The Rat Pack - How To Dress Like them
We often think back on the days of the classic gentleman at OTAA, a handsome bloke with a tilted Hamburg hat and a Sharkskin suit, briefcase in hand and a world of possibility at his feet. Think Frank Sinatra and his mates; Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop.
Think The Rat Pack - These guys pioneered Las Vegas glamour and genteel ritz back in the 50s and 60s - famous for a reason, they weren’t just men in suits, they were multi-talented entertainers and artists with a true appreciation for looking damn fine and putting on a great show.
The Rat Pack at one of their many performances in Las Vegas, having a good time
The Rat Pack dressed to the nines in tuxedos (Note Davis's glasses and untied bow tie.).
The style the Rat Pack adopted is characterised by impeccable yet effortless tailoring, and can be all attributed to Sy Devore, the de facto tailor of the Rat Pack. His tailor shop at Vine Street near Sunset Boulevard, just around the corner from the Brown Derby restaurant, was a favourite hangout of the group, who would have Sy taking care of their tailoring. Whenever the Rat Pack came checking in, they would order suits together from him. This gave Sy Devore free-reign to design their suits and in turn, design and unify their signature look.
The suits that Sy Devore made for the members of the Rat pack were made from smooth worsted fabric, or sharkskin fabric. This is a type of fabric that is woven with two yarns of different shades or colour to make a two toned effect, usually in a "pick and twill" weave. The fabric has a soft texture since it is usually made from mohair, wool, silk, or a combination of all three. The fabric also is lightweight, wrinkle resistance, moisture-wicking, and is perfect for transient weather during spring and fall. In addition, it has a slight sheen that is said to resemble the skin of a shark, hence sharkskin
A few examples of sharkskin fabric
The Rat Pack during a scene in Ocean's Eleven, demonstrating the similarities between their suits (Note the differing shades of sharkskin fabric.).
In addition, these suits were also fitted close to their wearers bodies, with a few alterations for each individual - for example Sinatra would have the lapels of all his suit jackets be exactly 2.25″ (Sinatra was obsessively particular with his dress), Martin would have his collars done higher to offset his thick muscular neck, and Davis would have his pants done thin without any breaks yet be athletically cut to do his dancing. In addition, the Rat Pack would always try to include orange in their outfits - whether it be a pocket square or a waist coat, since Sinatra's favourite colour was orange, layered amongst some fetching skinny ties and sharp tuxedos.
Sharkskin suits, slim ties and fitted dress shirts were hallmarks of the Rat Pack style.
The Rat Pack performing on stage for The Johnny Carson Show (far right) in 1965
The Rat Pack during a scene in Ocean's Eleven. (Note Peter Lawford's orange pocket square, far right)
A still from the film Robin and the 7 hoods (Note the orange waistcoat on Frank Sinatra and the orange dress shirt on Martin)
Armed to the teeth with their sharkskin suits, they would go on to sing, dance, and be at their very best at their now famous performances throughout the Las Vegas strip at now famous venues such as the Sands Hotel and Casino. Their bonds of friendship and camaraderie were so great that they even refused to perform at venues that don't allow African Americans, to stick up to Sammy Davis Jr. so they can still perform together. Often times they will invite themselves to another's show and even participated in them when one of them was set to perform at a show solo. The Rat Pack will also go on to make a few albums and several films together, either by loose informal association (cameos or minor parts in each other's films) or completely all in together - famous examples being "Ocean's 11" (1960), "Sergeants 3" (1962), and Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964).
(Rat Pack members Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra with comedian Jan Murray (left) unwind backstage at Carnegie Hall after entertaining at a benefit performance in honour of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1961)
(Rat Pack members Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. sit at a table as Frank Sinatra pours Jack Daniels from a bottle at the Coconut Grove during Eddie Fisher's opening night on July 25, 1961 in Los Angeles, California)
The Rat Pack in one of their famous performances on the Las Vegas circuit, 60s