I hate that Monday means another week of having to wake up and get to the office. Do it in style and you might make it a little easier on yourself.
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, Madison Avenue ad man with a dark past
New York City, March 1960
If you haven’t yet seen Mad Men, all of your friends or every award show is convincing you to watch it. If you have seen it, then you know every episode of the first three seasons by heart, you’re refamiliarizing with the fourth and fifth, and you’ve been to at least two Mad Men parties.
Mad Men is a refreshing phenomenon to Americans. Refreshing especially after waves of popular TV meant Jersey Shore or Dancing With the Stars, or the inevitable and dreaded Dancing With the Stars of Jersey Shore. Mad Men has style, class, and a story that is relevant, brilliant, and addictive. The stars of Mad Men, relatively anonymous when the show began, are now standard features in magazines, on TV, and in other films. Jon Hamm, especially, has evolved from an eighth grade teacher who waited tables between auditions to a superstar that has established himself as a talented comedic and dramatic actor as well as an all-around nice guy.
Hamm plays Don Draper, the mysterious ad man and the show’s Gatsby to Elisabeth Moss’s Nick Carraway. Draper became a cultural icon almost instantly, with the character receiving AskMen’s 2009 top honor as “Most Influential Man” of the year.
The look of Mad Men receives much praise of its historical accuracy and the style and class previously mentioned. Despite rampant sexism, racism, and drawbacks without modern technology, viewers yearned to be in the Sterling Cooper offices. Apparel-wise, Janie Bryant and her costumes team has garnered much acclaim for dedication to detail and creating a great look. Especially in the first season, set in 1960, Don’s look is very reminiscent of one of the most popular movie suits of all, Cary Grant’s Kilgour in North by Northwest.
Before delving into Don’s “man in the gray flannel suit” attire, I had an interesting revelation while gathering the screenshots for this article: All of Don’s look in the pilot evokes early TV. His wardrobe, primarily grayscale, would look almost exactly the same on a B&W TV screen in 1960.
What’d He Wear?
We first meet Don Draper in the corner of a smoky Manhattan bar he furiously makes notes on a cocktail napkin. Judging from his attire, he’s been there since he left work at 5 (or, knowing Don, 4:30) and has been working ever since. Not to say he hasn’t been enjoying himself, as he orders a second Old Fashioned from the waiter.
His suit is a classic office look from this golden age of American offices. The suit is gray flannel, an obvious and respectful homage to Sloan Wilson’s 1955 novel about a war veteran living in the suburbs with his wife and family while trying to succeed at a fast job in Manhattan.
1960 style was caught between the wide excess of the 1950s and the slim minimalism of the 1960s and this suit shows the positive result of this transition. The jacket has notch lapels, a 2-button front, and 3-button cuffs. Two darts keep the front fitted correctly. The long single vent in the back is a classic American style, in keeping with his overall look. The pants are flat front with turn-ups, or cuffs, on the bottoms. The pants are held up by a thin black leather belt with a silver-colored clasp.
In future episodes, Draper’s belt would change, but he always chose a belt over suspenders or side-adjusters, in keeping with the strong American influences. Also, one notable difference between Draper’s suit in the pilot and his subsequent suits: no pocket square.
Don’s shirt, or shirts, as he wisely keeps an extra in the office for sleepovers in the city, are always white, unless dining out or relaxing on the weekends. The shirts button down over a placket. A breast pocket with a rounded bottom conveniently holds Don’s omnipresent Lucky Strike cigarettes. Don also only wears shirts with double French cuffs and a single-buttoned gauntlet. With this outfit, the cuff links are silver shields.
The tie is off-white, more gray than cream, with black stripes alternative from thin to thick over the off-white base. Like the rest of his suit, Don’s stripes are in the American pattern, from his right shoulder down to his left hip. Unlike many men at the time, including his co-workers, Don chooses against wearing a tie bar or clip.
In this episode, Don wears black leather strap loafers and black dress socks with his suit. As mentioned, all of Don’s attire in this episode is shades of black and white.
Over his suit, Don’s outerwear is equally simple: a raincoat and a hat. The raincoat is single-breasted and light khaki in color, almost light enough to be ecru or cream. It is not seen clearly from the front, but it is definitely single-breasted and knee-length. The hat is a short-brimmed dark gray fedora with a wide black band.
Don’s single worn accessory is his watch, a simple but elegant Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox with a “Tuxedo” silver or white dial inside a round steel case. The watch is worn on a black leather strap. By the following season, Don has replaced his Memovox with the Reverso, another Jaeger-LeCoultre model that is still made today.
And underneath it all, Don wears the standard undershirt of your dad and his dad before him: the white crew neck T-shirt. In addition to the T-shirt, which Don wears in every episode and probably makes the changing of his shirts a little less necessary, Don wears lightweight cotton boxers. Typically white, I guess they weren’t sure yet for the pilot episode and went with blue.
Curiously but not surprisingly, Don does not wear a wedding band. Most men started wearing wedding bands during World War II as a reminder of their wives back home. Don, a Korean War vet- never mind. I won’t say anything. If you haven’t seen the show, it’ll be a spoiler. Just know that it makes sense that he doesn’t wear one and watch the show.
