FIVE THINGS MAD MEN TAUGHT ME ABOUT LIFE.
I was told that the show featured great style, and I was hungry for that, curious what I would get out of it. I had no idea, seven seasons later, how much I would give to it. The timing was just right, in my life, that I would see and understand my own growth, and the development of my own, personal style, in a kind of partnership with the show.
- 1.Excellence in style is not about what you wear, it’s about how you wear it.I lived in 7 cities before the age of 40; I meandered not only geographically, but also academically, religiously, in complex life decisions and in style. All the while, however, I have tried to live with my actions and my identity in alignment – in flux as they may have been. Only now has my sartorial style “become at home.” And while learning to understand Don is learning to understand how lost he is, it’s also to appreciate the journey to be “at home,” where outfit and outlook are aligned.
- 2.Fit is a thousand times more important than fashion.The 70s were full of fashion experiments that might have looked good on a catalog or runway, and bad on everyone else. In my own life, as I began to explore the world of style, I bought a lot of clothes that made a variety of statements. It took a while to discover what early MM seasons demonstrated, and which won every budding sartorialist’s heart: a great fitting suit, a properly tailored shirt, a slender tie, and a clean haircut looks great on any man.
- 3.There’s a difference between keeping up with the times and having no core-principles.Every season, Harry sheds his previous attire and becomes the poster-man-child of the new look. Stan, too, transforms, from on-point, polo-with-blazer, womanizing yuppie of the early seasons to the scruffy, bearded post-hippie who wins Peggy’s heart. But whereas Stan evolves as a character, Harry devolves. In that sense each shows the light and dark side of style. It can be fickle, a costume, a mask, or a sincere representation, an aspiration. I hope I am more like Stan.
- 4.When life takes out an eye, slip on a patch and soldier on.Kenny wants to be a writer but he's caught up in the corporate world. Not only is it consuming him, it takes his eye. After losing his job, however, he takes an entirely different path, and never looks back. So to speak. He goes from tragic character to master of his own fate, no longer playing hands but dealing them to others. We have all picked up our scars in life. Some are visible, many are not. By all means, after loss, we should take time to grieve and mend. And then we should kick ass.
- 5.Style is in the office, on vacation, mowing the lawn, at a new-age retreat center, and when alone, drunk in a motel.There is the dignity of a fresh, white shirt after a rough night. There is the dignity of a fresh, well fitting polo shirt while on vacation. There is the dignity of a short sleeve, button-up shirt when you’re relaxing at home. Even in my worst hours, I don't want to act like Don, but perhaps I've learned something from him about how to hold up my head and find some value in his proclamation: sometimes, all I need is “a shower and a shave.”