Ode to a Mad, Mad Man: Don Draper’s Final Season

Beautifully sung by pre-Girls actress and my future wife, Allison Williams 

Nearly seven years ago, AMC – then, a struggling network known more for showing your grandma’s favorite classic films than for the nuanced, game changing entertainment we know today, with the likes of a meth-dealing former high school teacher, survivalists living in a dystopian world full of zombies, and a misogynist adman from the 1960s – premiered a drama series that we now know as one of the greatest cultural influences in recent memory. Fingerprints from Mad Men are all over this blog and for good reason, as I continue to reference Draper & Company as prototypes that we all look up to in our development of refined trad mannerism.

We owe our immense recognition and gratitude to Janie Bryant, the show’s head costume designer, for bringing inspiration back into fashion’s lexicon for the modern  male. Don Draper’s extremely well-tailored suit, crisp white pocket square, and slicked hair has literally lead the highly stylized revival of men’s clothing in the past seven years. For those of us lacking context, you have to remember that back in 2007, we were just starting to heal from the hungover of a morbidly disastrous intake of purposely-frayed jeans, sandblasted graphic ringer tees, and trucker hats. Us younger guys had that Punk’d brodude Ashton Kutcher and the cast from The OC to follow dress from. Sure, soon the major fashion designers finally started to slim down and allude to more moderate appeal in contrast from the ridiculous shoulder ridden balloon suits seen in the ’90s just a few years prior, but I still remember grown ass men religiously in the midst wearing Rainbow sandals, whiskered and holey jeans that have only been worn twice since buying, and Abercrombie button downs.

By miraculous grace and just in time to fill the next gap of men’s clothing evolution, came series creator/genius Matthew Weiner and his fledgling concept, taking us back to the 1960s and experiencing society’s revolutions and historical events in the eyes of a sternly traditional advertising executive in New York City. I still remember watching the pilot trailer, shown below, as I flicked through the pre-HD channels to AMC one night a week before the first episode came out. The concept looked interesting: a corporate man’s American Dream slowly dwindling away. Perhaps a little mature for my 18 year old television habits at the time, but what immediately caught and kept my attention was the mid-century setting and wardrobe; luring me in as a faithful fan ever since. If you have been reading through my posts, you’ll see me gladly offering the origins of my own personal sartorial journey through hints of anecdotes and timeline flashbacks. You’ll recall that 2007 was a notable year for me: just graduating high school and now entering college, deciding to transition from teen brands like Hollister to truer prep houses, JCrew and Ralph Lauren (and eventually giving way to truest prep strongholds like Brooks Brothers and JPress). Mad Men was a major factor in the primordial soup that nourished my developing tastes. Here was a show that almost singlehandedly pushed a generation of young men, including myself, into putting more effort into their appearance. It was no longer “teh gay” to acquire discerning tastes and appreciate quality clothing, and while you will still see grown ass men in cargo shorts and flip flops, you will have noticed by now the increasingly larger number of 20 and 30-somethings in shined wingtips and collar pins. This was also around the time when the first crop of “male interest” bloggers came online, intertwining with the refreshing writing and cool looking suits on this new hot drama series from AMC, all setting their frequency to Draper and listening to his internal character conflicts that are just as multifaceted as his awesome collection of seasonal fabrics, keenly pointed out by those same entertainment and fashion buffs alike. We love his approach to the holy grail of alphaness. Much like the network’s other point man and spiritual brother, audiences identified with Don’s cool tempo and quintessential fear-inducing stare as he navigated office politics and love triangles. But unlike Walter White, Don’s authority comes partly from his powerful physical appearance, exuding confidence similarly to Frank Underwood’s (that other show I like to point to) modern political interpretation of suits and ties and how they add an extra kick to our affair of anti-hero archetypes.

He had me at…**stares into the oblivion reflecting on his thoughts with the backdrop of the night’s tranquil city skyline nursing an Old Fashioned while caressing your girl’s naked body lying together on an Eames Lounge**

Soon enough, brands like Banana Republic hitched on the show’s popularity amongst the young, educated, and professional viewer demographic, soon wavering in countless design groupthink as all fashion designers opened up their archives to bring back the once-forgotten. Heritage Americana brands like Brooks Brothers, Gant, and Gitman Brothers were relevant once again.

