So this article may seem like a reach — all those secondary characters on AMC’s Mad Men dress the same, right?
Not a bit of it. There’s definitely some consistency between Ken, Paul, and Harry (and Salvatore when he was still around), but each man is still dressing for his own body type and complexion. Ken Cosgrove is great to look at for any man who shares his low-contrast complexion — a color profile all in similar shades, in his case pale blond with fair skin and blue eyes.
Low-Contrast Business Wear
Ken’s what we call a low-contrast man: his hair, eyes, and skin are all similarly light shades. Put him next to his fellow Mad Men and you’ll see what we mean. Ken’s blonde hair flows into his pale skin without much contrast, while even the brunettes have a fairly clear delineation between one color and the next.
So like a wise low-contrast man, Ken avoids deep colors that would stand out against his pale skin and sticks to a palette of mostly light browns, grays, tans, and duns that can sit against one another without a major visual jump in hue. Even his ties tend to feature gradually gradiated colors rather than contrasting colors in stark jux to position.
Ken Cosgrove, Brown Suits, and Business Dress
Ken’s preferred color scheme is heavy on browns and khakis. The trouble with that in 1960s advertising is that most men viewed the brown suit as too casual for business dress settings up until the late 20th century — some conservative dressers still consider brown a strictly social color choice, in fact.
His low-contrast suits in shades of brown are a big clue that Ken’s not as aggressively competitive as the sharper-dressed Don Draper or Pete Campbell. He’s also the only of the core Mad Men to regularly wear brown shoes and a brown belt.
What the less-formal brown is good for is Ken’s approachability. Brown makes him seem approachable and trustworthy, particularly next to a room full of gray and navy-suited Mad Men. His accessories seem to keep up the theme of a man deliberately dressing less formally than his companions; he wears an older jacket with a flat collar and no lapels. The unadorned shape gives him a very plain look when he’s out on the town.
Consistency in Casual
All that may make Ken Cosgrove seem like the Mad Man to imitate the least, but his style isn’t actually a bad one. It’s not aggressive or striking in the way that Draper or Sterling’s is (and that’s almost certainly part production necessity — can’t have a side character outshining the stars in his scenes), but it’s consistent and very well-chosen for his face and figures.
Ken’s a good example of what a modern man might wear to work in a relaxed business setting, somewhere that requires suits but not the very upper echelons of business dress at all times. He’s also the man to watch for all our low-contrast readers, and the only one in Mad Men to really address that challenge with his wardrobe.
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