Iconic and interesting men's fashions from movies and TV
Don Draper’s Yellow Gun Club Check Sportcoat
Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Episode 4.03: “The Good News”)
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, recently divorced Madison Avenue ad man (although I guess it’s safe to call him Dick Whitman here…)
Los Angeles, December 1964 and
New York City, Summer 1965
Series:Mad Men Episodes:
– “The Good News” (Episode 4.03, dir. Jennifer Getzinger, aired August 8, 2010)
– “The Summer Man” (Episode 4.08, dir. Phil Abraham, aired September 12, 2010) Creator: Matthew Weiner Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
Ah, poor Don Draper. By the third episode of Mad Men‘s fourth season, “The Good News”, Don has just gone through a divorce and is managing a tenacious relationship with his kids, he’s alienating co-workers either by yelling at clients or sleeping with secretaries, and his best friends consist of a dominatrix and the lonely Brit at work.
To put his troubles behind him during one of the loneliest times of the year, Don plans a trip to Acapulco for the new year, ostensibly to lose himself in a sea of cocktails and bikini-clad women. Don gets an early start to his hedonistic journey by stopping over for a night in southern California to visit Anna Draper, the one woman who really knows him and still loves him. Of course, his troubles are compounded when he learns that Anna is dying.
What’d He Wear?
As each season of Mad Men progressed through the 1960s, Don Draper’s “off-duty” sport jackets grew bolder in their checks, from understated during a trip to Betty’s family in the second season and reaching an eye-catching apex for a dinner party at the Campbell home during the fifth season.
Beer and Abalone
For Don’s New Year’s Eve journey to California in the fourth season episode “The Good News”, he ditches his signature gray business suit and debuts a classy sports coat patterned in a gun club check that he would wear twice across the season.
Dick + Anna ’64
Originally known as “The Coigach” when it was developed in Scotland as a regional (or “district”) check, the American Gun Club embraced and adopted this distinctive pattern in 1874. According to Gilt:
There was a time when the gun club check—a pattern marked by alternating broken bands in two or more colors on a light background—bore no relationship to armed recreation. Wearing it actually meant that you were a gamekeeper or other worker in the Coigach district of Scotland’s Northwest Highlands. At that time (about 1847 to the mid 1870’s) it was quite appropriately known as the Coigach, one of a series of “district checks” fashioned for particular Scottish estates… At first, [gun club check] referred exclusively to the Coigach’s distinctive weave, which featured black and red bands alternating evenly on a white field. Over time, though, the term became a catchall for any type of similar pattern.
A GQ article breaks down the traditional colors seen in gun club check:
The fabric’s signature motif was created by four colors (traditionally black, red-brown, light gold, and pine green) intersecting to create boxes of various sizes. The resulting pattern was quite geometric up close, but from afar read like a landscape of the countryside’s color palette.
Don’s jacket fits the above criteria with a light yellow cream ground and an alternating pattern of black, rust brown, and light blue intersecting boxes for the true “gun club check” look.
Gun club check isn’t just for the shooting range. (In fact, most guys at my shooting range hardly ever have sleeves on their shirts, much less checked sport coats.)
Gun club check often decorates warmer-wearing jackets in heavy fabrics like Harris tweed, but our summer man wears a jacket constructed of a lighter woolen twill for his visit to the left coast and, six months later, his date with Dr. Faye Miller back in New York.
Don’s single-breasted jacket has moderately narrow notch lapels that roll to a two-button front. The shorter length of the jacket signals the trend of men’s jackets getting shorter throughout the decade. The shoulders are padded and detailed with heavily roped sleeve-heads; each sleeve has two buttons on the cuff. The sporty patch pockets on the left breast and hips are dressed-down enough for Don to wear the jacket over a short-sleeved shirt as he does in California. There is a single back vent.
Following a rousing debate regarding the virtues of advertising, Stephanie fortifies for her dance with Don.
Much ado has been made about Brooks Brothers‘ collaboration with Mad Men and the series’ deservedly esteemed costume designer Janie Bryant, and a ScreenBid auction listing from July 2015 after production wrapped confirmed that this jacket was made by the storied New York clothier as well, describing it as:
Brooks Brothers sportscoat, size 42 regular, featuring a golden plaid design on the outside, and a silver lining with a carousel horse design inside”
Don’s sport coat, as displayed for the ScreenBid.com auction.
Nicely calling out the jacket’s blue overcheck is Don’s French blue sport shirt, patterned with a tonal double-stripe. While wearing a short-sleeved shirt under a sports coat runs the risk of arm sweat affecting the jacket lining, it can be an effective and comfortable warm-weather outfit.