Just a few examples of Mad Men’s impact: Metallic tie bars, skinny ties, short hemmed pants, fedoras, Draper’s Fitzgeraldian two buttoned tailored suits, Roger Sterling’s three-piece power suits, the glitzy side part and the extreme Nazi-esque high and tight, bowties, clean dress shirts, raw denim, and “TNSIL” minimalism. This sum of parts that we all hold dear now was largely ushered back into the spotlight through the show’s outreach in our generation’s return to high ideals. It’s not conformity. It’s embracing the authentic. If we want to follow in our grandfather’s shadows, we must walk in his black captoe shoes, as I like saying in one form or another. Mad Men is partly why we now have the fetishization of anything made domestically and advice columns like The Art of Manliness, and maybe even why you happened upon my very own doorstep here at CollegeTrad. Today’s heated current events, perhaps even mirroring the atmosphere of the ’60s in itself, calls for stability and adherence to what we know as tried and true. Maybe the whole Americana fad is wading, but for guys like you and me, we’ll continue to mind our details and fitting just as Draper does. I can see myself in a grey two button, flat front slacks, and no-break hem for the rest of my life regardless of changing aesthetics. Because if there is one thing that 1962 taught us, is that a manicured, well-fitting outfit serves as your stronghold, and Mad Men helped remind us of that.

Ms. Bryant styling choices follows Mr. Weiner’s chronological order in his series. She faithfully reproduces the trends of each season’s point in time in the1960s, highlighting the Madison Ave. conservationism of the late ’50s and early ’60s in the earlier seasons, to the changeover to hippy fashions and vibrant colors nearing the arrival of the rowdy soultrain 1970′s in the latter part of the story arch. I’ve always enjoyed Ms. Bryant’s eye, who gives voice to the show’s deeper themes through use of fashion. Of particular interest to you and me, she gives insight behind Pete Campbell, the firm’s budding accounts man who is a yuppy 25 years old at the start of the first season:

“Pete? Oh he’s great. He’s always in different shades of blue—it could be like a sharkskin or the gabardines or even a dark blue Glen plaid. It’s always in varying shades of blue, which is about the youthfulness of that character and the young generation on Madison Avenue…but it’s not like navy. It’s like this teal, very 1960s blue. It’s almost like those teals that you see in the Sterling Cooper office design. It’s about that character being the younger generation. Not the hipster generation, so much, but the younger generation of businessmen.”

Which is why I like my shades of blue in my own closet. Let Draper be the Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, while you are at the start of your career, and should paint yourself with the sky’s blue limits.

mad-men-poster season 7

The show’s final season premieres tonight. As the years have gone by in Don’s life, we’ve seen clues to the sad decline in the impending future and clothing fashions. Oxford shoes gave way to platform shoes, which gave way to sneakers, which gave way to flip flops. Where there was an episode in the second season of Don noticing the newest crop of youthful business men no longer wearing a formal hat daily, as custom in decades past, and leading up to a scene of gesture and manners; we’ll now see the final nail in the coffin of all of that was remaining in the show’s last remnants of 1960s glamor. I like to think Mr. Draper continued in his old set ways in the coming years, even as suits worn in and out of the office eventually morphed to baggy polo shirts tucked into triple pleated khakis.

I realize that it is “just” a tv show, and that the actual ’60s may or may not have been as dramatically stylized in terms of awesome clothing. But when you see a scene of Henry Francis doing yard work with a manual push mower in the tradder than trad man’s workwear- old pairs of chinos and brogues, and Don never ever seen in jeans, or suits worn on airplanes and sport jackets to household dinners, you can’t help but romanticize the era and want to adhere to such commandments of “what ought to be”. However, the show’s outfits are so extreme in formality on the trad spectrum that it isn’t practical for today’s custom. Still, makes you wonder how common place it really was back then; to wear fedoras without looking ironic, or a tie+coat to pick up a girl on a date and have the chance of her thinking you’re trying too hard.

If you haven’t seen Mad Men, you can watch all past six season on Netflix (I assume you still have the rest of the paid month’s membership left over from your House of Cards marathon?) Soon, you will be as depressed as me to see the end of a great, great show. There is a reason it has transcended into elevated ethos, now even having a place in presidential addresses.

