Seeing the World Second Hand: Mad Men and the Vintage Consumer

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Caroline Hamilton


This essay explores the way Mad Men’s narrative engages with changing patterns of consumption and the implicit amorality and self-interest of consumer culture. The new consumer of the 1960s searched for ways to express individual identity through consumer goods that advertised themselves as rare, exclusive and with the aura of legitimacy. At the start of the twenty-first century this same consumer now concerns themselves with provenance, craftsmanship and ethical production. These concerns find their greatest expression in the act of vintage shopping. This essay examines these consumer habits in terms of the celebration and criticism of Mad Men. While some welcome the program’s obsessive period accuracy and curatorship, others consider these features to be nothing more than ‘window dressing’ obscuring the significant moral and political issues at stake in the era.

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On Mad Men (Peer Reviewed)