Jon Hamm as Don Draper, increasingly disgruntled Manhattan ad exec
New York City, Christmas 1966
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “Christmas Waltz” (Episode 5.10)
Air Date: May 20, 2012
Director: Michael Uppendahl
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
Ah, did I hold my breath during this episode or what? Admittedly, I’m not much of a fiction “shipper”; I don’t care either way if characters get together on screen, but toying with the idea of having Don and Joan begin an affair was thrilling. It turned out for the best as they both left the bar without consummating their brief but clever flirtations, but I know I’m not the only Mad Men fan who was hoping for at least a drunken makeout between the two.
Anyway, drunken make outs aren’t what Car Week is all about. This week is wrapping up with a post that ties in the recent theme of cars and the upcoming Christmas holiday. In “The Christmas Waltz”, the tenth episode of Mad Men‘s fifth season, our beloved Joan Harris (neé Holloway) has just received divorce papers from her jerk of a husband. She reacts like any of us would, throwing a model of an airplane at the office receptionist, but—luckily for her—Don Draper shows up to the rescue. After a few reassuring words in Jon Hamm’s voice, Don drapes his overcoat around Joan’s shoulders and leads her out to lunch.
Of course, the “lunch” turns out to be a visit to the Jaguar dealership, where resident weinercheese Pete had suggested Don take his new wife Megan and pose as a car-buying couple. When Don isn’t sharing Pete’s enthusiasm, it leads to one of the best exchanges in this very quotable episode:
Pete: You know, if I’d told you last December that we’d be in the running for a car you would’ve kissed me on the mouth.
Don: Maybe you and I should go as a couple.
Don elects to take Joan instead, and the two play out a fun little drama with the car salesman, ending with one of Don’s crowning moments of badass. When the salesman shows reluctance in letting Don and Joan take out the brand-new XKE unsupervised, Don coolly presents him with a $6,000 check and tells him that if the car isn’t returned, he can keep the check.
Don and Joan take the zippy new Jag straight to a midtown Manhattan bar, where they indulge in cocktails and flirting. Joan reminisces about her glory days as the office’s residence hottie, proud of fulfilling her mother’s prophecy of being raised to be admired. After Joan asks why he never showed any interest in her, Don sheepishly admits he was afraid of her.
Don: You scared the shit out of me. Bert Peterson told me you were the one person in the agency I shouldn’t cross. He and Freddy had a standing argument that you were a lesbian.
Joan: You think they never brought that up with me?
It is then that the brilliance of the direction, the writing, and both Jon Hamm and Christina Hendricks comes in as the audience was on the edge of their seats, waiting to see if these two would indulge in some sloppy sex fueled by good looks and Christmas loneliness.
Alas, Don stops himself—likely out of husbandly duties—and points out a man who has been looking at Joan all night. While Joan ponders the man’s marital status, Don rises, slipping her some mad money to get a ride home in the event that the man isn’t interested. You can tell she is bittersweetly disappointed when he leaves, but Don’s feelings about it all are much more obvious as he furiously shifts gears in the Jaguar on his way back to the dealership.
What’d He Wear?
Also seen during the previous season’s office Christmas party, Don has reasonably pegged this dark charcoal flannel suit as his go-to wintertime suit. It has a tighter fit than we’re used to seeing, with the buttoned front pulling at the sides and a good deal of sock showing under the pant leg. This is likely intentional, as the fifth season is the season where Don the (re-)married man begins to let himself go. He’s still a far cry from Fred Rumsen, but this isn’t the same strong Don we met in the show’s pilot.
The suit’s jacket is single-breasted, as all of Don’s jackets are, with slim notch lapels and a 2-button front. Don wears only the top button fastened, but it is clear that the jacket is too tight for him, even with the long rear double vents. The jetted hip pockets have narrow flaps, and Don neatly wears a folded white linen handkerchief in the welted breast pocket. The padded shoulders have roping at the sleeveheads. There are three non-functional buttons on each cuff.
The suit’s flat front trousers are cut straight through Hamm’s legs, matching the tighter look of the jacket. It would be sloppy if the jacket was too tight and the trousers were too loose (and vice versa). The trousers are suspended by a black leather belt that closes in the front with a gold square buckle. Hamm evidently did not wear the belt while filming in the bar, as a fan-captured photo with Hamm shows that the trousers are now beltless. While the optimistic Mad Men viewer (and all Don-Joan shippers) might like to think this alludes to some unseen hanky panky between Don and Joan in the Jaguar, it was merely done because the waistline was never seen with the angles used in the bar.
As per the fit, the trousers have a very short break and plenty of Don’s socks can be seen even when he’s not sitting or walking. Luckily for Don, he’s wearing appropriate footwear, a pair of black dress socks tucked into his black leather plain-toe oxfords/balmorals.
