Don Draper’s California Adventure
Jon Hamm as Don Draper aka Dick Whitman, overwhelmed Madison Avenue ad man
Los Angeles, Fall 1962
Series: Mad Men
– “The Jet Set” (Episode 2.11, dir. Phil Abraham, aired 10/12/2008)
– “The Mountain King” (Episode 2.12, dir. Alan Taylor, aired 10/19/2008)
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
By the end of Mad Men‘s second season, Don Draper’s year of professional success has not been without its personal struggles. He’s still wowing clients right and left, but his home life is in turmoil after one too many extramarital dalliances—or at least a far too blatant one—landed him out of the house indefinitely. Furthermore, it’s September 1962, mere weeks away from the proverbial “eyeball to eyeball” tension of the Cuban Missile Crisis would threaten the world as they know it.
With nothing keeping him in New York, Don volunteers himself to take the place of a pretentious colleague and hops a TWA jet with Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser). The duo will be representing Sterling Cooper during the L.A. aeronautics convention, trading Madison Avenue for Sunset Boulevard as they take flight at the end of “The Inheritance” (Episode 2.10) to the tune of The Tornadoes’ 1962 surf rock instrumental classic “Telstar”, named after the AT&T satellite of the same name.
Already grumpy about his lost luggage, Don is all business from the minute they arrive a day early, squashing the opportunistic Pete’s desire to go swimming or take in the Santa Monica scenery. “You wanna be on vacation, Pete? ‘Cause I can make that happen,” Don threatens.
Of course, it’s Don who follows his impulsive wanderlust, transforming his business trip into a vacation when he hops into a Mercedes to Palm Springs with Joy (Laura Ramsey), a free-spirited PYT he met the hotel bar.
After his little afternoon in the sun with Joy, Don is once again confronted by his difficult home life when Joy’s jet-setting cadre of nomadic hedonists converse with another man juggling two kids and a rough separation with his wife. Is this finally what it takes to send Don home to his wife?
Yes, it is… just not the Mrs. Draper that anyone was expecting!
What’d He Wear?
The Business Suit
Even on airplanes, Don maintains his business uniform of a conservative gray suit, white shirt, and dark tie, maintaining his image as “the man in the gray flannel suit” in the hopes that people see Don Draper the successful businessman rather than Dick Whitman the womanizing war deserter. Keeping climate in mind as he’s traveling to the left coast, Don opts for a lighter gray in a lighter-weight, high-twist wool that shines like silk under the California sun.
For the time being, the slick suit is Don’s only clothing in California due to TWA misplacing his luggage. Thus, he wears it for the national security conference the following day and is still wearing it when he hops into the car with Joy. The slick suit has Joy and her friends speculating on whether or not Don is “a spy.” Although James Bond was months away from reaching U.S. theaters with Dr. No, the image of the sharp-dressed man with powerful secrets was likely no coincidence (and Sean Connery even wears a similar suiting in his inaugural 007 film.)
After at least a half-dozen gray suits worn this season alone, Don’s California adventure marks the debut for this particular suit, which differentiates itself with its slim, rounded “clover”-style notch lapels, rolling to the top of a two-button front. These two front buttons and the three non-functioning buttons on each cuff are a darker gray plastic, somewhat dressing the suit down for the Golden State’s laidback way of doing business.
Single-breasted like all of Don’s other suits, this suit jacket has a contemporarily shorter length than he was wearing two years earlier, and the fit is still considerably boxy despite the front darts that add shape. The jacket has double vents, straight flapped hip pockets, and a welted breast pocket.
Don’s white cotton dress shirt is one of the first casualties of his heat exhaustion, and he isn’t seen wearing this particular shirt after his first afternoon with Joy’s jet set. It’s one of his usual office shirts, possibly one of the backups that Jane Siegel had purchased for him at Menken’s, with a spread collar, front placket, and breast pocket for his Lucky Strikes. The cuff links are a set of two staggered squares in gold and charcoal.
Don often wears blue ties with his gray suits, and this skinny vintage neckwear is no exception, constructed in dark textured cloth with a gray-and-blue “flash-burst” pattern in the center, apropos the Space Age themes of the aeronautics conference.
The suit’s matching flat front trousers follow the usual Draper formula with belt loops, side pockets, and jetted back pockets, both of which close through a single button. The trousers are finished with plain-hemmed bottoms. This outfit also marks the debut of a new belt in the Don Draper stable. Don’s been wearing black belts since the pilot episode and enclosed box-style buckles for almost as long, but it isn’t until “The Jet Set” that we see his tarnished rounded-edge buckle swapped out for this belt with a gold-toned rectangular buckle.
Don’s shoes are the same black leather three-eyelet apron-toe derbies that he wore with his business suits for much of the season.
