When we think of the 1960s on television today we tend to think of Mad Men — sharp suits, dare-you dresses and killer silhouettes. Sky Atlantic’s new comedy Mr Sloane is nothing like that. It’s set in Watford in 1969 — a place where the Sixties never quite swung. And its eponymous hero, played by Nick Frost, is about as far from Don Draper as it is possible to be.
“My brief was not to do Mad Men. And not Austin Powers, either,” laughs Annie Hardinge, who designed the costumes. “The brief from director Bob Weide was that he wanted it to have a realistic, filmic feel — a Michael Caine, Albert Finney 1960s style. Watford was quite a drab sort of place in 1969, I would have imagined. And Jeremy Sloane has no sense of style. He’s still wearing what he was wearing in 1961, he’s lost his job, his wife Janet [Olivia Colman] has gone and his costume sums up his state of mind — depressed.”
As he tries to piece his life back together Sloane finds solace in the pub with a group of friends he’s known since school. That’s pretty much all that they have in common.
“We wanted the group to all be very different types,” says Hardinge, “so when you see them together you can recognise instantly who they are by their costume and hair.”
Ross (Peter Serafinowicz) is slick and sleazy. A friend of Sloane’s, “Ross is what Sloane would like to be, but failed. He also has a nasty side that Sloane doesn’t possess. So he has dark suits and a villain’s colour scheme — maroon, red, black, white.”
Reg [Brendan Patricks] is the ladies’ man of the group. “He’s got the leather jacket, the suede jacket, the patterned shirts. He’s got more swagger than the others, though you still wouldn’t say he’s trendy.
And Beans [Lawry Lewin] is the mummy’s boy. “He lives with his mum. Bob wanted him to have a childlike quality, which is why we ended up with polo-neck, duffel coat, desert boots — as if his mum had dressed him.”
But none of Sloane’s old school friends bring much light into his life. That comes in the form of Robin (Ophelia Lovibond), a flower-child from San Francisco who’s ended up in Watford, where she meets Sloane in a DIY shop.
“Robin was my chance to get a bit of the Swinging Sixties in there,” says hardinge. “She has a distinct colour palette — deep, bright colours, cerise, ochre, lime green. She’s fashionable but in a San Francisco, free-spirited way. She’s the Bird of Paradise, the exotic — in Watford she’s going to stand out like a sore thumb. Luckily Ophelia’s such a beautiful girl she was a dream to dress.”
Lovibond herself is a big fan of vintage clothing. “I’ve loved the costumes,” she says. “I worked very closely with Annie. I wanted to tell the story in the different costumes to reflect the moods of what’s happening, but also just to be colourful. To contrast with Sloane’s world, but not to be brash.”
Robin’s wardrobe is full of fitted, figure-hugging, short little dresses, all adorned with outsized jewellery.
“She wears tactile fabrics, sexy fabrics like velvet,” says Hardinge, “but we didn’t want to go overboard. We were looking for something real but interesting and sensitive. We found an old Afghan coat, but it was so moth-eaten, and it stank to high heaven — I couldn’t have made poor Ophelia wear it, so we had to have one made.”
Robin stands in stark contrast — in Sloane’s mind, at least — to Janet, his now-absent wife, played by Olivia Colman. We see her mainly in flashback, and as a hate-figure in Sloane’s imagination.
“It would have been fun to put Olivia in hotpants, but Janet is just a neat, very nice lady: coat, dress and bag. She’s a housewife so she will wear a minidress — but it will be an A-line one from C&A. That said, Olivia looks fantastic getting her legs out!”
The most striking thing about the Mr Sloane wardrobe is that so much of it wouldn’t look out of place if worn today. “You are still getting variations on those themes in fashion today. That said, we avoided using modern stuff — we only used real pieces or copies that we had made.”
So how does a 60s wannabe re-create the Mr Sloane look?
“You’ll either have to make the clothes yourself or you should go to second-hand shops in east London, in Spitalfields, Shoreditch and Brick Lane. You can pick up the odd original piece but it’s actually really hard to find genuine 60s now. Prepare for a lot of rummaging.”