Yesterday was the Autumnal Equinox, or – as normal people call it – the first day of autumn. If you’re looking for a good suit to wear as the leaves change and months get colder, Mad Men offers a fine sartorial suggestion from lead character Don Draper.
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, recently enlightened Madison Avenue ad man
New York City, October 1962
Series: Mad Men
Episodes: “Flight 1” (Episode 2.02); “Three Sundays” (Episode 2.04)”; “Meditations in an Emergency” (Episode 2.13)
Air Date: August 3, 2008; August 17, 2008; October 26, 2008
Director: Andrew Bernstein; Tim Hunter; Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
Don Draper only wears his brown suit three times in the second season – first in “Flight 1” (March), again when “entertaining” Bobbie Barrett in “Three Sundays” (April), and finally after his return from California in the finale “Meditations in an Emergency” (October, during the Cuban Missile Crisis).
Season 2 is a season of personal transformation for Don Draper. At the start of the year, he has spent more than a year as a faithful suburban husband and office donkey. Surprising for our ever-confident ad man, he slowly lets other people walk all over him. It’s no coincidence that these characters, notably Duck Phillips and Bobbie Barrett, are some of the fans’ most hated characters introduced on the show.
Finally, after his spontaneous soul-searching jaunt in California, he is back, literally “hat in hand”, with a stronger will. He re-dedicates himself to his wife and family and refuses to stand down in the face of an increasingly self-destructive Duck Phillips at work. He is finally listening to his own advice: “The world continues without us. There’s no reason to take it personally.”
What’d He Wear?
Don’s dark brown suit is wool with a subtle brown tonal stripe that only shows up under certain light. The suit, undoubtedly a product of the show’s award-winning costume designer Janie Bryant, is very period correct, reminding me of many of my older relatives’ suits from the ’60s.
The suit jacket is single-breasted with appropriately narrow notch lapels. The lapels roll over the top button, leaving two exposed. This type of three-button design is known as a “3-roll-2” coat. It shows an added layer of luxury for the wearer, since the top button is clearer not needed as it is under the coat’s lapels. Two matching buttons can be fond on each cuff.
Don’s jacket also has flapped hip pockets and a breast pocket, accented with a smartly folded white silk handkerchief. The jacket has a visible seam down the center of the rear, breaking at the top of the single rear vent.
The suit trousers are typical for Don’s suits; flat fronts with belt loops, a traditional high rise, and plain-hemmed bottoms. They also have a quarter break, exposing much of his socks when he walks. Due to this, Don wisely wears dark brown socks with the suit to continue the leg line from pants to shoes.
The shoes in question are typically a pair of black leather split-toe bluchers, although he also appears to wear a pair of dark brown square-toed loafers in the season finale. We don’t see which shoes he sports in “Flight 1”, but they are likely the black brogues as well, for reasons explained later. The spluchers are best seen in “Three Sundays”.
Also differentiating the outfit in “Three Sundays”, Don wears a uniquely striped tie in the office with an alternating dark blue and dark green block striped ground, accented with thin stripes in white, black, and pale yellow.
Don’s usual tie with the suit, seen in both “Flight 1” and “Meditations in an Emergency”, is also narrow. The ground is a dark maroon silk. There is a small “V”-shaped pattern in the center with two thin stripes in blue and pale yellow intersecting with a thick black block stripe.
The ties may vary, but Don’s shirt is always the same. Even with other suits, Don’s suit almost never changes throughout the show. The Don Draper Special is a white long-sleeve dress shirt with a narrow spread collar, chest pocket (for cigarettes!), front placket, and double cuffs (or “French cuffs”).
Don fastens his double cuffs with a set of distinctive squared cuff links in dark gold with a cut out center design that resembles a shield. If anyone has any clearer shots of this – or at least knows a good way to describe it – go ahead and let me know!
Don wears a thin black leather belt with a silver rounded squared plaque buckle, another standard item of his. We only clearly see the belt in “Flight 1”, but Don rarely makes the faux pas of wearing mismatching belts and shoes, so this indicates that he is likely wearing the black brogues again for this episode. Also, it may seem logical to wear a brown belt and shoes with a brown suit, but this can often come off as too much brown. And, as Quentin Tarantino told us in Reservoir Dogs, there are certain connotations that go along with being associated with the color brown.