Even while JFK was revolutionizing men’s business-wear by foregoing a traditional hat outside, Don prefers to look “a little Sinatra” and continues wearing the same gray felt short-brimmed trilby with its black grosgrain band that he has worn for the duration of the first two seasons.
“I’m gonna need sunglasses,” Don groans after his short-brimmed trilby does little to protect his eyes from the bright California sun. By the next day’s session, he’s picked up what would become his signature pair of American Optical FG-58 (Flight Goggle-58) sunglasses with squared, aviator-style frames, apropos his military background.
Perhaps signifying his change of attitude, he wears them clipped into his jacket’s welted breast pocket in lieu of the more businesslike white pocket square he invariably wears back in New York.
The Blue Silk Sports Coat
One of costume designer Janie Bryant’s favorite pieces she made for Jon Hamm to wear on Mad Men was this light blue raw silk sports coat that Don ostensibly picks up after TWA misplaced his baggage, leaving him without non-business clothes more suitable for his evenings. It’s one of the flashier items in the Don Draper wardrobe to this point in the series, perfect for his change of scenery.
“One piece that I truly love of Don’s is his light blue raw silk sport coat that I designed, which he wears when he goes to California and then again with Betty in Italy,” Bryant told Los Angeles Magazine in May 2015 when the series concluded. “When we first see Don in California, he’s a different man. That pale blue, almost like a gray blue, is a color we’ve never seen him in before. When you see him for the first time on the screen, it’s a jaw-dropping moment of the gorgeousness of this man. It’s about expressing the fact that Don Draper in California seems like a totally different man than Don Draper in New York City.”
In addition to the raw silk construction, Don’s sports coat is contemporary to the era with its “half clover” notch lapels consisting of a traditional notched collar but with a rounded bottom portion. His revers roll to a two smoke-blue plastic sew-through buttons that match the three on each cuff. The jacket has heavily roped sleeveheads and a single back vent. The patch pockets on the breast and hips dress the jacket down, even when worn with a tie as Don does.
Don wears gray flat front trousers that are likely also another new purchase as they differ from the lighter trousers of his suit. These flat front trousers have belt loops, side pockets, and turn-ups (cuffs).
Don also managed to find another white shirt not unlike his usual office wear with its spread collar, front placket, and double cuffs. His new tie is patterned in a navy and light slate-blue cross-hatch check.
This fantastic jacket makes one more appearance on Mad Men during the following scene when “flirting” with Betty during their vacation in Rome and “flirting” with Betty. Evidently, wearing the jacket makes Don feel like a mysterious, intriguing stranger in a foreign, romantic land.
However, we don’t see Don with any bags when he hops into Joy’s car or getting to Anna’s house… either Pete Campbell was nice enough to recover Don’s stuff from his room, or the hotel forwarded on his belongings at Don’s request.
Palm Springs Getaway
Joy digs up some clothes for Don from a fellow member of her nomadic clan, wisely selecting some garments more in line with his own sense of the style than the more avant-garde fashions of men like Willie or Carlos.
The short-sleeved polo is made from a navy blue, subtly dotted knit material like Ban-Lon, a synthetic material that had been revolutionizing men’s casual clothing since its development in 1954 by Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company. The waist hem, collar, and the short placket for three brown sew-through buttons are piped in a broken white stitch.
While Don takes the polo with him to Anna’s, he evidently leaves behind the light cream cotton flat front trousers, which are styled with side pockets, button-through back pockets, plain-hemmed bottoms, and an extended waist tab that closes through a pointed single-button tab. He foregoes his own belt, instead wearing a tan leather belt with a brass-toned single-prong buckle that was evidently among the wares lent to him by Joy.
After leaving the nomads in Palm Springs, Don treks back west to San Pedro for his visit to Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton). For this pilgrimage to the one person who truly knows all there is to know about him, Don dresses in a curious mishmash of his own suit, dressed down with the borrowed navy knit polo.
Life as Dick Whitman
After arriving in his gray suit and borrowed navy polo, Don quickly settles into the role of Dick Whitman, family man, setting up quasi-permanent residence with Anna for a few weeks and even wearing some of her ex-boyfriend Harold’s clothes despite the unseen Harold’s apparently long legs (“These pants have a 38 inseam!” Don laughs.)
It just feels natural that Mrs. Draper would be providing clothing for Mr. Draper, in this case mostly loose-fitting sport shirts and trousers, as he enjoys the life of a true family man rather than merely the image of the family man he portrays in Ossining. Here, he is content just to buy groceries, fix a broken chair, and relax on the porch while chatting with his wife.
This latter activity finds Dick/Don in Harold’s oversized clothes, a mustard flannel long-sleeved shirt with a violet shadow plaid check, flat camp collar, plain front, and breast pocket. The aforementioned size 38 inseam of Don’s borrowed gray cotton double-pleated trousers force him to cuff up the bottoms over his black derbies and socks.
