The title of The Hour, the new BBC drama set in the 1950s, refers to the TV programme around which it revolves. But the name resonates more widely. It seems there is something about a TV drama set in an office in the late 1950s and 1960s that exerts a primal pull on 21st-century viewers. The Hour is being called The British Mad Men, not because the style of drama is similar (it isn’t – where Mad Men is slick and seamless, The Hour is quirky and offbeat) but because of the analogy of setting and period. Mad Men opens in a Manhattan advertising agency in 1960; The Hour in the BBC in 1956. There are lowlit corridors, midcentury mid-brown desks, old-school telephones, clacking typewriters and half-glassed office doors.
The Hour is about a particular moment we keep coming back to. Something about the look and feel of this moment in history speaks very powerfully to modern audiences – and the clothes, in particular, have a very direct allure. Odd, really, that women should be drawn to the office wardrobe of a time when being a “career woman” was such a tough path to follow, but there you go. At some point over the past decade, the aesthetic of the 50s office has overlaid that of the glass-ceiling-smashing 80s as our touchstone for office chic.