The world is full of advertising, product placement and subliminal messages: ‘Buy me’, ‘drink me’ and, if you’re walking through particular parts of the world, ‘fuck me’.
In the world of AMC’s Mad Men that is all there is. Men battling it out to secure the biggest deals, the best wife, the highest paid job – not a million miles away from the real-life advertising world (just without as much daytime drinking?), but an amplified version, nonetheless.
In life, we aspire to do the best we can and if we are lucky enough and work hard enough, we can achieve exactly that. Some take to imagining the life they could be living if they were a bit more proactive, had been born into money or even born into the 1950’s ‘Mad Men’ era. We can put Sinatra on Spotify, drink our bourbon, comb our hair and clean shave. But unless we are Don Draper, or even Harvey Spector from ‘Suits’, again we fall short of this TV and advertising borne ideal of masculinity, metrosexuality and cool.
In a time of perfectly pleated trousers, trilbys and an Ol’Fashioned cooling on the bar, Don Draper is the personification of the alpha male; Harvey Spector, his modern day counterpart. But how helpful is that to the real man in the street in 2013?
On the outside, Don is successful, rich and married with children.
But in reality he is a deserter, a drunk, an adulterer and, to be frank, pretty fucked up.
Still, he does all these things, good and bad, with such effortless cool and enviable élan that even through the questionable seventies he is able to seduce the ladies with his ‘I don’t care’ attitude. He’s a compelling character for both men and women, but a dangerous role model.
When the average man is possessed of a certain confidence and charm, it is certainly possible for him to live a life which could bring them the same kind of trappings, should he want them, but for the majority of men the reality is very different.
It is only society’s pressures to have the best, to live a particular lifestyle, to be the coolest and most attractive. Take magazines such as Esquire, GQ and Men’s Vogue, for example, all selling a lifestyle that 99% of us can only dream of living. It is certainly conceivable that a man in a full time job who is reasonably successful can (at risk of debt) acquire the perfectly tailored £1000 suits, the £600 shoes, the £400 umbrella and the £200 money clip we see in Mad Men. For the average guy, however, that pair of shoes could be a month’s rent, food or travel – or perhaps even all three.
With high street brands such as Banana Republic and Topman stocking their own take on the ‘Don Draper’ collection, it might not be so necessary to break the bank in the quest to emulate Draper’s style, but ultimately would you want to? These depictions of masculinity, whilst a source of entertainment on Netflix, are so beyond the realms of most men that they run the risk of becoming harmful, if taken too seriously. Should we really be clamouring to emulate a man who is nothing more than a womanizing alcoholic, albeit one with a fantastic array of sharp suits at his disposal? Whatever your thoughts on Mad Men, or Don Draper as a role model, there should be a clear distinction between wanting to dress like him, and wanting to BE him. One of those options is more than achievable; the other a much more worrying concept.