The new series of Mad Men is returning to our screens, along with its image of a universally well-dressed, well-suited, workplace. But a good suit needed deep pockets back in the 1960s…
While the pennies (and shillings) in the pockets of Mad Men’s characters aren’t the TV show’s focus, the archives of Which? show what’s changed in 50 years, and how expensive it would have been to get an interview with Don Draper.
The suit was de rigueur in the 1965 workplace, so Which? sent out a strapping model with mismatched legs (all the better for testing) to a range of tailors to have a suit made.
Cheap suits – from swinging Carnaby to austerity Britain
So, how much was a suit back in 1965? Well, our research found that a Savile Row suit took four fittings and four men around seven to nine weeks to make, and would cost up to £91 (£1,300 today).
A price that might be expected for Savile Row, but what about a cheaper option? Well we found one of those too – the cheapest suit we found in 1965 was £17, or £250 in today’s money. It only took one fitting and four to seven weeks to complete.
Wow – £250 for a cheap suit! This was when the average salary was about £12,000 in today’s money, compared to £23,000 now.
And nowadays you can buy an Asda suit for just £29! Of course, it’s made of the purest polyester (an option unavailable in the 60s) rather than pure wool. If you do want the traditional option, you can pick up a wool suit in the sales from about £100, or order a bespoke one for about £250.
But if you feel like splashing out you can still go to the 1965 winner, Savile Row’s H Huntsman, though the cost of one of their bespoke suits has risen somewhat to £3,995.
Essential workplace wear for the job you’ve always dreamed of
When we published our report in 1965, the suit was essential in the office and especially during your interview. You really had no choice. No wonder Which? said at the time that you just had to ‘grit your teeth and buy a mid-range suit’.
As for today, there generally isn’t a dresscode in most offices, though a suit is still seen as essential for interviews. It is, however, much cheaper to pick up a decent suit for such occasions. And, you can always get help from a charity.
So while the cost of a suit has changed, one thing hasn’t – how to wear it well. That’s where our 1965 guide on how best to wear a suit comes in (click on the image to enlarge). After all, if you’ve spent so much on it, you’ll want to wear it right.
Does our advice still stand? Or would you like to see a 21st Century version – perhaps on the best way to wear beltless baggy trousers, or skinny jeans in Shoreditch.
How much have you shelled out on workwear for an interview, even if it wasn’t with Don Draper?