Jon Hamm as Don Draper, Madison Avenue ad man with a dark past
New York City, March 1960
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” (Episode 1.01)
Air Date: July 19, 2007
Director: Alan Taylor
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
If you haven’t yet seen Mad Men, most of your friends or every award show is convincing you to watch it. If you have seen it, then you likely know every episode from all seven series by heart, 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 gray plaid suit 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.
Don’s gray flannel suit, a classic look from the golden age of American offices, is 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 transitioning 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 single-breasted, two-button jacket has notch lapels, three-button cuffs, a long single vent, straight flapped hip pockets, and a welted breast pocket worn with no pocket square. The full cut resembles the American “sack suit” popularized by Brooks Brothers through the 20th century.
The flat front trousers are finished with cuffs (turn-ups) on the bottoms, and are held up by a slim black leather belt with a steel single-prong buckle. 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.
In these early episodes, Don consistently wears only white poplin dress shirts at the office, wisely keeping a few extras in his desk for “sleepovers” in the city.
This shirt has a narrow point collar, front placket, and a breast pocket with a rounded bottom that neatly carries Don’s omnipresent packet of Lucky Strike cigarettes. Don only wears dress shirts with double (French) cuffs and a single-buttoned gauntlet. With this outfit, the cuff links are silver shields.
Don’s silk tie is a light, cool shade of taupe with black diagonal stripes crossing from the right shoulder down to his left hip – the American tie stripe direction for the quintessential American businessman.
In this episode, Don wears black leather monk strap loafers and black dress socks with his suit.
Over his suit, Don’s outerwear is equally simple: a raincoat and a hat.
Don’s light khaki knee-length raincoat has raglan sleeves and a long single back vent. 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 and white dial inside a round steel case and 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 favored by your dad and his dad before him: a plain white cotton 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 or rye) to cover the ice. Usually about two 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 that Don Draper sports throughout the pilot episode.
- Medium gray semi-solid flannel suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted 2-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and single vent
- Flat front trousers with narrow belt loops, side pockets, jetted rear pockets, and cuffed bottoms/turn-ups
- White cotton poplin dress shirt with a moderate-spread point collar, breast pocket, and double/French cuffs
- Steel shield-shaped cuff links
- Pale gray black-striped woven silk necktie
- Slim black leather belt with a squared steel single-prong buckle
- Black calf leather monk strap loafers
- Black dress socks
- Light khaki single-breasted beltless raincoat with a long single vent
- Dark gray felt short-brimmed fedora with a wide black ribbon
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox wristwatch with a silver and 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. (While conveniently ignoring the more sexist aspects of the character and the era.)
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…
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.
The vintage Memovox watch was confirmed by Joe Miragliotta on Joe’s Daily in a great article that tracks his watches through the seasons.
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 single-prong buckle. In later episodes, it has a covered buckle. However, he always has a belt – never suspenders or side adjusters.
- In the pilot, his suit jacket’s breast pocket is empty. In episodes to follow, he typically wears a white pocket square.
- 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.