When we discuss Gentlemen of Style, typically we’re talking about real life men such as Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart or JFK. Rarely does a fictional character come into play who has amassed such a wealth of attention for his clothes style and slicked hair.
Of course, we have a handful of fictional men who we often speak of, like Don Draper (Mad Men), James Bond, Hercule Poirot or Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Boardwalk Empire). While we often leave these kinds of articles to likes of GQ and Esquire, we’ve opted to turn our attention to one of the modern stallions on TV who real men aspire to dress like.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the hair and suits of Harvey Specter, the protagonist in USA Network’s hit television show Suits, portrayed by Gabriel Macht.
First premiering back in June 2011, Suits has gained some critical acclaim for the USA Network since it first aired. Filmed in Toronto, Canada, it is just entering its fifth season focused on the same characters that we’ve known from the beginning.
Taking place at a top New York law firm, Suits centers around New York’s most infamous closer; Harvey Specter. The quintessential shark with a heart, Specter is forced to hire an associate and in doing so, runs across a young law prodigy named Mike Ross, who doesn’t actually have a degree. Seeing the immense talent in this troubled young man, he offers him an associate position at the firm on the grounds no one can find out the truth about his lack of credentials.
Throughout the show, most episodes focus on the relationships between the lawyers at the firm and the seemingly impossible cases they work on. Love affairs intertwine and relationships forge and dwindle, but throughout it all, a core team of top-notch lawyers stick together through thick and thin. As Mike’s secret threatens to damage the firm and throw both Mike and his mentor Harvey out of practice, deals are struck and lies are told to cover up one of New York’s dirtiest little secrets and one secret, that helps close some of the biggest corporate and criminal cases they Big Apple has ever seen.
Played by the dashing Gabriel Macht, Harvey Reginald Specter is New York’s toughest closer. Given the cases no one else can seem to solve, he represents some of the top companies and athletes in New York and abroad. A sarcastic, assertive and somewhat phlegmatic man, he opts to settle cases when he can before they hit the courtroom. Chronically single, he’s the epitome of a ladies man, seemingly able to attract the most beautiful women without having to say much of anything.
He lives a very isolated life outside the office. A graduate of Harvard Law, Specter really only engages in personal banter with people in his sphere of influence. The romantic relationships he does partake in are brief, and even the few where he shows a desire for longevity, are met with speculation of whether he can overcome his past and personal struggles to really love and commit to someone else.
Despite appearing on the surface as an uncaring and selfish litigator, Specter shows a deeper side, often running to the aid of those close to him. He is secretly a man of impenetrable ethics who follows a moral compass making him a force to be reckoned with for those who attempt to cause harm to someone he cares about. Despite his womanizing, he has no patience for adulterers and makes that clear on many occasions throughout the show. Emotionally distant, he is a man of confidence and charisma and one who everyone still manages to like and respect. He’ll do anything to win. So long as it doesn’t involve breaking the law or altering the truth.
People respond to how we’re dressed, so like it or not this is what you have to do.”
Harvey Specter’s Style
Harvey Specter’s life is work, and his style is a reflection of his very specific style needs. Law has always been a conservative fashion environment, and Harvey tries to play very closely to those rules, even though the suits are obviously targetted to a younger audience. This may suprise you, given that Harvey’s sidekick dresses in an even more youthful way, with narrow lapels, short jackets and skinny ties, but let me explain.
Known for his single-breasted, made-to-measure suits with peaked lapels, big-collared shirts and windsor-knotted power ties, Harvey Specter exudes confidence through his wardrobe, at least. In fact, he wears it like armor; it’s part of his personality and that’s the reason he lacks the elegance of other Gentlemen of Style.
From the beginning of the show, he regularly tells his protege that it’s time to dress like a man. When he shows up wearing an ill-fitting and inexpensive suit, Harvey sends Mike to his tailor and instructs him not to come back until he has bought new suits.
Throughout all of the episodes, there are few times where Harvey appears in anything besides a suit or tuxedo. On those odd occasions, they are still well-fitting casual trousers or jeans with a t-shirt or a sweater. Otherwise, he is always in a suit, and, for the most part, they’re all of similar design.
How To Dress Like Harvey Specter
Harvey Specter has a few style staples that seem to be incorporated into all of his outfits.
First of all, you need a suit or better, a number of dark suits. But as always, the devil is in the details.
In the early seasons Spector’s suits were mostly made of dark high twisted worsted wool fabrics, whereas more recently you can see silk-wool blends that add a certain shine and lustre to the fabric which make them more unusual than just regular plain wool cloth suits. Traditionally, silk is usually used in evening environments because of its shine and formal character, but done right it can even look stunning in a dark navy or blue.
