For just a moment, let’s take a trip back in time. A time where formalwear was worn everywhere, where the suit and tie were as commonplace as the t-shirt and jeans of today. While the decade was certainly not without its glaring flaws (more on that later), stylistically, the 1960s were a highlight of the past century, and perhaps no other group of people could be considered stalwarts of 1960s style quite like the Rat Pack.
Comprised of actors and singers (namely Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford), the Rat Pack were the who’s who of their time. But what was their secret to looking so damn cool? Let’s breakdown the style of the Rat Pack, and their “secret sauce” to looking effortlessly suave.
When it comes to the way the Rat Pack dressed, they were perhaps most famous for their stylish suits, and how those suits were tailored. Most of the suits that the Rat Pack wore were tailored by Sy Devore, a renowned tailor known for dressing some of the most famous members of Hollywood. Particularly admirable is the timeless aesthetic that the Rat Pack possessed in their tailoring. While these photographs were taken over 50 years ago, the members of the Rat Pack still look as fashionable today as they did back then.
This is a testament to Devore’s styling, which included slim fitting suits and tailored shirts. The silhouette of the Rat Pack’s suits are undoubtedly attractive, and this is due to the way each suit fits the wearer. Not too slim as to cause unattractive bunching in the jacket and trousers, but also not too loose to appear boxy or sloppy. This “goldilocks” level of fit is what gave the Rat Pack a timeless appeal, especially considering the trends of boxier and skinny fits that have appeared (and disappeared) throughout the decades.
Most of the suits worn by the Rat Pack were “sharkskin,” which is a smooth and worsted fabric, made using two yarns of different shades in a combination of pick and twill weaving. The result is a fabric that is smooth, and has an almost textured appearance, hence the name “sharkskin.” The sharkskin suits that the Rat Pack wore were typically made using mohair and wool. In the 80s and 90s, sharkskin was sometimes made using synthetic fibres like rayon, which degraded the appeal of the fabric. Thankfully in this decade the appeal of sharkskin has reignited, due to the renewed interest in natural fibres, as opposed to cheaper synthetic ones.
Sharkskin suits have a refined and contemporary appearance, even though they’ve been around since the 1960s. A sharkskin suit looks slick, and very cool. Because of this, we’d generally recommend you only wear a sharkskin suit during occasions that call for such an appearance – like parties, performances, and perhaps a wedding. If you’re looking for a sharkskin suit, steer clear of any that use synthetic fibres, as they cheapen the look and greatly reduce the “cool” factor.
The Tie (and Pocket Squares too)
Seeing as we’re in the business of creating quality neckties, it’s no surprise that we’d pay some special attention the neckties that the Rat Pack wore during their iconic period of relevance. Like many men of their era, the Rat Pack stuck to neckties that were skinny. Frank Sinatra (the de facto leader of the group) was particularly a fan of silk neckties, a staple of dapper style. Much like the neckties we craft at Aklasu, the neckties Sinatra wore were of the utmost quality, and often made using Italian silk (like ours). In terms of colour, Sinatra often wore dark-coloured suits at night (black and navy), and he would pair those suits with a dark, solid-coloured tie (like our Solid Dark Blue Six-Fold Tie). Sometimes, he’d incorporate patterns into his tie, including polka dots, and pinstripes (we think he’d be a fan of our Navy Polka Dot Grenadine Tie, for example).
When it came to more vibrant colours, Sinatra was a fan of the colour orange, and would often incorporate what he dubbed “the happiest colour” into his pocket squares.
A Note on Sammy Davis Jr.
NY Daily News
We’d be remiss if we didn’t at least discuss the legacy of Sammy Davis Jr., the only visible minority member of the Rat Pack. An icon of style in his own right, Davis Jr. exuded fashion and class in a time where Black Americans were discriminated against, and often forced out of the limelight. During the Rat Pack’s heyday, many clubs would refuse to let them perform within their venues, due to Sammy Davis Jr. being a black man. Davis shot to fame in 1951 after performing at the Hollywood nightclub, Ciro's. He went on to star in movies, his own TV show as well as creating a lasting legacy on the Las Vegas circuit.