In a 3.12 riff about the poster for Mad Men‘s upcoming sixth season, I wrote that “sooner or later Don Draper is going to have to start growing his hair a little longer, or at least the beginnings of modest sideburns. By ’68 even straight-laced ad execs had started to loosen up and unbutton from the early ’60s button-down style, which was half-inherited from the JFK attitude and half from Sloan Wilson‘s The Man in the Gray-Flannel Suit.”
Well, I watched the two-hour Mad Men opener last night, and I don’t mind revealing that my comment was spot-on. It’s now late 1968 (as last season ended in mid ’67) and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is suddenly in the throes of a sideburn explosion. And I mean every last male in the agency…Roger Sterling, Pete Campbell, Harry Crane…everyone has a new set of executive chops. Everyone, that is, except for repressed, fucked-up, constipated, cigarette-smoking, vaguely pissed-off Don, who’s still wearing his hair like it’s 1958.
And the younger guys in the agency have really gone over the waterfall with their hair. Moustaches, frizzy-ness, granny glasses…everything but love beads. I was thinking “Jesus, these guys look like the Strawberry Alarm Clock.” I was also thinking of Jack Bruce‘s hair on the cover of Disreali Gears.
It’s exciting to think that as all this is happening, Phillip Roth is struggling in his Manhattan apartment with one of his last drafts of Portnoy’s Complaint, and the general culture, of course, has no idea that the idea of anal will soon be launched among millions of middle-class men and women who have never gone there before.
Otherwise the most intriguing (one could say haunting) thing to be used in the two-hour debut is a prop. A small device made of metal and used for a specific purpose. A device that sorta travels from Korea to Vietnam (in a sense) and then to Honolulu and finally to New York…and then, we’re led to presume, back to Vietnam. It means something, this little device. I swear to God it does.
Update: Even if season #6 is happening in ’69 I still felt compelled to buy the digitally remastered Disraeli Gears today.