10 Popular TV Characters Who Revolutionised Professional Style

Last Updated: December 3, 2017

Well-researched fashion is often key to the success of modern TV shows, particularly those based in business and work settings; be it the Madison Avenue offices of ‘Mad Men; the municipal meeting rooms of ‘Parks and Recreation’; the medical surgeries of ‘The Mindy Project’; and even in the shadier corners of Prohibition-era Atlantic City-based ‘Boardwalk Empire’. And in a completion of the circle, the shows’ most memorable characters have a signature style that often feeds back to the public, influencing the real-world fashions and styles that were so central to the creation of these television worlds. Here are 10 of the most memorable fictional touchstones for professional and working fashion, with no apologies offered for beginning with the immortal Don Draper.

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THE appeal of modern television shows—and the most popular TV characters—often stands or falls on how well the producers have researched the fashion sense of the characters. This is particularly so for shows that are based in business settings; be it the Madison Avenue offices of ‘Mad Men; the municipal meeting rooms of ‘Parks and Recreation’; the medical surgeries of ‘The Mindy Project’; and even in the shadier corners of Prohibition-era Atlantic City-based ‘Boardwalk Empire’.

And in a completion of the circle, the shows’ most memorable characters have a signature style that often feeds back to the public, influencing the real-world fashions and styles that were so central to the creation of these television worlds.

Here are 10 of the most popular TV characters who are also memorable fictional touchstones for professional and working fashion. And we offer no apologies for beginning with the immortal Don Draper.

 

1. Don Draper – ‘Mad Men’

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EARLY on in Mad Men’s seven-season run, main protagonist, advertising executive Don Draper, one of the most popular TV characters for fashion watchers, was established as one of the most iconic characters in television history. Played by Jon Hamm, Draper boasts a flawless image at odds with his less than pristine character. With an endless supply of well accessorized suits, and looking ice cool and razor sharp even in informal wear, Don Draper can be credited as the inspiration for the tailored formality that has ruled menswear from the late noughties onwards.

 

 

2. Harvey Specter – ‘Suits’

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IN MANY ways a modern-day disciple of Don Draper, Harvey Specter builds his identity as a lawyer around his slick appearance. As he mentors his apprentice Mike Ross in legal matters, Specter, played by Gabriel Macht, also oversees his style evolution, teasing the younger man about his cheap suits in the pilot episode. Despite his cold demeanour, Specter is easily one of the most popular TV characters for fashion, possibly even more so than Don Draper. With his classic style and penchant for luxury, legal eagles could do a lot worse than basing their image on him.

 

 

3. Claire Underwood – ‘House of Cards’

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FRANK Underwood may be the main protagonist of House of Cards, but his wife Claire Underwood rules in the style stakes. Portrayed by Robin Wright, Claire’s flawless image reflects her ice-queen persona perfectly, with an endless supply of demure gowns and polished skirt suits. As Claire gains more and more political power, we see her wardrobe develop with her, and she evolves from a Jackie Kennedy towards a Hillary Clinton.

 

 

4. Jack Donaghy – ‘30 Rock’

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ALTHOUGH 30 Rock‘s Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is conventional enough in his office attire, his stinging one-liners on style define him as a fictional style icon, and one of the most popular TV characters of recent years. For instance, when long-suffering colleague Liz Lemon asks him why he’s wearing a tuxedo, he replies with “It’s after six. What am I, a farmer?”

 

 

5. Tom Haverford – ‘Parks and Recreation’

TV Style Icons 5 Tom Haverford, Parks and Recreation, popular tv characters, professional style, business fashion

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IN PARKS and Recreation, Tom Haverford’s concern about his personal appearance makes for some of the funniest moments on the show. As portrayed by Aziz Ansari, Tom’s penchant for shopping in the boy’s collection of Brook’s Brothers and “peacocking” (apparently, this involves wearing an orange hat intended for women) create a look that’s distinctive to say the least. His Rent-A-Swag business venture (designer clothes for middle-school students to rent) proves very successful.

 

 

6. Mindy Lahiri – ‘The Mindy Project’

TV Style Icons 6 Mindy Lahiri, The Mindy Project, popular tv characters, professional style, business fashion

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WORKWEAR can often become a sea of greys, blacks and navys, but not in Mindy Lahiri’s world. Played by her namesake, Mindy Kaling, the romantically-frustrated OB/GYN star of The Mindy Project colour-coordinates like no-one else. Salvador Perez, the costume designer for the series, uses many of his own designs to create Mindy’s trademark bright, matchy look, often mixing in luxury brands.

 

 

7. John Luther – ‘Luther’

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THE TROUBLED detective has long been a trope in crime drama, but John Luther’s style is far from tired. Luther is one of the most popular TV characters of the 21st century. Played by Idris Elba, the detective refuses to wear a suit like his colleagues, opting for dark hues and a signature long tweed coat. Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that he always wears the same red tie, adding to the uniform feel.

 

 

8. Cookie Lyon – ‘Empire’

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AS THE ruthless ex-wife of Lucius Lyon, Cookie Lyon’s style is every bit as fierce as she is. She brings a whole new level to workwear, featuring leopard-print suits, fur coats, flashy gold jewellery and an endless supply of designer stilettos. Actress Taraji P Henson has had a lot of influence over her character’s wardrobe, ensuring that her aesthetic matches her powerful personality.

 

 

9. ‘Nucky’ Thompson – ‘Boardwalk Empire’

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FANS of 1920s gangster style will find Boardwalk Empire a treasure trove of wardrobe inspiration. ‘Nucky’ Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi, is arguably the best-dressed character in the series, with his double-breasted three-piece suits, Ulster coats and Homburg hats. His outfits are always extravagantly accessorized, often sporting a watch chain in his waistcoat and a huge red carnation boutonniere.

 

 

10. Shoshanna Shapiro – ‘Girls’

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THE Girls character may be tongue-in-cheek, but Shoshanna Shapiro’s looks are iconic. Her statement hair styles, loud patterns and Juicy Couture tracksuits bring a much-needed dose of innocence to her overly self-aware friend group. Portrayed by Zosia Mamet, Shoshanna’s stand-out fashion moments include a purse shaped like a croissant, hair shaped like a donut and her announcement during a job interview that she is “an expert at trend jewellery”.