After realizing that Dick/Don may be around for longer than he had planned, Anna purchases him some better-fitting clothes, including a few more lightweight sport shirts and a pair of beige chino cotton flat front khakis with side pockets, button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms.
On his way back from a grocery run, Dick’s gearhead side is drawn to a few guys working on modifying some ’34 Ford hot rods. In addition to his previous black belt and shoes, Dick wears the new chinos from Anna with a dark navy blue golf windbreaker and a light blue button-up sport shirt with white vertical panels and no top button. The windbreaker has a two-button standing collar, raglan sleeves with pointed tabs at the cuff to be buttoned closed, triple side pleats on the back, and slanted hand pockets.
Finally, Dick completes his stay with Anna while she performs a reassuring tarot card reading as he fixes a chair. He wears a tan voile short-sleeved shirt with a white double-checked plaid pattern, camp collar with loop, plain front with horizontal buttonholes, and the usual breast pocket for his Luckies. He wears the shirt tucked into his light beige chinos, worn with the same black belt, black shoes, and black socks.
Through his whole adventure, only one accessory remained consistent: his watch, a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique with a yellow gold rectangular case on a brown alligator leather strap.
To read about Don’s more casual sport coat for his next visit to Anna in the fourth season, check out my post from August 2014.
Go Big or Go Home
Don’s arrival in California is heralded on the soundtrack by the 1962 instrumental “Telstar” by The Tornados, a one-hit wonder band that was plagued by a lawsuit filed by French composed Jean Ledrut. Ledrut claimed, falsely, that the song’s English writer and producer Joe Meek had plagarized the song from “La Marche d’Austerlitz”, a piece of Ledrut’s score from the 1960 film Austerlitz.
Ever heard of it? Me neither. The lawsuit prevented Meek from receiving royalties during his lifetime, sadly cut short by suicide in 1967. Three weeks after Meek’s death, the lawsuit was ruled in his favor as it was decided that Meek was unaware of Austerlitz, a film only released in France at the time that wasn’t released in the UK until 1965. (The story behind Meek’s death is a tragic and interesting read. Toward the end of his life, Meek’s then-illegal homosexuality was constantly landing him under police suspicion and his paranoia was growing rapidly. He took a single-barreled shotgun from former Tornados bassist Heinz Burt and, on February 3, 1967, he murdered his landlady Violet Shenton before taking his own life.)
The song, a time capsule of space age pop/rock, has found its way onto the start of my playlist every time I’m on a departing plane.
Don immediately becomes immersed in the romance of California. At first, we assume it’s just because of the bathing beauties by the pool, but we soon learn about Dick Whitman’s connection with the place and the happy years he spent with Anna Draper at her San Pedro home. To him, California provides an escape from a continually stifling reality. So, escape he does, in the form of an impromptu romp to Palm Springs. The next time you’re in a new—or at least a nice—place, consider heading out on your own with no planning or extra baggage other than a pair of sunglasses and a full pack of Luckies.
What to Imbibe
As one may expect, Don Draper drinks plenty during this trip, starting with with his old standby, an Old Fashioned, served at the hotel bar in Los Angeles. After that, things get a little more varied.
Once Don follows Joy and her clan to Palm Springs, he drinks what they drink: champagne by the pool (a “medicinal” Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque to be specific), red wine with dinner, and Campari as a post-prandial digestif.
Finally, when Don retreats to the safety and comfort of Anna’s porch—and his own true identity as Dick Whitman—he takes long swigs from a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
How to Get the Look
TWA’s mishandling of Don Draper’s luggage has the ad man adding to his wardrobe, picking up new items everywhere he goes and mixing and matches his casual pieces, business clothes, and borrowed workwear for a chaotic wardrobe representative of his own emotional disarray.
- Light gray high-twist wool suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button suit jacket with slim rounded “clover” notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and double vents
- Flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White cotton poplin dress shirt with spread collar, breast pocket, front placket, and double/French cuffs
- Gold-and-charcoal double-square cuff links
- Dark blue textured narrow necktie with a white-and-blue “starburst” central pattern
- Black leather belt with a gold-toned rectangular box-style buckle
- Black leather apron-toe derby shoes
- Tan ribbed dress socks
- Dark gray felt short-brimmed trilby with a wide black band
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique wristwatch with a yellow gold rectangular case on a brown alligator leather strap
- White short-sleeve crew neck undershirt
- White cotton boxers
Dress it down à la Don with a retro-inspired navy knit polo shirt!
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the second season, and pick up a plane ticket to California.
I have been watching my life. It’s right there, and I keep scratching at it trying to get into it… I can’t.
*Randolph Engineering 😉