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 seasons 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.
Both this day and the next, Don dresses for work in a gray wool suit with mini black tics. “The man in the gray flannel suit” was a common trope of the era, reflective of the classic look seen during the golden age of American offices and most famously celebrated in 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.
Don’s gray woolen suit from the first episode was one of the many casualties dropped between the pilot and the rest of the first season as well as his car, Peggy’s “Amish” hairstyle (though it could be argued she adopted a new ‘do following Pete’s comment), and the Sterling Cooper office itself. The ad man would wear many gray suits to follow, but this particular suit from “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” wouldn’t be seen after the first episode.
Despite its absence from the rest of the series, the details of the suit establish a template that most Draper-specific suits would follow: a two-piece suit with a single-breasted jacket cut with notch lapels with two buttons to show, though this jacket only has two buttons as opposed to the 3/2-roll suit coats that would begin appearing in the following episode. Per the transitional period from the excess of the fabulous fifties into the slim minimalism of the early ’60s, this suit jacket is somewhat longer with a button stance closer to Jon Hamm’s natural waist than some of the jackets he would wear over later seasons.
This suit jacket has a long single vent, three-button cuffs, and flapped hip pockets. Although the jacket has a welted breast pocket, Don foregoes the folded white pocket square that he would begin wearing in the second episode. A fuller cut suggests the American “sack suit” popularized by Brooks Brothers through the 20th century, and we know that costume designer Janie Bryant sourced many of Don’s clothing—not just suits but also shoes, sweaters, shirts, slippers, and sport jackets—from the venerable Madison Avenue clothier.
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 packets of Lucky Strike cigarettes. For days at the office, Don exclusively wears shirts with double (French) cuffs, in this case a squared cuff that he fastens with a set of silver shield-shaped cuff links. Each shirt also has a smaller button to close the gauntlet above each wrist.
Don wears an ivory silk tie with black diagonal stripes in the “downhill” direction, crossing from the right shoulder down to his right hip—the classic American tie stripe direction for the quintessential American businessman. Each black stripe set consists of a medium-width stripe bordered on the top and bottom by a thinner stripe.
In this episode, Don wears black leather derby shoes and black dress socks with his suit. (For some reason, I had previously identified these as single-strap monk shoes, but they appear to definitely be derbies.)
Over his suit, Don’s outerwear is equally simple: a raincoat and a hat. His beige gabardine knee-length raincoat has an ulster collar, raglan sleeves, handwarmer pockets, and a long single vent. His business-friendly hat is a short-brimmed dark gray trilby with a wide black grosgrain ribbon.
Don’s single worn accessory is his watch, a simple but elegant Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox with a “Tuxedo” black-and-white dial inside a round steel case and worn on a black leather strap. The vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre watch was confirmed by Joe Miragliotta on Joe’s Daily in a great article that tracks his watches through the seasons.
By the following season, Don has replaced his Memovox with the classic 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 in light blue rather than the white he would wear for every episode to follow.
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 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 he attempts to counter it with public displays of chivalry such as rising when a woman approaches, helping with her coat, or lighting her cigarette.
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 vintage suits and 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 commonplace to 1960, so 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 almost anywhere, so here is my preferred recipe for a Draper-style concoction:
Dissolve a small lump of sugar into plain water in a rocks glass. Add two dashes of Angostura bitters and muddle an orange slice with the sugar, water, and bitters. Next, add enough ice to fill the glass. Pour in enough whiskey (I prefer rye) to cover the ice. Usually about two ounces should do it. Stir it all together. Finally, add a cherry and an unmuddled orange slice, 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-weight version of the gray suit that Don Draper sports throughout the pilot episode.
- Medium gray semi-solid wool 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 turn-ups/cuffs
- White cotton poplin dress shirt with a moderate-spread point collar, rounded-bottom breast pocket, and squared double/French cuffs
- Steel shield-shaped cuff links
- Pale gray black-striped woven silk necktie
- Slim black leather belt with a rectangular steel single-prong buckle
- Black calf leather derby shoes
- Black dress socks
- Beige gabardine knee-length raincoat with ulster collar, handwarmer pockets, and long single vent
- Dark gray felt short-brimmed trilby with a wide black grosgrain band
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox wristwatch with a black-and-white “tuxedo” dial, round steel case, and black leather strap
- White short-sleeve crew neck undershirt
- Light blue cotton boxer shorts
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.