Go Big or Go Home
Don Draper is a man with class. He knows how to dress, he knows how to drink, and he makes smoking look cool even in the Age of the Health Nut. He may cheat on his wife (a deplorable act, but in the context of the show…), but at least he helps his future mistress put on her coat and stands when women walk up to where he is sitting.
Mad Men parties are so popular because of a) the show’s popularity, duh, and b) the ease of replicating its elegance. Darken the lights, get the right music, serve the right booze, and voila! All you need now are some good-looking people in suits and old dresses and hopefully no allergies to smoke.
Need music for your Mad Men party? In this episode, we hear:
- Don Cherry – “Band of Gold”
- Robert Maxwell – “Shangri-La”
- Gordon Jenkins – “Caravan”
- Vic Damone – “On the Street Where You Live”
The first scene, in which we meet Don in the Manhattan bar, is iconic: He is drinking an Old Fashioned, scribbling notes on a cocktail napkin, and chain smoking his Luckies. Everything about it – the suit, the lighting, the attitude, and Don Cherry crooning “Band of Gold” on the jukebox – add distinctive mise en scene and a sense of romanticism. This was commonplace back in 1960, made even more tragic by these facts:
- No one wears suits anymore and, if they do, 90% of the time, they take off their jacket, loosen their tie, and unbutton (!) their cuffs.
- No bars allow smoking. Wusses.
- Ask a bartender to make you an Old Fashioned. Most of them will know how, but the fact that you might get some puzzled looks is troubling.
- Where can you possibly hear great old music made by people who can actually carry a tune? Skrillex is no match for Sinatra, Drake is no Duke Ellington, and Katy Perry makes Ella Fitzgerald roll in her grave. Don’t ask me to name any more modern “music”, I may throw up.
So be Don. Find that remaining holdout of class in your neighborhood, where you can listen to actual music, allow your cigarette to linger on the ashtray, and drink a well-made (and strongly-made) whiskey cocktail that will make this Monday a little less painful than the rest. Which brings us to…
What to Imbibe
Don Draper knows how to drink. When the time calls, he has just the right libation. During his workday, it’s Canadian Club straight – no ice if it’s been an especially rough day. A night out? He gets his standby cocktail, an Old Fashioned.
One of the more complicated drinks to make (if you’re doing it correctly), the Old Fashioned is one of the oldest known cocktails, first recorded in 1806 as “spirits, bitters, water, and sugar” in The Balance and Columbia Repository. Eighty years later, the modern Old Fashioned (oxymoron?) was developed at the Pendennis Club in Kentucky. There are many ways to make an Old Fashioned, and you can find those ways anywhere, so here is my preferred recipe.
Dissolve a small lump of sugar into plain water in a rocks glass. Add two dashes of Angostura bitters and muddle a cherry and orange together with the sugar, water, and bitters. Next, add enough ice to fill the glass. Pour in enough whiskey (I prefer Bourbon) to cover the ice. Usually about 2 ounces should do it. Stir it all together. Finally, add another cherry (this one unmuddled) and an orange slice (also unmuddled), and enjoy.
How to Get the Look
Luckily for you, Mad Men fever has been sweeping the world and its designers. Clothing stores are rushing to put out Mad Men suits, one of which I picked up from Banana Republic in 2009 and very closely resembles a summer version of the gray suit Don sports throughout the pilot episode. To create your own:
- Medium gray suit, including: a single-breasted jacket with notch lapels, 2-button front, 3-button cuffs, long single vent, jetted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, and a darted front and flat front pants with turn-ups/cuffed bottoms, thin belt loops, slash side pockets, and 2 jetted rear pockets
- White button-down dress shirt with a moderate spread point collar, breast pocket, and double French cuffs
- Striped necktie, off-white with right-down-to-left black stripes alternating from thin to thick
- Silver shield-shaped cuff links
- Thin black leather belt with a squared silver clasp
- Light khaki single-breasted beltless raincoat with a long single vent
- Dark gray short-brimmed fedora with a wide black band
- Black dress socks
- Black leather strap loafers
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox wristwatch with a silver or white “Tuxedo” dial, round steel case, and black leather strap
- White short-sleeve crew neck undershirt
- Light blue cotton boxers
How to Be Don
This Mad Men-only section will appear in Don Draper’s articles, with tips from each episode on the things Don does that make him… Don.
We already touched upon helping a woman put her coat on. Whether she’s your wife, your mistress, or your mother, you should follow Don’s example and treat women with respect. Just because he cheats on his wi- Well… Just treat them with respect anyway, who cares what characters on TV do?
If you don’t have time to do it at home, do it in the office, whether it’s exercise…
Do Yourself A Favor And…
Buy the first season.
The reason you haven’t felt [love] is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons. You’re born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.
Don’s watch was confirmed by Joe Miragliotta on Joe’s Daily in a great article that tracks his watches through the seasons. (http://www.joesdaily.com/style/don-drapers-guide-to-luxury-watches/)
Don has a more established style in later episodes. Differences between the pilot and future episodes:
- In the pilot, he uses a silver Zippo lighter. In all others, he has a brass gold Zippo. However, he always smokes Luckies.
- In the pilot, his belt has a clasp. In all others, it has a buckle. However, he always has a belt – never suspenders or side adjusters.
- In the pilot, his breast pocket is empty. In all others, he typically wears a white pocketsquare.
- In the pilot, he wears light blue boxers. Any other time we see his underwear, it is white. However, he always has his white undershirt on.