In regard to patterns, stick to the classic business palette of solids, sharkskin, prince of wales checks and stripes. Avoid tweeds, flannels or bold windowpane. Interestingly, he avoids pin stripes and opts for wider rope stripes. The costume designers probably wanted to differentiate the SUITS look from the Power Look in Wall Street.
3. Peak Lapels
Harvey Specter is a big fan of peak lapels, and so is Tom Ford. Even though the lapels may seem quite wide for contemporary standards, they are not overly wide relative to past standards.. The key is to get the gorge of the lapel not too high and not too low. If it peaks out over your shoulders, it is too much, and if it is too low it looks too old school to be a Harvey Specter lapel, so definitely keep an eye on that.
Traditionally, peaked lapels are always more formal than notched ones and they provide the wearer with an elevated, elegant look that Specter clearly goes for.
Interestingly, Ross wears notched lapels not peaked ones and that’s not a coincidence. Much rather, the peaked lapels separate Specter from all the boys below him, and elevate him to a higher level. As you can see, little details such as the lapel choice can exude a clear hierarchy. Therefore, Harvey rarely appears in a suit with a notched lapel (an occasional three-piece with a notched lapel maintains the formality level) and if you want to emulate his style you should opt for peaked lapels too.
4. Milanese Buttonhole
Early on, Tom Ford had his line tailored by Zegna and to elevate his jackets from them he utilized the Milanese buttonhole, which is a finely stitched, raised buttonhole made of silk thread that is generally only found on bespoke jackets. Not many people used to be able to do it but today, more and more tailors offer it. For example, mytailor does a very nice job with it. For a true Harvey Specter style you really need a Milanese buttonhole because it separates you from the rest.
5. Flapped Pockets
Traditionally, peaked lapel jackets were often paired with jetted pockets rather than flapped ones. You can learn all about the difference here. Harvey Specter wears rather large flap pockets with his peaked lapel suits, which is also something you often see on Tom Ford suits. I am not sure whether the costume designers wanted to send a certain message with that, though chances are they did not pay much attention to it.
Personally, I think jetted pockets will look better with peaked lapels 9 out of 10 times, but if you want the Specter look, you need flap pockets as well as a flapped ticket pocket on the right.
6. Side Vents
Just like 95% of all men, Specter wears side vents and so should you. Center vents are only meant for horse-back riding and ventless only looks good if you don’t have to sit down.
Often, Harvey Specter is seen wearing a three-piece suit, which is classic but yet another tactic employed to create the illusion of confidence. While true Gentlemen of Style would mix things up and wear an odd vest at times, Harvey Specter sticks to his uniform and only wears matching vests.
The vests are always single breasted, never double breasted and they never feature a lapel. They are are always tailored with a V-cut, which is the most boring vest shape you can find. Even the cheapest MTM makers will able to provide you with a vest like this. On the other hand, men with style usually avoid this kind of vest, because it is just average.
At least Spector adheres to the etiquette of leaving the bottom button of his waistcoat undone. At the same time, he seems to be wearing side adjusters with his pants and skips the belt, which is the proper way to do it. Traditionally, vests should only be worn with suspenders or side adjusters or both because it looks neater than with a belt.
As a side note it should be mentioned that Specter never leaves the office without his jacket, but he can often be seen relaxing in his office or home with just the vest on.
Overall, Specter wears slim fit suits and so it doesn’t come as a surprise that they aren’t pleated. He wears them instead with an ironed crease. His pants are tailored slim but never tight, and he prefers a plain hem over cuffs or turn-ups.
If you want to dress like Harvey Specter, you should opt for high armholes, and a rather slim cut overall. However, there are a couple areas I’m sure you can do better with, such as avoiding a gapping collar or ill-fitting sleeves. A proper tailor will be able to give you a suit with a close-fitting neck and nicely hanging sleeves without wrinkles.
At the end of the day, I suggest you copy what you like and incorporate it into your own style, rather than imitating his whole look. Harvey Specter’s look is not very creative in scope, and there is no reason to stick to exactly his example unless you too must adhere to the firm’s dress code.
The Tailor of Harvey Specter
Supposedly, Specter wore Tom Ford Suits as well as Garrison but ultimately it is not clear whether those are the only brands who supplied clothes to the actor. At the end of the day, it should not matter, because with the right pictures, any decent tailor or MTM company should be able to recreate the look of his suits.
A big fan of the tall, Italian collars you will never seen him with super wide-spread or super narrow collars.
Harvey usually sticks with a standard white or pale blue shirt with barrel cuffs even though he sometimes wear French cuffs as well.
