Mad Men, 1960's and the Spirit of the Times


I love the 1950's.

mean would you look at those specs and shades, and all of those cool de rigueurhats and thin ties and other 50's iconography. The iconic eyewear brand Oliver Peoples (parent company Luxotica) has fitted me going back 25 years back when I bought my first pair -- and still rock -- straight out of undergrad. Of course, Warby Parker has some very cool retro specs as well.

This picture (the big one, supra) is actually from the 1960's, which was something Matt Weiner noticed about developing and shooting Mad Men, viz., that the iconic "50's style" was really more or less a carryover into the 1960s that just killed it in pop culture repositories of influence from 2008, all of those fashion magazines and mens and ladies fashion lines that love a good atavistic lift whenever they can borrow from a recycled era (not to mention the copycat shows like the excellent The Hour, guilty pleasure Pan Am, and the ridiculous The Playboy Club, as well as revival of award winning How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying -- not coincidentally originally starring on both stage and film Robert Morse who is just an absolute favorite actor). And, I was, admittedly, not so much a fashion victim, but rather a recipient of compliments because my sense of elan had caught up with "fashion" and had become more acceptable to prêt-à-porter, which is a nicer way of saying I'll wear it off-the-peg my good man.

The law firm I ran marketing and business development for in downtown Los Angeles (a large consumer advocacy firm), owned a restaurant on the bottom floor, and many of our partner firm's associates were young 20 and 30 somethings, all wearing varied and sundry Paul Smith, Ben Sherman, Ted Baker, and Burberry suits with accompanying brogues and pocket squares, smoking their fine cigars after hours on Friday when the senior partners were gone for the day, as if they were on the show Suits (USA Network).

When the the show Mad Men first made its debut on AMC I thoroughly enjoyed it almost because it was so non-PC with all of the cigarette smoking and men-will-be-men memes, Joan Harris' hourglass figure, and afternoon cocktails because it's 5 o'clock somewhere (I am such a conservative, Dear Reader! Apologies to my more lib inclined friends if/when I offend on such rants). Of course, I don't partake of the aforementioned Mad Men antics, but, you know, I can appreciate the mise en sceneof it all. By the way, above is an avatar AMC created for/of me vis-a-vis the Mad Men home page. In honor of the the show beginning its last season this next week, see what they can haberdash for you as well. I do like my pipe, though it is an affectation.

As a writer one focuses on transitions as they tend to drive conflict -- and all great stories have conflict. It's in with the new (hottie trophy wife, Don Draper's new wife, Meagan) and out with the old (ball and chain who put you through medical school, so to speak, Betty). You want conflict? Add a new, young wife to the mix of teenage kids who visit their now plumpish, late-40's mom. It's a bit worn, but you get thebromide-cum-conflict. Which is what I particularly like about this Mad Men show with show horse (and clothes horse) John Hamm holding up fairly well over the long haul of the series 7+ year run. Always those transitions, from one iconic moment fading and mixing in like an afternoon cocktail into the rich sepia tones of the next one, like a nice pair of Foster Grants (was that 60's eyewear?) transitioning from sunglasses to inside lenses.

Let's play a quick game, you and I, Dear Reader. Can you spot the public personalities in this photo snapped from a significant public event? And, can you name that event? I spotted this when I was visiting the other day, and I hit on a deadlink of theirs when what should appear, mirabile visu? This great image above from a bygone era.

Anyway, back to my quick and quirky quiz: Whom do you see peering up into thespace age (I'm feedin' ya hints here, Harvey!)? If you see the king and queen of Belgium, then damn et tres bon! If you spot the man figuratively and literally "insecond spot" in the stands and to LBJ, then "hot dang! (said with LBJ Texan drawl), you've spotted Hubert Humphrey, our 38th VP ... and "good on ya, son!" I even see a John Hamm lookalike there in the 3rd row wearing his aviators. Btw, it was LBJ who oversaw Apollo and gave his imprimatur on NASA who then named their headquarters Lydon B. Johnson Space Center due to his influence over the decade-long Space Race. I will admit, I did spot ole Hubert because, as I mention above, there was just something in the back of my mind (high school US History?) that recognized that pasty heir to the throne visage.

Yes, in the back of my mind, everything was better in the 1950s, but of course it wasn't. I myself am a child of the 70's, with two teenage sons who have the same racial heritage as our 44th president, and there were miles to march before men were judged by the content of their character during those same 50's. It was just that our problems as a country were different, less manifold perhaps, more drenched in discussion of duty over "me-me-me" rights ... heated and principled discussions and demonstrations of yesteryear rather than vapid occupy rioting of today. And, maybe, just maybe, there was some innocence back then that had yet to be sullied by keeping up with so many Duckdashians or binge watching hours of addictive House of HoneybooCards or Meerkating Jimmy Fallon as he walks around a set at 9am before he's done his show makeup.

Still in my 40's but feeling every bit the Minver Cheevy scratching my head and thinking.

Welcome back Mad Men for your last season, and as always, I welcome your feedback.