The world of Mad Men -- 12/12/10

This is my 7th entry in my 5th year of taking part in Holidailies. If you have wandered in from Holidailies, you can scroll down to read a brief introduction.

Nancy and I have been watching the first season of Mad Men (via Neflix) and are both somewhat astonished by the culture of that era. This includes everything from race relations to the incessant smoking (and drinking) to the relationships between men and women to the clothing fashions of the time.

The sources of our astonishment are not the same. The season 1 shows we have been watching are set in the spring and summer of 1960. It is set in Nancy's early childhood. That fall she would enter kindergarten. Watching this program, she is seeing things she never really saw through adult eyes. On the other hand, for me it was the year when I went from my junior year to my senior year of high school; I was seventeen, had a job, smoked, drank, indulged in adult activities. I can remember that men wore hats when they were dressed in suits and would not go out in public hatless -- it would be as bad as forgetting to put on your necktie -- and how astonished people were when Jack Kennedy was bare-headed at his Inauguration -- and how that act seemed to do away with hats as a mandatory part of a businessman's daily attire. When we were kids, my brother and both had to wear child-sized fedoras with our Sunday suits. I had not been looking forward to having to wear a hat (and a suit) every day, so I was not at all sad to see hats go away. It's not really that JFK did this single-handedly. Hats had been disappearing for a while. I can remember when I was a kid and my father would go to a union meeting (he was a steam-fitter and plumber) he would put on a suit and wear a hat, but when in the mid-fifties he went to work for IBM and moved from blue-color to white-color, he wore suits to work but did not wear a hat. What Kennedy did was show that it was not just okay, it was youthful and fashionable to go without a hat.)

I had no need to wear a suit to work until 1966, when I became a teacher, but during my freshman year of college I lived in a dorm on campus and we had to wear jackets and ties to dinner in the campus dining hall. (Women had to wear skirts or dresses to classes as well as in the dining hall.) And, of course, when going to my after school and summer jobs in supermarkets and discount stores, I had to wear a white shirt and necktie. (And I came to hate white dress shirts so much that I would not wear one after that. I probably have a dozen or more dress shirts in various shades of blue but the only times I have worn a white shirt since 1966 have been when I was wearing a tux and the only white shirt that I have owned in all those years is a white formal shirt I bought a few years ago to wear with my tuxedo.)

When we went out to dinner this past Thursday, I wore a suit (the restaurant -- Capriccio -- believes "gentlemen" should not dine in shirtsleeves), dark gray banker's pinstripe, with braces, not a belt. It was the first time I have worn an actual suit this entire year. (I've worn a necktie a few times -- well, I did on election day when I was a poll watcher -- and probably to a few ASTD meetings.) Since I work from home, I am usually wearing jeans and a sweatshirt (shorts and a t-shirt in the summer) and rarely get much more formal than that. Although I am perfectly comfortable wearing a suit, I must admit that I generally also feel perfectly presentable wearing a sports jacket and dress shirt (no tie) with jeans to go out to dinner or to a play, although not that many years ago I would have at least have worn a jacket and tie with dress pants.

And the smoking! It is rather shocking to see people smoking so much and in every kind of situation.. not just in offices but in restaurants... and not just with a cup of coffee after the meal, but actually during the meal. And yet, I can remember doing that myself, smoking during a meal, smoking everywhere. It's a wonder nobody invented a gadget that let you smoke while taking a shower -- and I admit, if someone had put something like that on the market, I probably would have bought and used it. I was a two and three pack a day smoker for many years. In junior high it was Marlboro and then in high school I had changed to Parliaments but late in 1959 I had switched to unflitered cigarettes, Chesterfield Kings and then, in 1962 I switched to Camels and smoked them until I quit in 1980.

As for the racial and sexual situation back then vs. now -- well, consider who is president today. And, if the Democrat primaries had come out a bit different, then the president today would have been a woman. (Hey, I would have voted for her. I don't particularly like her, but voting is not proposing marriage, it's deciding which of two candidates would do a better job -- or at least a less bad job -- than the other one.

A brief introduction....
(edited to update it from 2006)
A brief introduction for anyone who wanders in here from the Holidailies site -- I'm a middle-aged (*cough* okay, 63 67 , but I don't look a day over 62 66 ) guy who lives in Rhode Island with my wife Nancy (a middle-school math teacher), daughter Gillian ("Jill" -- 24
28 yr old college student and baker), son Jeremy (21 25 yr old college student restaurant manager), and Tiger (senior citizen cat). Eldest child Adam lives in New York City with his wife Leah and our grandson s Sam and Milo . I'm a former programmer/systems analyst who got into doing software training and currently works from home doing quality assurance and editing on course material for both classroom courses and Web-based training courses. I've been writing this online journal since 1996.

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