Sometimes, being fashion forward means looking back
By Jahmal Landers
The cast of AMC's Mad Men. We do not own this photo.
It has been the unstoppable rise to greatness of the scintillating American period dramas Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire which has ushered in the current renaissance of vestiary excellence. The shows’ stylists provide stunning visual aesthetics for the eyes of the more fashion conscious amongst us to feast on. Suits rich in color and texture stimulate the senses much like a banquet prepared by a Michelin-starred chef. The accoutrements complement the suits like a refreshing aperitif; bow ties, neckties, tie pins, pocket watches and handkerchiefs conjure up nostalgia of the Atomic Age of the 60’s and our romantic obsession with the Prohibition era of the 30’s.
The gangsters of Boardwalk Empire: Meyer Lansky, Arnold Rothstein and Lucky Luciano. We do not own this photo.
The marquee shows for premium networks HBO and AMC have introduced a much welcomed, the more frank would say needed, revival of modern men’s fashion. Both shows revisit their respective periods with careful attention to detail, from the fit and style of the suits, to the the selection of skinny ties and tie pins. The Nietzsche-esque supermen showcased in these gripping dramas are powerful alphas, dressed to kill from tip to toe.
Boardwalk's leading man, Enoch "Nucky" Thompson. We do not own this photo.
What gentleman in his thirties doesn't look down at their flannel button up draped over a graphic tee and cutoff jean shorts then stare back into the TV screen and say: “I wish I had Nucky’s style”? These shows have changed the status quo in mens fashion, recounting a time, for better or worse, when clothes made the man, or as Polonius said in Act 1 Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “For the apparel oft proclaims the man”.
Mad Men: Don Draper et al. We don not own this photo.
Don Draper has a slick yet staunchly understated style. Your significant other, or the object of your affection, is likely at some point in time to look you dead in the eye and confess the extent to which they “Love watching Mad Men because Don Draper is just so handsome!” You will be left lamenting the fact that you do not lay claim to an elegantly tailored suit and sophisticated tie, while she fawns over snarky megalomaniacs in, well... elegantly tailored suits. Fashion retailers and specialty boutiques alike can thank HBO and FX for prompting millions of dollars of menswear purchases. With terms such as “dandy” and “dapper” being constantly bandied about these days, we have witnessed a sharp increase in conspicuous consumption. Some scour thrift shops while others go the whole nine yards to redefine their wardrobes.
Alas, all good things come to an end and both of these critically acclaimed shows, with their monumental viewing audiences and far-reaching influence, are embarking on their final seasons. As a new crop of shows prepare to fill the soon to be vacant prime time slots left by Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men, we pose the question: Who will be the beacons of men’s fashion once Don Draper and Enoch Thompson are relegated to the rerun universe?
The Periwinkle bow tie by Bowyer and Fletcher