Why ‘Mad Men’ is an Icon for Modern Times

Mad MenAMC’s advertising drama Mad Men, which returns for its sixth season April 13, has spawned a revolution that touches all aspects of modern culture. Even if you don’t watch the show, which stars Jon Hamm as disaffected advertising executive Don Draper, you have felt its effects, as it spills over into fields from fashion to furnishings to travel (cruisers who find themselves stopping through New York City can even take an eating-and-drinking Mad Men tour). Designer Michael Kors found inspiration from the show for his 2008 runway collection, explaining at the time that it “harkens back to people being polished, turned out, and elegant, and women looking feminine and and curvy and men looking tailored.” As a result, he debuted a men’s collection with narrower shoulders, a leaner lapel, and a shorter jacket, with heavy-rimmed glasses as a unisex accessory.

Similarly, Brooks Brothers, “the iconic American brand,” launched a limited-edition Mad Men suit designed by the show’s award-winning costume designer Janie Bryant, who also had a hand in the creation of “Mad Men” lines for Banana Republic. And according to the upscale lingerie brand Agent Provocateur, there has been a boost in the sales of garters and stockings since the show premiered. There are Barbie Collector Mad Men dolls, which, according to a statement, “embody the Mad Men series’ couture fashions and accessories and its  iconic 1960s style and aesthetic.”

The show’s iconic status was solidified in 2011 when it became the first basic cable series ever to win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series for  four consecutive years. Heralded for its witty writing and its imagery, its set and costume designs transfix audiences who are wooed by the retro glamour and enthralled by the portal to the past that each episode provides.

As much a historic reenactment as a period drama, Mad Men has an appeal that in large part is its timelessness. Watching the show is not glimpsing through the looking glass to a simpler time, but rather a reminder that some struggles are woven into the fabric of human existence. That fabric is just better cut and more tailored than we are used to wearing today.


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