Don’s shirt is—I bet you could have guessed—a crisp white poplin dress shirt with double cuffs. Like his other shirts, it also has a moderate spread collar, a front placket, and a breast pocket for his Lucky Strikes. Even though Lucky Strike abandoned SCDP in the fourth season, Don remains loyal to the brand.
Don’s cufflinks are pretty sizable in this sequence. They are silver squares, but each link has a black square front that is bisected by a white stripe. If you think this is a bad description, just wait until I get to the tie.
Okay, I’m at the tie. I’ll start with the obvious; the tie is fashionably slim for 1965 with a black ground. Through the center of the tie—and faintly seen in the knot—is a series of tan stripes that graduate in width from thin to thick as they approach the center of the tie, and then thin out again as they reach the bottom. Naturally, the stripes are all from the right shoulder down to the left hip, as this is the American style.
Don also wears the same black-on-charcoal glen plaid overcoat that he wore in the previous season. This garment is appropriately known as a car coat as the short length, ending just above Don’s knees, makes it especially appropriate for getting in and out of cars… y’know, like a new Jaguar E-Type.
The slim notch lapels have swelled edges and roll to the top of the 3-button single-breasted front. There is no breast pocket, but there are flapped hip pockets. A vertical seam down the center of the back opens up past the waistline into a long single rear vent. One of the more distinctive features of the coat is the cuffs at the end of each set-in sleeve.
I have a very similar vintage coat made by J&F sometime in the early 1960s, constructed from a lighter weight but warm dark brown herringbone wool.
Don supplements the coat with his hat, a gray short-brimmed fedora with a black grosgrain ribbon and a feather in the left side, near the bow.
Don’s fifth season watch remains the same: a 34 mm stainless steel Omega Seamaster Deville with a black dial with a date indicator, secured to his left wrist on a black leather strap.
Go Big or Go Home
Don’s careful and fun flirtation with Joan is a top moment in the series, finally answering the question of why they never had gotten together before. A year earlier, “Waldorf Stories” had introduced the idea of a possible history when Joan placed her hands on both Roger’s and Don’s knees as they waited to hear if they won the award, but it wasn’t until “The Christmas Waltz” that the concept was directly addressed.
The episode—and this sequence in particular—is full of great moments, with Joan’s airplane toss, Don’s deposit check, and Don and Joan toasting each other in a bar decorated for Christmas.
And what would a bar decorated for Christmas be without Christmas music? Joan picks Doris Day’s 1964 version of “The Christmas Waltz” and sadly watches others dancing to the song that she picked. “The Christmas Waltz” is one of my favorite Christmas songs, and the story behind it is interesting, too. In 1954, folks were going nuts about “White Christmas”. Sure, Bing had actually recorded it twelve years earlier, but the film White Christmas did wonders for the song’s revival. Since then, it has been recorded more than 500 times. Frank Sinatra was recording his own version of “White Christmas” and wanted a B-side that would be original to him. He got in touch with master songwriter Jule Styne, demanding a Christmas song. Styne then contacted Sammy Cahn in L.A. to tell him, “Frank wants a Christmas song.” Originally, Cahn scoffed at the idea, explaining that trying a new holiday hit right on the heels of “White Christmas” was ridiculous, but Styne insisted. If Frank wanted it, Frank got it. When the two met to write the song, Cahn asked Styne if there had ever been a Christmas waltz. Realizing that there hadn’t, the two men repurposed a waltz that Styne was working on, and Sinatra eventually cut his first version of the song with Nelson Riddle’s orchestra on August 23, 1954. Three years later, Frank recorded his definitive version of “The Christmas Waltz” for his 1957 album A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra, which is still one of the best holiday albums ever released.
Doris is great and all, but Frank singing it can’t be topped. Plus, Don considers Frank to be a hero, even drunkenly emulating him in the bar. Frank would later re-record it in 1968 for The Sinatra Family Wish You a Merry Christmas, the holiday album that featured Frank’s kids released the following year.
All astute Mad Men fans are aware of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s trials and tribulations with the Jaguar account during the fifth season. By “The Christmas Waltz”, the SCDP gang is once again in Jaguar’s consideration set for agencies. With a month to prepare the presentation, Pete tasks Don with test-driving a Jaguar, as Pete is unable to drive a stick shift. Don rolls into the dealership, role-playing with Joan on his arm, when she spots a cherry red 1961 Jaguar E-Type.
Joan: (to her “husband” Don) Oh honey, what’s that?
Salesman: That’s the most beautiful car ever made. The XKE… or the E-Type.
Joan: I want one.
Salesman: I’m thinking about paying to have you drive around in this.
Don: Go give me the keys. I’ll drive her around for free.