And for you newcomers…be prepared to bask the aura of your new role model. Just don’t smoke or cheat on your wife as much as he does.

Here’s to you, you Mad Man. *raises Old Fashioned*

 

 

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Jos A Bank

My boy Louis C.heeK.y hosted Saturday Night Live last night. They offered this funny little gem. Maybe the rest of America is starting to catch on to JAB’s awesome high quality, luxurious suits. ;)

You’re gonna like the way this skit plays out, I guarantee it! ;)

Youtube Link in case above fails.

 

 

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Trad Mannerisms: Integrating Maturity into your Look


Taking the old and making it young

You already know I write for you, an audience of like-minded peers who are roughly at or around our age of, say 16 to 30 (the range moves as I grow older and you grow younger!) Within this ever changing late high school to post graduate formula, there are many of us who were not exposed to tastes of traditional, East Coast American styling until maybe Rush Week or seeing our friends wear those tan Sperry Billfish boat shoes, which up until my faithful rebirth, I thought was very oldman-ish and that Hollister was more “preppy” than LLBean.

Most of the visitors whom I receive [always appreciated] comments and questions from never knew what the Cold War was really like. But every so often, I’ll hear from a kind gentleman who may have typed up a magic keyword in the Google bar, like “Penny Loafer” or “Shetland Sweater” or “Porn Store” and happen upon my little neck of the woods. I am always extra beholden when they offer kind words of experienced wisdom and blessing. And even rarer, I’ll get a request for guidance in their own ever-continuing aspirations for how a man should dress. Because age is just a number, while a gentleman’s style is universal and timeless. Below, printed with his permission and edited for privacy, is such an inquiry:

“I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and appreciate the nod to a more timeless style.  I’m wondering how this all translates to someone who has been out of college for 20 years. I live in eastern NC, so I can relate personally to a lot of what you write about. As someone who is self employed, I don’t have to work in an office environment, but have recently felt a need to “up the ante” a bit when meeting with clients. I’m trying to refresh my wardrobe and lay a better foundation. Any modifications for us older guys?

I have a son that just turned 14, and I am trying to nurture his interest in style as well.  You are probably closer to his age than mine.

One last question – you mention in your saving money comments that you visit clothes trading forums.  Care to share any links for those?  I haven’t bought anything on Ebay in a long time, but your suggestions have a searching there again for some deals. Thanks for taking the time to write. Keep up the great work!”

And my response, edited and expanded:

“Hello Mr. Smith,

Thank you so much for your kind words! I am glad you enjoy the blog and that you are seeking my guidance. I am quite honored, as I don’t have too many “older readers” (age is just a number ;) ) asking for my opinion.

With age comes wisdom and responsibility. This blog’s target is young men and hopes to instill a progression for traditional East-Coast American clothing. So while I have a “frat” section that advocates the more youthful aspects of prep, I hope it comes across to my young adult readers that with each new path in life accompanies a sophisticated mini-evolution in your wardrobe. Thus, you’ll see me recommending to the high school junior to start investing in a collection of Southern Tide shirts and Vineyard Vines polos and save his over sized Nike sweatpants for track practice, while to the post-grad, a collection of Brooks Brothers dress shirts and dress shoes to replace the no longer formal enough tucked Ralph Lauren polo shirt.

Your particular age, Mr. Smith, comes with even more unlimited possibility, in that less holds you back. Sure, internet fashion groupthink has come to the consensus that anyone over 30 should stop wearing shorts all together for example, save at the beach or lounging around the nook. For the record: I am less harsh, but will concede that hairy legs look best covered by Irish Linen instead of bare in the sweltering southern heat (for that reason, I have made the promise to stop wearing shorts to my rather casual church or other slightly so dressy events) making the over-the-proverbial-hill climate appear harsh and unfriendly to the already abated American male. But all in all, you can get away with a pure gentleman’s style in a manner that may look pretentious on someone at my younger age, and that is a good thing. What looks “try-hard” or misinterpreted for wanting to convey psuedo status for the 22 year old with a starting $30k/year bank teller position who just wants to impress the Boss, would look grounded, stated, and refined for you. For instance:

- A formal overcoat hitting at the knee. Some may consider this ostentatious for a 20 year old, who looks more his age with a thigh hitting car coat. Perhaps this is why the experienced Attendings wear their white clinician coat like drapes and Interns can compare their apprentice jackets to baby blazers.

