According to the Internet, the breakout star of Sunday night’s Mad Men episode was not Peggy, who found potential love in a co-worker’s brother-in-law. Or Ken Cosgrove, for facilitating a crafty job maneuver that will put him in the position to torture that smug Pete Campbell. No, it was Roger Sterling’s exquisitely 70s mustache, which made its Mad Men debut last night. Silver in color, the facial hair turns down on either side of Roger’s nose in an elegant handlebar shape that awed Internet users, who praised the style as resplendent, glorious, and their spirit animal. It was an impressive deluge of feedback for a facial-hair style, especially one that Mad Men’s makeup department head Lana Horochowski wasn’t so sure about herself. Men mustache.
“At first, I must say that I was not on board,” Horochowski told us about Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s request for Roger to grow a mustache. “As a fan, I wanted to see Roger as Roger. And in my mind, I was thinking, ’Oh my gosh.’ The boys already don’t like to come in and sit in the makeup chair. And this was going to require extra time to get [actor John Slattery] in and clean him up at the end of the day.”
Slattery could not simply grow his own mustache, because fans would see the facial hair before the episode aired. And as Mad Men fans know, Weiner does not risk leaking even the slightest spoiler about his tightly guarded AMC drama. So Horochowski had the difficult task of finding a faux stache that would both work for and look authentic on the character.
“It’s tricky with a fake mustache because they can go clownish or jokey so fast, and that was my fear with him. Even when it is growing out of your face, a mustache can be ridiculous,” Horochowski says, laughing. “With a fake one, if it’s not made really well, it can look really jokey. But it actually worked out.”
Horochowski recalls going through “a bunch” of different test styles for this particular stache—which Weiner had actually wanted Roger to grow during the show’s previous season. “We talked about it last season and tried it out, and it was just too much. And then for this season, Matt was like, ‘I think we gotta go for it with Roger. I think for the end [of the show] he has got to have it.’ So we tried a bunch of styles and we kind of just settled on this one.”
Trimming mustache with beard
For mustache inspiration, Horochowski pored over photos of everyone from Robert Redford to Burt Reynolds in the early 70s. Once she had decided on a style, Justin Stafford—a wig maker who has made pieces for everything from Breaking Bad to Django Unchained and X-Men: First Class—created a custom-made piece from real human hair. “Justin sort of designed it to look the best on [Slattery’s] face, to match his hair texture. That way it didn’t look like a mustache we got at the drug store and glued on him.... It was custom-made, measured to the actor’s face. Each hair is hand tied onto, like, a piece of really fine lace.”
Although Horochowski does not get back-up pairs of sideburns made for each actor, she did request three or four mustaches for Roger. “Especially because his is white, anything can get in a white mustache. If he is eating something with ketchup... the worst. So with the white one, we definitely had to get several backups.” Horochowski removed it each day on set before the actor ate lunch and eventually pared the application process down to about 15 minutes by the end of filming—with the longest amount of time being spent on ensuring the mustache was applied to the exact same location on Slattery’s face each time.
Ted Chaough also grew out a mustache in time for April 1970; his was handmade, custom-fit, and specially designed for actor Kevin Rahm by Stafford. “Personally, I loved the way Kevin Rahm looked with the mustache and the mutton chops. That to me looks so right with his long shaggy hair.” Don Draper (Jon Hamm), however, was more resistant to the hair trends of the early 70s. “In my opinion, I think everyone wanted to see Don the same,” Horochowski tells us.
Although facial hair might seem like a small detail, Horochowski revealed that she and Weiner actually spent a while discussing it. “It was something that we had been talking about for a long time, coming into the later 60s. Who is going to get facial hair? You don't want to like wake up one day and everyone on the show has facial hair.” So they decided to slowly transition certain members of the cast into trendy styles of the era. “Last season, we made [the actor who plays Harry Crane] Rich [Sommer]’s sideburns a little longer and everybody started growing out their sideburns. And then we had Ben Feldman [who plays Michael Ginsberg] last season grow out his mustache. And of course Jay [Ferguson, who plays Stan Rizzo] with his big beard.”
In last night’s episode, the men’s faces seemed to have changed more than the women’s had since the last episode that aired in May 2014. “The thing is with 70s makeup, I feel like changes kind of happen a little later on in the 70s,” Horochowski explains. “So you're still seeing influence of the late 60s here [on the women] with a slight addition of a little bit of color or a little shimmer. Other than that, at this point, there wasn't really a huge jump into the crazy color explosion that sort of happens at the end of the decade as you get into the 80s. The early 70s look is still very natural and glossy with sheer skin and heavier eyes.”
There was one new makeup item though that Horochowski introduced to her female characters for the final seven episodes of the series, though: “Lip gloss was actually very exciting for us because they had been wearing a matte color for so long and so it's like, ‘Guess what guys!’ Everyone wanted the lip gloss.”
Asked if any of the other male cast members who did not get facial hair were similarly eager for a facial upgrade, or even jealous of Roger’s mustache, Horochowski laughs. “I don’t think so,” she says. “I mean I’m sure it’s not the most comfortable thing.” And Horochowski herself had been so unsure about Roger’s style update that she says she was scared to see it on-screen. When we assured her that the mustache had been a hit on the Web, she seemed relieved. “I was so nervous about it! That makes me feel really good because it was definitely something that could have very easily gone wrong.”