Jaguar introduced the E-Type, known in the states as the XKE, in 1961. It was designed to be a stunner, forcing even Enzo Ferrari to admit that it was “the most beautiful car ever made”. That’s Enzo Ferrari. As in Ferrari. Okay, I think you get how huge that is for an Italian sports car mogul to admit about an English sports car.
Under the long, sleek hood was a triple SU-carbureted 3.8 L Jaguar XK6 engine with six inline cylinders. This engine was originally from the later models of the Jaguar XK150. When The Motor tested one of the first E-Types in 1961, the car accelerated from 0-60 in 7.1 seconds and reached a top speed of 149.1 mph. This snazzy performance also had a reasonable fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon, about double the fuel economy of the big-block American muscle cars just around the corner. In ’61, The Motor‘s test car cost £2,097. Five years later, the cost has gone up and Don Draper is asked to dish out $5,400.
The interior consisted of two leather-upholstered bucket seats, an aluminum-trimmed instrument panel and center console, and a Moss four-speed gearbox with no first gear syncromesh. It is this gearbox that we see Don ferociously working through on his way home from the bar.
In October 1964, the 3.8 L engine was replaced by a larger 4.2 L engine that produced the same power, acceleration, and top speed but increased torque from 240 to 283 lb·ft. The change also meant maximum power could be achieved at 5400 rpm rather than the 3.8’s 5500 rpm. For drivers, this means a better throttle response without having to shift down gears. The 4.2 update in ’64 also brought more comfortable seats, improved brakes and electrical systems, and an all-synchromesh gearbox. It wasn’t until 1966, when the 2+2 coupe was introduced, that an automatic transmission became available on the E-Type. The 2+2 also had a longer body to allow for the back seat.
Production of the first series (“Series 1”) XKEs ended around 1967. 38,419 were produced, with 7,670 of them being 3.8-liter fixed head coupes like the one “borrowed” by Don and Joan. During this time, the transitional Series 1½ models were built to bridge the gap between the Series 1 and the Series 2. It is the Series 1 E-Type that is always considered to be the most classic though. The E-Type was ranked by Sports Car International in 2004 as the #1 sports car of the 1960s. Four years later, The Daily Telegraph conferred, ranking it as the world’s most beautiful car of all time. Evidently, it was an opinion held by many. No wonder Joan was so mesmerized.
1961 Jaguar E-Type (XKE) Series I
Body Style: 2-door fixed head coupe
Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)
Engine: 3.8 L Jaguar XK6 inline-6
Power: 265 hp (198 kW; 269 PS) @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 240 lb·ft (325 N·m) @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Wheelbase: 96 inches (2438 mm)
Length: 175.3 inches (4453 mm)
Width: 65.25 inches (1657 mm)
Height: 48.1 inches (1222 mm)
The E-Type was a welcome addition onto the series, until the poison it brought to the lives of the SCDP employees over the next two episodes. Spoiler alert. In the next episode, “The Other Woman”, Joan is forced to offer herself to a fat slob exec at Jaguar in order to ensure that the firm wins the account. Immediately after that, in “Commissions and Fees”, Lane Pryce finds himself unable to kill himself in his Jaguar when it won’t start, forcing him to take a more traditional—and sadly graphic—approach.
Even Don, who gets to drive it, is forced to admit:
Don: I don’t know what it is; that car does nothing for me.
Joan: It’s because you’re happy, you don’t need it.
Although as Bert Cooper says in the same episode…
They’re lemons. They never start.
How to Get the Look
Don’s “Christmas suit” is notably devoid of color, save for a few hints of brown in his tie. While some may consider a monochromatic look to be a downer for the holidays, it also ensures a degree of formality.
- Charcoal flannel suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted 2-button jacket with slim notch lapels, welted breast pocket, slanted flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and double rear vents
- Flat front straight-leg trousers with belt loops, open side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White poplin dress shirt with slim semi-spread collar, front placket, breast pocket, and double/French cuffs
- Black tie with tan centered R-down-to-L gradient stripes
- Large square silver cufflinks with a black square center bisected by a white line
- Black leather belt with a gold square buckle
- Black leather plain-toe oxfords/balmorals
- Black dress socks
- Black-on-charcoal glen plaid flannel single-breasted 3-button car coat with notch lapels, flapped hip pockets, cuffed set-in sleeves, and long single vent
- Gray wool scarf with long fringe
- Gray short-brimmed felt fedora with a black grosgrain ribbon
- Omega Seamaster Deville wristwatch with steel 34 mm case and black “date” dial on a black leather strap
Interestingly, it is almost the exact same look he sported in the fourth season Christmas episode, save for a slightly more contemporary tie here. Don also spruces this outfit up with a scarf and a nearly folded white linen pocket square.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
If you’re in charge of the music for Christmas this year, you can’t go wrong with A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra.
Good night, sweetheart. Stand over by the jukebox. That looked pretty good before.
My favorite non-Joan screencap from this whole scene…