacket has hip pockets with wide flaps and a long single vent in the back, the respective width and length portending the menswear excesses to follow during the disco era. The three black woven leather buttons on each cuff match the two on the front of the jacket.
As the name implies, gun club check originated with rural sports, though it had evolved in the century since its first adoption by an American shooting team to become an acceptable sport jacket pattern frequently worn in city and country alike.
Roger calls out the stone ground and earthy tones of his jacket by layering it over a beige turtleneck that appears to be constructed from a soft wool like merino or even cashmere with a narrowly ribbed rollneck.
Roger balances his top half with a pair of charcoal gray trousers that correspond to the black check in his jacket’s gun club pattern. He had long abandoned the traditional lace-ups favored by his co-workers, even with business dress, so it should be no surprise that he again wears his usual black leather ankle boots, fastened with a short zipper that runs vertically up the inside of each boot.
In nearly all of his appearances from the third season onward, Roger Sterling adorned his left pinky with a gold signet ring. Pinky rings were a common mid-century affectation for men of wealth and fame, so it’s no surprise that the smooth Gotham blue blood would pick out a pinky ring of his own.
Secured by a black leather bracelet to the the opposing wrist, Roger wears a Tudor Oyster Prince ref. 7967 that had been his daily wristwatch since the fifth season. Manufactured in 1959, Roger’s screen-worn, self-winding Oyster Prince has an elegant “tuxedo dial”, consisting of a round black center with silver non-numeric hour markers in the outer silver ring.
As explained in the Christie’s listing from a December 2015 auction, this Tudor was one of several watches loaned to the series by vintage watch specialist Derek Dier, who worked with Mad Men property master Ellen Freund to dress the wrists of those in the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce orbit.
How to Get the Look
Despite the pattern’s origins in country sports, Roger Sterling effectively wears his gun club check for day out in the city, adding contemporary sensibilities by layering the jacket over a turtleneck that would have ensured his fashionably hip status in Nixon-era Manhattan.
- Black-and-olive-on-stone gun club check wool single-breasted 2-button sport jacket with wide notch lapels, welted breast pocket, wide-flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and long single vent
- Beige soft woolen turtleneck
- Charcoal trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black leather side-zip ankle boots
- Gold signet pinky ring
- Tudor Oyster Prince stainless steel automatic watch with silver-ringed, black “tuxedo” dial on black leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the whole series… or just the final season, if you still haven’t caught up or need to complete your collection.
I don’t want to put you in an awkward position when some man you used to work with leaves your son a small fortune.
Gun check is specifically for an even weave that results in a multicolored gingham effect. The check on Roger’s jacket, with different colored bands of 4×4 houndstooth check, is a shepherd’s check, not a gun check.
Perhaps you could help me sort this out, as there doesn’t seem to be any consensus at least among the sources I consult. I had always visualized shepherd’s check as essentially a “twill gingham”, almost always in two colors.
Based on examples I’ve seen, I hadn’t considered that a houndstooth weave would be an unacceptable basis for a pattern to fit the gun club criteria, though I wouldn’t doubt that my brain may have been warp-ed (if you’ll excuse the pun) by American marketing shortcuts. I had also been interpreting the “even check pattern” described by Flusser to be any balanced check where the shapes formed — be they squares or teeth — were consistently the same size, following the example he illustrated in Dressing the Man of the prolific James Stewart wearing what appears to be a 4×4 houndstooth defined by the author as gun club.
The sources generally seem to be confused on the matter, but the one thing I am consistently seeing is that a gun club check is made up of intersecting lines in an even spacing with twill lines visible, so it is closer to a multicolored gingham than a 4×4 houndstooth pattern. The original pattern, as adopted by the American Gun Club in 1874, was intersecting lines forming a four color grid check of black, russet, gold, and green.
I’m also seeing, like in the Gentleman’s Gazette link below, that shepherd’s check can be either in straight lines or in a 4×4 houndstooth pattern, and can be two colored or multicolored, as long as the tessellation appears to be intersecting lines from a distance and there are visible twill lines in the pattern. This would place a gun club check as a subset or a relative of a shepherd’s check.
This is very true! Will consider this moving forward 🙂
Oooooh very suave! Great post, thanks for sharing