Mad Men's Bert Cooper

Bow Ties on Mad Men

Mad Men's Bert Cooper

Bert Cooper

The first part of Mad Men‘s final season starts in less than two weeks on April 13th in the United States. As a show, it has had a significant impact on pop culture. Although there are many shows on broadcast networks (ones that either don’t require getting cable or pay for more expensive channel packages) with higher ratings, it has done very well for its home network — AMC. Further, Matt Weiner and company have given the network that was previously known for only playing movies a lot of cachet since Mad Men‘s July 2007 premiere. TV critics and “affluencers*” helped propel this show into the zeitgeist.

Harry Crane

Harry Crane

One aspect of culture influenced by the show’s popularity is fashion — for both men and women. The mod styles of the 1960s once again were desired. For menswear and neckwear enthusiasts, bow ties are also favorably spotlit by the series.

Two regular characters wear them:

  • Bert Cooper (played by Robert Morse), the eccentric name partner of the various ad firms where most of the adult characters work, wears them almost exclusively.
  • Harry Crane (played by Rich Sommer), the awkward head of the firms’ television departments, which is good for him as TV advertising was the wave of the future back then. Unlike Cooper, he doesn’t wear bow ties exclusively. In fact, as time progresses he started to wear ascots.

So, why do Cooper and Crane don (get it… Don Draper) bow ties instead of skinny ties that so many of the other male characters sport? Well, Winston Churchill wore them as a tribute to his father while retired US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens claims that he has trouble tying four-in-hand knots, but I’m not sure why these two gents have made this sartorial choice. However, I do know why Janie Bryant, the show’s Costume Designer, dresses them thus. As she told me via Twitter:

So, there you have it. Bryant uses the neckwear to enhance Cooper’s idiosyncrasies and Crane’s youth. That’s what makes bow ties awesome; they have the power to enhance a range of different traits for all sorts of men.

Be sure to keep track of other famous characters who wear bow ties.

* “Affluencers,” according to the New York Times back in October 2008, is a term that former TV executive Frances Berwick — then the general manger of the Bravo network — helped coined. Along with network prexy Lauren Zalaznick, Berwick’s focus on this demographic is credited with successfully turning around the American cable channel by targeting a subset of these affluent people with great ability to influence others. As Susan Dominus explains in her NYT article:

The network even created for advertisers a one-off magazine called Bravo Affluencer, which depicted on its cover two quintessential affluent influencers: an attractive man and woman, both in their late 20s, shopping bags and P.D.A.’s in hand, passports visible in pockets, dressed casually but stylishly, looking savvy, plugged in, on top of it. The two could easily be the sitcom characters Will and Grace; in fact, Bravo executives actually use the phrase “Will and Grace”to describe a subset of their viewers: urban gay men and single female professionals, two categories of viewers particularly drawn to shows like “Project Runway” and “Top Chef.”