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See if this sounds familiar: a brilliant cultural phenomenon arrives to wild acclaim, and suddenly everyone wants a piece of it. There are trend pieces, magazine covers and for a solid eighteen months it seems like the whole media engine runs on the fumes of this one magical creation. Then everyone gets famous and, four years later, the tastemakers in question finally confess to being over it.

You can set your watch to it…or at least your calendar.

In this case, the magican creation is Mad Men and the sour turn comes from Esquire. And, naturally, they’re right. The two-inch tie isn’t what it used to be, and a thin-lapelled suit won’t raise the eyebrows it did in ’07. But we’d like to think there’s more to it than that.

So let’s talk about those suits. Mad Men‘s style makes sense because of the professionalism behind it. (Although having Thom Browne hanging around probably didn’t hurt.) These are people so completely at one with their professions, there’s no telling where the Executive Account Manager ends and the human being begins. Winding out the implications of that isn’t simple—in fact, it takes four seasons and counting—but a man wearing the hell out of a gray flannel suit is a pretty good symbol for it.

That’s what a suit means for most men. It’s what you have to wear, what you have to be, in order to do your job. That’s not your whole style, but it’s a big part of it. And as long as gentlemen go to work and dress to fit their roles rather than their own personal inclinations, it’s going to stay that way. By all means, make it yours with tie bars and lapel pins…but when you start to wonder why you’re wearing a suit to begin with, think of Don Draper.

“Nucky Thompson” just doesn’t have the same ring.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom