11 Ways Mad Men Changed Our World

As the new series gets underway, we look at how Don Draper and co helped reshape contemporary culture

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1 | Style
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Mad Men was a game-changer. Don Draper instantly became the visual shorthand for cool. When I got married in 2009, Don’s was the look I was channelling. Roger Sterling is actually the snappier dresser but his pocket square origami is too tricksy. Don, on the other hand, is such an alpha male the average man could claim him as a style hero without embarrassment. After the show aired, men started dressing up when they went out by wearing pocket squares and tie slides, and parting their hair at the sides. Suit lapels, shirt collars and ties became skinnier. The entire silhouette of men’s tailoring changed. Mad Men was the catalyst."

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Dan Rookwood, US Editor, Mr Porter.com

2 | Hairstyles
“When Mad Men aired in 2007 it reinforced that shift towards classic styling. Prior to this there was “messy bed head” – short back and sides, and messy on top. Vintage haircuts were the antithesis to this; they were groomed and neat. Men’s trends last quite a while but this whole trend has lasted a very long time. The Don Draper haircut on a man is so classic, which might also explain that longevity. It makes the face look really handsome, square-jawed and masculine. Also, it’s not a difficult look to pull off. It suits most men. We’ve also seen a massive rise in people buying combs. That’s the key to the Don Draper look; the trend changed from using your hands to using a comb.”

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Alex Glover, Master Barber, Murdock London


3 | Spectacles
"The glasses worn in Mad Men were very accurate in terms of the period and that made a difference. It also made it very credible to wear glasses. They’re often not entirely right in films; in Mad Men everything was really well researched. The metal combination that Harry Crane wore became a very strong trend that many menswear brands took on; that became a staple. There’s always an aviatoror a wayfarer in most collections and this combination – a kind of Malcolm X look – has become part of the lexicon. Glasses have become something to complete a look. Don prefers to wear sunglasses in the show. They give him an allure; he’s not giving anything away."

Marie Wilkinson, Design Director, Cutler and Gross


4 | Design
"Every generation looks at its recent past in a different way and Mad Men has done for the Sixties what the previous generation did for the Victorians. Something that looks out of date suddenly looks pretty cool. In the 1960s, Victorian style went from being a joke to being something taken seriously. The way the Rolling Stones started wearing 19th century army uniforms; they took the look but they didn’t go for the morality of the Victorians. Our generation has taken the look of the Sixties but doesn’t go in for the sexism or smoking at work. There is now a major market in mid-century antiques: the early works of Charles Eames [American designer], Robin and Lucienne Day [British husband-and-wife design team]. Mad Men has helped take that work from the enthusiast world into a wider one. We don’t know how much Mad Men has played in re-establishing the coolness of the period but it’s there in the colours you see in Topshop, and the stuff from that period you’ll see in John Lewis. Mad Men has probably had a lot to do with condensing a lot of things in that direction."

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Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Design Museum, London. B is for Bauhaus, An A to Z of the Modern World by Deyan Sudjic (Particular Books) is out now.


5 | Drinks
“You’ve seen a real rise in the popularity of dark drinks: American and British whiskies, and in cocktails like the Old Fashioned that Don drinks in the show. The popularity of the long, fruity cocktails of the late 1990s and 2000s has fallen away and been replaced with those shorter drinks with a little bit more punch to them. Apart from the show, there’s also the fact that in a time of austerity you can’t necessarily go out and afford to have six drinks. With these shorter, harder drinks you can have three and still get the same alcohol buzz. Behind the bar, we’re a lot more aware of presentation and aesthetics. Mad Men has certainly made everyone sharpen themselves up.”

Myles Davies, Group Bar Manager, Hix


6 | Dining
"There was an overlap between Mad Men and the broader dining experience that has evolved. Mad Men takes a new style of going out to extremes; that sense of going somewhere and having more than just a reverential attitude to food. Rather than that French style of dining, it’s moved into a more American casual style. Look at Mad Men’s locations. They have that old-school glamour; they’re not bling but they are glamorous in their own way. Restaurants that opened 10 years ago tended to feel of the moment but restaurants opening now tend to feel like they’ve been here for a long time. People like that feeling of longevity; that’s a very Mad Men trend.”

Will Beckett, co-owner of Hawksmoor British Steakhouse


7 | Work
"Mad Men is contemporary office politics done in the style of the 1960s. What you see in people who get to the top is that they’re good at being Machiavellian. There are people in the Sterling, Cooper & Partners office who aren’ t like that; who weren’t just governed by self-interest. But Don Draper will always prevail in that he doesn’t have empathy. The best office role model is Peggy Olson, left. She succeeds in part by being good at her job. We’re all told that’s how to get on but the reality is you have to be good at office politics too, which Draper is.”

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Oliver James, Psychologist and author, Oliver James: Office Politics (Vermilion) is out now


8 | The Advertising Industry
“How real is it? Some bits are spot-on; others wildly absurd. Yes, people drank more back then, but the idea of someone walking into your office at 11am and pouring a whiskey would have been seen as outrageous. What remains true? Remembering, it’s not what you say but how you say it. Mad Men’s timeless style has captured our imagination; never was the suit so appealing. My only real criticism is why is the agency’s creative output so bad? This was the moment when New York dominated the creative industries, but not with work like Don’s.”

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Sir John Hegarty, founding partner of Barle, Bogle Hegarty Advertising Agency. Hegarty on Creativity: There Are No Rules (Thames & Hudson) is out now


9 | TV
“Glorious TV serials, period and contemporary, were being made before Mad Men and more will be after. But its quality and its ambition (telling the story of the latter part of the 20th century through the prism of one era) have rarely been matched. The major change it made to TV is that it gave AMC the confidence to compete with HBO and hence commission Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, among others. There’s very little ‘action’ in Mad Men. We see all emotional sides of Don, Pete, Roger and co in a way we don’t often with men on TV (done well, at least).”

Will Dean, Editor of Independent Magazine and former Mad Men blogger


10 | Women
“Don’s relationships with women at work do feel contemporary, in the sense that they’re largely respectful. He found, mentored and promoted Peggy. He was the only partner who vetoed Joan sleeping with a client in order to secure the big deal. Don’s personal relationship with Megan hasn’t played out as expected. She rejected the decent job he gave her to pursue her own dreams. He’s being left behind – ironically, the young wife is ageing him. In many ways she represents what he thinks he wants, but can’t accept. For all his progressiveness with his female colleagues (though actually only two of them, so let’s not get carried away), he still struggles with the meeting of modernity and tradition.”

Rebecca Nicholson, columnist on the Guardian


11 | Being a man
“Don Draper is, in many ways, what our culture deems the ideal man. He’s stylish, powerful and sexually successful. He works in a creative job in which he’s constantly told he’s a genius and in which he refuses to be shackled by a contract. He’s a totally free agent who is, apparently, in charge of his own destiny. But scratch the surface and the Draper character is quickly revealed to be an empty façade. Firstly, he’s always been Dick Whitman faking it as Don. And secondly, because he has intentionally been written with very little interior life, he’s blank. Ultimately, that’s why Mad Men has resonated so profoundly with the men who watch it: it reveals all the intensely desirable things that they can never live up to to be an impossible, empty, meaningless fiction.”

Dr Jamie Hakim, Lecturer in Media Studies, School of Film, Television and Media Studies at UEA


The final season of Mad Men begins on Sky Atlantic on 16 April at 10pm

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SEE ALSO:

How Mad Men Might End 
Mad Men's 10 Sexiest Women 
Style Tips From Mad Men 
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