Don’s only accessory is his watch, the beautiful Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique wristwatch he wears on his left wrist throughout the second season. The watch has a yellow gold rectangular case, a white face, and a brown alligator leather strap. For a bit of history, the watch was developed in 1931 for British officers in India who wanted a sturdier sport watch for playing polo. You can thank The Gentleman’s Gazette for that little tidbit.
As the seasons change to fall and Don returns home amidst the fatalist panic of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he pairs his suit with a light brown camelhair overcoat that looks outstanding among the autumn leaves. The light brown top coat is more of a car coat, falling to just above Don’s knees. It is single-breasted with a 3-button front and large notch lapels with stitched edges.
Don also wears his dark gray short-brimmed fedora with a black band and a feather. He takes it off when he confronts Betty in the finale, approaching her – quite literally – “hat in hand”.
Go Big or Go Home
You may notice that Don wears this brown suit for some of his “weakest” moments during the season. He wears it for his concise but emotional “firing” of Mohawk Airlines in “Flight 1” (2.02), a moment he would have avoided in the first season before the bad decisions of Duck Phillips began to ruin Sterling Cooper. This is one of the few moments where Don seems truly apologetic with a client; he only offers the words, “I’m sorry. It wasn’t my decision… I wish things hadn’t worked out this way,” but it is obvious from his expression that he is truly acting against his will.
He is wearing it again two episodes later in “Three Sundays” (2.04) when Bobbie Barrett drops in to his office. The stronger family man from the start of the season is gone and he gives in, yet again, to a woman he can’t stand.
Finally, when he shows up hat in hand to apologize to Betty in “Meditations in an Emergency” (2.13), his brown suit represents his emotional vulnerability in the scene. Sure, it’s covered by an overcoat, but it’s still there.
So why is this the vulnerability suit? Did the costume department go into Don’s closet and say, “Hey this one looks good!” Probably not. My guess is that brown is an earthtone so closely associated with rural scenes and farm life, a.k.a. the mysterious origins of Dick Whitman. Now, far from the confident “man in the gray flannel suit”, we now have an unsure and insecure man with emotions more resembling those of the humble “farm boy” he was in his early years.
What should you get from all this? Be confident when you wear brown, I guess. If those extra shots of whiskey at a Japanese restaurant help, go ahead and chug away. To truly recreate the moment, have “Sukiyaki”, Kyu Sakamoto’s kitschy piece of Japanese pop (or Kayōkyoku) from 1961, playing in the background.
Although it was Mad Men‘s song of choice for the moment, you may be looking for something more… traditional. Nat King Cole’s rendition of “Autumn Leaves” for the 1956 film of the same name is the perfect choice for a Mad Men moment in fall. It’s a beautiful-sounding song with sad undertones, perfectly paralleling the viscerally-pleasing but bleak show.
How to Get the Look
Although it may have made him look vulnerable, no one can say this outfit made Don Draper look unfashionable.
- Dark brown wool suit (with a subtle brown tonal stripe), consisting of:
- Single-breasted suit coat with slim notch lapels, a 3-roll-2 button front, 2-button cuffs, breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, a single rear vent, and stitched edges
- Flat front trousers with a traditional high rise, belt loops, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White long-sleeve dress shirt with narrow spread collar, front placket, chest pocket, and double/French cuffs
- Dark gold squared cuff links with a cut out center shield-like design
- Dark maroon silk narrow-width necktie with a “V” pattern in the center (thin blue and yellow stripes intersecting with a thick block stripe)
- Thin black leather belt with a silver rounded square plaque buckle
- Black leather split-toe bluchers
- Dark brown dress socks
- White short-sleeve crew neck undershirt
- Light brown single-breasted camelhair overcoat with large notch lapels, a 3-button front, and stitched edges
- Dark gray short-brimmed fedora with a black band and feather
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique with a yellow gold rectangular case on a brown alligator leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the second season.
I can’t walk away from this. I want to be with you. I want to be together again.
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/)