Dig These New Threads

October 15, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

I passed by a fancy men’s store on Columbus Avenue the other day, and to my admittedly non-fashion-trained eye, the new suits looked very much like the ones I’ve been seeing each week on Mad Men.

Mad Men, for those still unfamiliar with this Emmy winner, is set in a New York advertising agency in the early 1960s. Culturally, that’s the tail end of the 1950s.* What the show teaches us about this period is this: Everyone smoked – a lot. Everyone drank – a lot. And an ad agency was a place people went in those odd moments when they were not actively committing adultery.

Here’s the show’s central figure Don Draper. And on the right, a 2008 Hugo available at Bloomingdale’s.

To me, the suits look very similar – two buttons, narrow lapels, unpleated trousers. And although this Boss man leaves his collar open, if you look at the other suits where I found this , you’ll see a few neckties that look a lot like the one Draper is wearing, though perhaps a shade wider.

The similarity isn’t surprising. Clothing makers have to keep changing the styles to get us to feel embarrassed to wear the same suit we’ve been wearing for the last few years and buy a new one. But there are only so many variations on a man’s suit, so old styles have to get recycled.

Language, too, has its fashions, dude, even though nobody makes money from the currency of words and phrases. But language is nearly infinite, so there’s no need to recycle. Then why is Ta-Nehisi Coates writing this:
I don’t ever want to hear anyone complaining about black people and their conspiracy theories. The cat on the corner – or even the Reverend – yelling about the government inventing AIDS is off his rocker. . .
Or this:
There is nothing troubling about one lone racist nut in a crowd. What’s troubling is the crowd. Dig how they just look on and smile uncomfortably.
Cat? Dig?

Coates is black, hip, and thirty-three years old (the age of Don Draper in 1960, when Mad Men begins). Maybe fifties hipster lingo, like those suits, is going to come back in style. Meanwhile, I’ll be listening to my LP of “Kind of Blue,” man, ’cause I like really dig Miles. That Madison Avenue scene is just too square..

* The “decade” we call “The Sixties” doesn’t begin until late 1963, with LBJ, Vietnam, and the Beatles.

1 comment:

trrish said...

I am a compulsive Mad Men watcher. I like that in the last episode, we got see a crack in the Don Draper veneer. His real self is so much more attractive.