Since its premiere in July of 2007, AMC’s Mad Men has created quite a stir. Set in the 1960s, is a period drama following the lives and careers of a group of Madison Avenue “ad men.” Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm, is a mysterious advertising executive at Sterling Cooper advertising agency. Despite a haunting, secret past Don excels at his work allowing him to live comfortably. He is as hard as nails and often ruffles the feathers of his co-workers; though often far from diplomatic, Don is usually right and brings the victorious strategies to the table in the cut-throat advertising business.
Mad Men has quickly become a sensation. The show offers viewers nostalgia without idealising a bygone era. It depicts the good with the bad – including racism, smoking, and sexism – setting it apart from its forerunners. It has been acclaimed for its authentic portrayal of the 1960s. The winner of 21 Emmys and 5 Golden Globes in six years, Mad Men has proven itself as a compelling influence on culture today. I argue that Mad Men has had a marked – and positive – impact on popular culture today, especially in regard to men’s style and fashion; because of Mad Men there has been a renewed interest in classic men’s style.
Mad Men is an aesthetically appealing programme, enveloping viewers in the opulence and romance of Mid-Twentieth century style. From tailor suits and collar pins on men and skirts and dresses on women to 50s and 60s model automobiles and interior furnishings, Mad Men has everything down to the last little detail. Perhaps that is part of what makes it so compelling.
Mad Men’s greatest cultural achievement has been its influence in the realms of style. The show has done more than simply provide an aesthetically appealing example of early 60s style – it has become a veritable video “look book” for aspiring gentlemen of style and taste. It has been an example and a wake-up call to those previously content with drab and mediocre fashion. It has shown society that there was something we had lost from Granddad’s day that is worth revisiting. Mad Men has changed the way we think about classic and traditional menswear and it has given us a model to aspire after.
Mad Men has gone above and beyond being just a simple model of tasteful dress. It has directly influenced a number of popular clothing lines from well-known designers and labels. Banana Republic has released not one, but two Mad Men-inspired collections receiving a lot of media attention and advertisement.
Even Brooks Brother released a limited line of suits modelled after the Mad Men look. The Brooks Brothers suits were designed by Emmy-nominated Mad Men costume designer, Janie Bryant. The suits were based on a 1960s Brooks Brothers original. Brooks Brothers even celebrated the series by unveiling Mad Men-themed window displays at their Madison Avenue store featuring original costumes from the show.
Of course, women’s fashion has not escaped the influence of Mad Men. While they may not be wild about the themes of sexism, chauvinism, and marital infidelity so prominent in the show, women are still readily embracing classic and vintage styles inspired by Mad Men. Prada has even released vintage-inspired lines to keep up with the demand for the Mad Men look. Polka dots, pointy-toed heels, and pencil skirts are flying off the shelves. Michael Kors released a collection for men and women that was heavily influenced by Mad Men. With sultry icons like Joan Harris, played by Christina Hendricks, it is no wonder that women too are caught up in the Mad Men aesthetic.
From Gentleman Quarterly and Details to Vanity Fair and Vogue, everyone is talking about the style of Mad Men. While the show avoids glorifying or sugar-coating the 1960s, it does remind us of the glamour and class of the by-gone era. It evokes memories of JFK, Marilyn Monroe, and Jacqueline Kennedy. Beyond labels and designers, even second-hand and vintage clothing dealers are struggling to keep up with demands as clothes from the 1950s and 1960s are being swept off their racks.
Mad Men is more than just a widely entertaining, critically acclaimed television series. It is also an influential force on society. It intrigues us in recent history and uses ironic depictions of the shortcomings of the past to provide positive social commentary. Most of all, however, it has revived interest in the class and glamour of traditional style. Mad Men has done the world a great favour in pulling us out of the dark ages of bad taste and bringing us back to tasteful styles and timeless fashions.