At times, he has been seen in patterned shirts such as gingham and pinstripe, but throughout most of the seasons, he tends to opt for the solid shirt. All of his shirts seem to be rather well fitting and whether it’s due to pinning them or they’re altered for Gabriel Macht’s body is unknown. However, they rarely show any signs of tugging, are never loose, but also never too tight. His sleeves hang to the base of the wrist, and his jacket sleeves usually show just a scant edge of cuff.
“Get your skinny tie out of my face and get to work.”
Harvey, in all cases, wears silk ties, never wool or any blends. The navy grenadine tie is one of his staples but he sometimes also wears these cheap looking shiny jacquard ties you can find for $3 from China.
His ties are never slim, and about 8-9cm in width, which is both classic and timeless.
His ties are always finished in a very bold windsor knot and far too big for his shirt collar. Ideally, a shirt collar should be paired with a knot that doesn’t create an overlap between the two. Watch our How To Tie A Tie Knot Videos to understand how.
Harvey’s consistent choice of a windsor knot with a large collar makes his necktie area look crowded, and the knot too large in proportion with his head. Furthermore, his ties are often knotted without a dimple, which makes them look limp and flat.
Harvey’s shoe style is very simple, and that’s no surprise since shoes are often a costume designer’s weak point in TV and film – they simply aren’t that visible. Harvey usually wears simple black cap-toed derbies or brown full-brogue oxfords on lasts that aren’t all that refined. Take a look at the following image. The costume designer didn’t lace this shoe properly. Learn here how to properly lace oxfords.
As you know from the real world and your own wardrobe, shoes are hugely important detail, and Harvey’s lack of well-crafted shoes is a negative blow to his carefully constructed appearance.
The ties, like his other accessories, are very subtle. He wears a lot of dark ties in blacks, blues and even purples, but unfortunately, his combinations are often too monochromatic. His frequent choice of a gray suit with a black tie offers little in the way of contrast and interest. Black ties are suited for funerals and little else.
With a tuxedo, he wears a black self-tie bow tie, which is the proper way to do it.
Harvey wears very few accessories. Typically, if he is wearing a pocket square, it’s a classic white or gray and in a TV fold (learn how to fold a pocket square this way here). There really is very little sprezzatura to his outfits. As far as accessories go, they tend to really work with the rest of his wardrobe and his corporate look.
The show has really gone all out when it comes to Harvey’s style and that continues into the finer details. Harvey’s watch of choice is none other than a Patek Philippe 5004P Chronograph, which retails for around $350,000. Clearly it’s Harvey’s biggest statement of his success.
Aside from a pocket square and watch, Harvey really only wears cufflinks and those, like everything else, are usually very subtle and yet, somehow bold. They are never fashion statements, almost always standard metal without decoration or embellishment, but they’re also never a simple knot or anything too small that it would go unnoticed.
Harvey Specter’s Hair
Many people asked us to write about Harvey Specter’s hair. What initially began as a very Don Draperish style cut with a shaved part and glossy sheen has moved towards a more contemporary faux hawk in some episodes with a matte finish and imperfect sideburns.
Granted, his hair is never sloppy and he’s always clean shaven, the network has obviously tried to give him a more casual hairstyle in the latest seasons. If you’re looking for his classic look from the first seasons, here is how to get it:
Early Classic Look
To Cut It
Tell your stylist you want the back and sides short with a little growth on top to sweep it back and to the side. If they use a trimmer, ask for a #2 cut with squared off side burns and a square neckline. You also want to ask them to shave the part and to comb the hair to the side.
To Maintain It
After your shower, make sure you towel dry your hair well. Apply a small amount of gel to your hair and work it in. Dry it with a hair dryer. Then, apply some Murray’s Pomade to your hair and comb it into position. Finish with finishing spray if needed.
Later Contemporary Faux Hawk
To Cut It
All you need to do is ask your stylist for a board room appropriate faux hawk. Any stylist worth their salt should be able to do this. That or bring a picture with to show them.
To Maintain It
After drying the hair, apply some fiber or molding paste to your hair and work it in. The sides and back should already be short enough you won’t have to do anything so work the top into the position you like. It’s just that simple.
Harvey Specter is more about confidence than he is about details and style. Like his winner-takes-all personality, clothes are a way for him to get ahead rather than something he enjoys. While he’s an interesting example of a very particular aesthetic, there are so many more things to enjoy about dressing well than just what Harvey wears. If you haven’t already watched the show, you can tune in to season 5 on the USA Network on Wednesdays at 9/8c. Or, check them out on amazon.
This article was written by Sven Raphael Schneider and J.A. Shapira. If you want to learn more about the suits of Harvey Specter take a look at Masculine Style.