Today we introduce the first in an ongoing feature by our Gilt Women’s Editorial Director, Tracey Lomrantz Lester. While we’re sure you love having us wax poetic on the stylish goings-on of menswear and all that it entails, sometimes it’s just better if you hear from the point of view of the fairer sex. So without further ado, we present “The XX Factor.” (See what we did there?)
The competition for best dressed Mad Men character is stiff — Roger Sterling works three-piece suits like a total boss, Megan Draper is the show’s resident clotheshorse, and Betty Frances is in a league all her own–but the title of smarmiest dude to occupy a suit? That distinction belongs to Pete Campbell alone. As we gear up for the season six premiere (Sunday at 9pm ET on AMC), we’re taking a look back at his style evolution, from post-grad office drone to Greenwich-dwelling SCDP partner.
His Deerfield years clearly left a mark on Pete’s sartorial subconscious — schoolboy blazers and repp ties paved the way for one highly prized, oversized blue suit with super narrow lapels. The fact that it’s in heavy rotation? Simply the sign of a thoroughbred prep — after all, the guys who invented elbow patches and esteem the threadbarest of oxfords aren’t afraid to be seen in the same thing twice.
He’ll see your inheritance and raise you one Dartmouth degree. An unexpected weekend pitch for American Airlines brings Pete to the office in his teeny tennis whites, and his fellow ad execs to tears cracking jokes at his expense.
By the time Pete rings in 1963, a developing resemblance to Don is no coincidence. His suit is slimmer, his hair more Brylcreemed, and his attitude towards women decidedly more Draper-esque, all thanks to his promotion and extended face time with the boss. That he falls short by every measure (really, who can compete with that coiffe?) is beside the point.
His wife is pregnant, his father-in-law is finally handing over the Vick’s business, and he’s fallen on the sword for the sake of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, which makes Mr. Campbell as much of a man as he’ll ever be. He celebrates by leaving his cultivated collegiate look behind in favor of some slightly misguided wardrobe choices (striped shirts, pin collars, a gray sharkskin suit) emblematic of his suspect approach to adulthood.
By season five, Pete’s feeling restless in Cos Cob, and accepts that the best thing about his new address just may be the carte blanche it grants to wear madras.
A sneak peek at the premiere reveals that Pete’s sense of daring extends beyond his willingness to box in the boardroom–yes, those are sideburns. And a purple polka-dot pocket square. With a matching tie. Hold on to your hats, gents, the revolution is coming.