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The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

Posted by Jim Botticelli  November 27, 2013 02:39 PM

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Courtesy of Boston Public Library.

The man in the gray flannel suit walks down Huntington Ave toward Copley when it was still a triangle, as another man, similarly attired, heads outbound. While the suits don't appear to be pure gray, they are probably charcoal gray, a popular color in men's haberdashery at the time of this photo, estimated to be about 1960. At that time, a vintage and IMO attractive gas station stood about where Copley Place now stands. There was no Mass Pike in the city, only train tracks, invisible, but off to the right. But also visible, interestingly, is what is now called a 'Ghost Ad' for Herrick's to the right of the gas station, reflecting a period of advertising done right on the bricks of buildings to showcase a company, product or concept. That concept has largely disappeared.

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit was a 1955 novel authored by Sloan Wilson about how Americans search for purpose in a world dominated by business. Tom and Betsy Rath struggle to fine contentment in their hectic and material culture, perplexed at their childrens' seeming addiction to television. In the end it becomes a story of  taking responsibility for one's own life. The book was made into a movie in 1956 with Gregory Peck and was entered into the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
Columnist Bob Greene of the Chicago Tribune wrote, "The title of Sloan Wilson's best-selling novel became part of the American vernacular—the book was a ground-breaking fictional look at conformity in the executive suite, and it was a piece of writing that helped the nation's business community start to examine the effects of its perceived stodginess and sameness."

Thanks to Wikipedia for filling in the holes. Thanks to BPL for the photo

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This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Jim Botticelli, a 1976 Northeastern University graduate, is a retired Boston Public Schools teacher. In college, he drove a cab and learned the city's cow paths. An avid collector of More »

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