-Scarves, leather dress shoes with a hard sole, the simple button-down tucked into chinos uniform, so forth. These basic utilities for CollegeTrad. But the 90% of the uneducated masses will think it too clean cut. Ripe for the snotty youngin’ brown noser. You however…expected- for the adult who paid his dues, with much commentary aside for the baggy jeans and sneakers wearing 55 year old buddy of yours.

-Class rings. Clubmaster and Wayfarer sunglasses. Fedoras and other Top Hats. That “Mad Men” look. Graceful on a man with speckled hair. Beautiful for the silver fox and demanding of respect. Cringe worthy for the up and comer.

The list goes on and on. So in a way, while us kids can get away with some things, we can’t with others. We already need a card carrying excuse to not “dress our age” of ultra slim hipster jeans or flip flops with a suit. As if it’s such travesty to our generation’s bellicose united front to dismantle the authoritarian establishment (Woodstock has nothing on us!) So it us who has to bare the burden, not you. Don’t be afraid to embrace your inner trad and pay homage to your dad’s dad, who would never set foot outside the door without looking like how a member of a goal driven, altruistic society should, which was and still is the only way to meet the day’s perverted challenges.

You can make simple increments to “up the ante”.  And this goes for everyone, not just the elderly (Pay attention you #YOLO loving 2000s smartasses!) As you are self-employed, you have everyone’s permission to dress as you please. I’m not saying you have to wear the suspender braces and double breasted suits to the client meeting for lunch, but by your age, a customer would appreciate seeing some touch of formalism on you. No suit needed? Then invest in a few sportcoats in solid greys and blues, along with a navy blazer to start off with, and eventually add more patterns and fabrics to your liking. Pair them with a OCBD or dress shirt, chinos or wool slacks, and penny loafers. And there we go, that’s all you’ll need! Your everyday uniform for 4 days out of the work week. Buy a cheap pair of straight-legged 501s and a few V-Neck sweaters to pair them with for Casual Fridays. When a shirt is worn alone, employ the Politician’s Roll for comfort and visual ease.

I have a friend who recently graduated from law school at Chapel Hill and now works as a budding consultant (you guys know how the law market is…) He is just barely older than me and insists on wearing his one and only blazer to lunches and meetings. And this is to be commended. He knows what I know: the easy add-on of the sportcoat or blazer speaks volumes to your clients and fellow colleagues. Even, say if you deal in blue collar pursuits, you’ll be seen as an experienced entrepreneur, with a tailored wool sportsjacket and perhaps a clean white pocket square complimenting your sharp organizational and strategy sense far more than the Best Buy manager’s blue baggy polo and pleated chinos can. And you don’t have to keep the sportcoats to work either, as they can be mixed from business to pleasure, versatile for a night out with the Misses or just attending one of your son’s wrestling matches. Thesis statement: The blazer and sportcoat is the easiest way to add maturity to an outfit and for people to take you seriously at whatever age (even moreso for mine), so play the part! Perfect for a touch of civility or to simply stand apart from the crowd. Worn with or without a tie, with denim or wool dress slacks, the jacket helps emphasize your styling points and effort. If you can wait for a sale, I would suggest the Brooks Brothers 2 buttoned Madison Fit Solid Wool Sport Coat in grey and navy and the JPress 3/2 Buttoned Sack Blue Blazer. These two or three staples can carry the rest of your career if need be. Or if you’re not wanting to wait for deals or search on eBay for these expensive options, you can get the budget conscious Land’s End Wool Traveler Blazer as your mainstay (right now, on sale for $90). You may choose another similar style and brand, but the concept remains the same: these basic jackets should be in your beginner’s arsenal for maximal usage in both the corporate and past time universes. Whenever a suit is too much, but a shirt is too little. That barometer becomes more sensitive the younger you are; so for my classmates, I’d wear sportjackets to the likes of bar mitzvahs, dinners, and datenights. But to Mr. Smith, your boundaries are endless.

