Bad hippie wigs should never happen to good TV shows.
Frankly, they shouldn't even happen to "Twilight" movies.
Bad, wrong, or historically inaccurate, hair has the power like few other screen elements to take you out of a story -- and into a full-blown rant: What. Is. That. Thing. On. Her. Head?
For meticulous five seasons, "Mad Men" didn't have a hair out of place. (Brylcreem can be useful that way.) Then, last weekend, Season 6 arrived, and with it long sideburns. And thick beards. And floppy mustaches.
And also a question: Can the pitch-perfect "Mad Men," now heading into 1968, still be "Mad Men" in the age of "Hair"?
"I sense that the show's designers are challenged as to how to embrace the style of '68 while being true to their characters," says Amanda Hallay, a professor of fashion merchandising at Manhattan's LIM College.
[Related: Yes, That Was Linda Cardellini on 'Mad Men']
Hallay says she sees the reticence mainly reflected in the retro-minded series' still-staid female characters -- Peggy, Joan, and Betty, the latter's abrupt makeover from Barbie blond to Elizabeth Taylor brunette notwithstanding.
The men of "Mad Men," however, are being allowed to let it hang out -- and grow out.
In the season premiere, Peggy's activist boyfriend Abe burst through a door looking like a lost member of the Grateful Dead. Over at Sterling Cooper, Pete Campbell and Harry Crane sported long-ish sideburns, Ken Cosgrove had a new sweep, and Michael Ginsberg and Stan Rizzo -- well, descriptions don't do justice to their makeovers.
"The hair of both Ginsberg and Rizzo was startling," says Roberta Lipp of the "Mad Men"-tracking blog, Basket of Kisses, "but I think the changes were genuinely that abrupt during that time."
(Lipp does a fine job of summing up Rizzo's new beard: The art director, she says, is "apparently channeling [Beach Boy] Brian Wilson.")
Mary Cook, a New York-based film and TV hair stylist, likewise thinks the male characters' updated locks are spot-on.
"That was a good transition to take it to the next level, instead of going all the way out," Cook says.
In the early going, Jon Hamm's Don Draper is one of the few male characters who's keeping it all the way in, as it were -- he's just as slick-backed and clean-shaven as he was during "Mad Men's" Kennedy White House years.
"By the late 1960s, nearly every man had longer hair," Halley says, "even Walter Cronkite."
Then again, the TV newsman Cronkite evolved (and famously so on Vietnam); Draper's just as troubled as he ever was.
If there's a point to Draper's frozen-in-time style -- and in the exacting Matthew Weiner series, there's always a point -- then there should be little fear that "Mad Men" has lost in its brave, new hair world.
"We're not quite used to the new styles yet," says Nikki Macaluso, editor of the fashion site StyleList, "but at least it's not like they look like Austin Powers."
Yes, bad hippie wigs should only happen to good comedies.
"Mad Men" airs Sundays at 9 PM on AMC.
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