Brooks Brothers Madison Fit Solid Wool Sportcoat – Grey and Navy
Madison Grey Wool SportcoatJPress Blue Blazer
JPress Blue Blazer
Land’s End Travel BlazerLands End Blazer
I’m finding myself opting for the sportcoat addendum more and more as I reach my mid-20s. It is such a useful and often overlooked tool that garners so many compliments and glances. Wearing a jacket that fits like a glove? Possibly the most confidence-inducing quick fix ever. And very comfortable may I add, contrary to the common belief, perpetrated by those who wear rigid flimsy boxes instead of soft cloths of longevity and grace.

Speaking of, as I address to all my readers and reiterate constantly to the tune of beating a dead blue whale, I strongly recommend knowing your measurements and befriending a good tailor, because you will be using him or her quite often. Sidebar: I visited mine twice this past week at the time of this posting. On a first name basis, we caught up on her trip abroad while fitting my older brother and myself. The clothes were purchased that day and still had the tags on- more often than not, my finds go straight to my professional! Older guys don’t have to go for the ultra skinny look like us whippersnappers do, but well-fitted clothing complimenting your build will surely suffice. This is absolutely key in preventing you from looking like your neighbor Joe, who’s one and only suit he wears maybe once a year- the 46L, unaltered and slightly droopy black Tommy Hilfiger 3 button suit he bought at Macy’s in 1997, appearing childish on his 42 chest, 6 foot frame that agrees more with the Regular than the Long.

For your son (and to our most youngest readers), other than getting him enrolled into an expensive prep school that would direct his tastes our way, or at least help expand his mind while standing on tables, you can help nurture him through positive feedback and encouragement while adhering to his age group. I assume you buy his clothing? Start him off with those southern preppy brands with tees and polos from Vineyard Vines, Guy Harvey, Southern Tide, and the like, a Patagonia Fleece Jacket, and Sperry Boat Shoes. Cutting to the point, these are what the “cool kids” wear in his image-obsessed millennial generation. That is, assuming you live in a region of similar taste such as the Original 13 Colonies (we’re working on converting those damned sun loving Arizonians!) Those types of name brands are at least peer-approved and less Sears Family Photo Album than what Grandma’s handmade itchy croquet sweater would suggest. Get him involved with sports if he is inclined, namely prep school traditions like soccer, lacrosse, golf, and swimming, as the guys who play them tend to all commence to similar fashion. My old LAX team were all into the sporty-frat look with those high top white socks, Nike Air Max sneakers, and brightly colored chino shorts. Unacceptable now for you and me, but prep’s current answer for the youthfully rebellious of today. Definitely better than the grunge look of the 1990s I’d say.

And those “Clothing Trading Forums” I relay to on the blog are namely Style Forum, Film Noir Buff Forum, and Ask Andy About Clothing. The latter two actually have a wonderful group of knowledgeable men within or even above your age group and are always kind enough to lend advice and comradery. “Never too late- or early- to dress well” is how I see their alma mater sing.

Lastly, one of the links above sent you to The Trad Blogspot. TinTin is a seasoned gentleman who’s sartorial writing and lifestyle commentary is crème de la crème, and in fact he was the first blog who’s advice inspired my journey. His uploads of a vintage Japanese fashion book profiling American Ivy League campuses in 1965, called Take Ivy, which unsurprisingly become an underground hit amongst us mens style crowd in recent years, demanding a re-print which first edition is owned by yours truly, has several authentic photographs depicting how I can see myself dressing in 20 and more years to come. This is the type of novelty I will morph myself to once I am of age, combining class and modern takes, as hopefully hence shown on the blog. Maybe not exactly Don Draper, but close enough, especially keeping with our economical inflation of scatterbrained styling. I suggest taking a look through and see if you can borrow a few influences for yourself.
Thank you and best wishes,
Tony”
Is the above advice, especially the wearing of a sport coat, a pure trad mannerism? I think so. The idea may be unoriginal, but nevertheless the spear of throwing on the jacket sharpens any man’s blade. So this role in itself serves as the mannerism: Dressing to impress in situations that may or may not suggest it, with the hint of maturity and accolade of the sport coat and blazer. The call to arms regardless of our sign of the times conditioning. Just like how it used to…and ought…to be.
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