Don’s shirt has narrow cuffs around each short sleeve with a short vent detailed with a small mother-of-pearl vestigal button that matches those fastening up the front placket and on the points of the button-down collar. Like my grandfather, Don rarely wears a shirt without a breast pocket for his Lucky Strikes, and this is no exception!
Don absorbs some bad news in “The Good News”.
Don balances the colorful upper half of the outfit with a subdued pair of dark gray woolen flat front trousers, detailed with on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms. He wears one of his usual slim black leather belts that closes through a worn steel box-style buckle with rounded corners. The belt coordinates with his shoes, which appear to be his usual black calf split-toe derby shoes worn with black socks, though slip-on loafers would also be appropriate with such a dressed-down outfit.
Given the warmer climate, Don wears a natural straw short-brimmed trilby with a black band, though it spends more screen-time on Anna’s coffee table than it does on Don’s dome.
The next morning, Don decides to paint Anna’s living room. Not expecting company and certainly hoping to avoid getting paint splattered on his clothing, he strips down to his underwear, one of his usual white cotton crew-neck undershirts and white cotton boxers with an elastic waistband and single-button fly. Anna has no protests upon walking into the room: “I’m not going to fight watching Dick Whitman paint my living room in his shorts.”
Don in his underwear, Anna with a joint. A relaxed Thursday for all.
When Anna’s sister arrives with some choice words for Dick, he grabs a pair of khaki chinos from over the back of a chair to step outside and continue their heated conversation.
Detailed with belt loops, on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets (with a button-through left closure), and cuffed bottoms, these lightweight trousers would work just as well with the yellow gun club check jacket and blue shirt, though he wears them only in this slapdash manner sans belt and shoes.
Painting the house is no excuse to be wearing shabby pants.
A Two-Bit Gangster’s Date Night
Following Anna’s death and his own personal lows, Don resolves to take more control of his life in “The Summer Man” (Episode 4.08), which includes pursuing a healthy relationship with the ambitious and attractive Dr. Faye Miller (Cara Buono). Now that it’s summer in New York, Don presses into service the jacket from his last happy memories with Anna, dressing it up with an ecru shirt and tie.
Dressed for his date in “The Summer Man”, Don takes a swallow of Canadian Club to steady his nerves.
Though gently softer in color, Don’s pale ecru shirt otherwise resembles many of his white shirts for the office with its point collar, front placket, breast pocket for cigarettes, and double (French) cuffs, appointed here with a set of gold links. Our dapper ad man also wears a slim French blue tie with a chalky charcoal “bandolier” stripe from right-down-to-left across the center, hardly contrasting against the tie’s blue ground.
Don wears dark marine blue flat front trousers with his black leather belt, though this is a different belt than earlier as it closes through a gold rectangular monogrammed buckle.
Don drapes his gun club jacket over Faye’s shoulders during their date, and she continues wearing it during their car ride home. Significantly, the only other time Don wore this jacket, he lent it to Stephanie who wore it in the same manner when he was driving her home in California.
Unfortunately, neither Faye nor this stylish jacket are seen again after Mad Men‘s fourth season.
A New Watch
The fourth season introduced a new watch for Don Draper, a Rolex Explorer luxury sport watch that has remained nearly identical since it was introduced to the market in 1953. Chosen to replace the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso with its inscription from now ex-wife Betty, Don’s 36mm stainless-cased Explorer I has a black dial with Arabic number markers at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, and is worn on a steel Oyster-style link bracelet.
Don’s Rolex Explorer ticks away the time during his night of introspection.
What to Listen to
Returning to his more earnest roots as Dick Whitman, Don joins Anna and her young niece Stephanie for a night of beer and bar food at a local L.A. roadhouse, which he remembers fondly as “that place with the beer and abalone.”
After some banter and a little more info about Dick/Don’s backstory—did we know he had a few nonconsecutive years at City College before this?—Stephanie gets up to enjoy some Jan & Dean. This was 1964, after all, and harder rock from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were just gaining popularity in the U.S. Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes were just getting started, and The Beach Boys were still singing about surfing instead of drugs. “Sidewalk Surfin'” was about as hardcore as a politically-forward yet mainstream girl like Stephanie would get.
Of course, it is Patti Page’s “Old Cape Cod” that manages to get Don onto the dance floor. After Anna declines due to her leg, Don affectionately but respectfully guides Stephanie across the dance floor as he gives her a brief music lesson.
Don: So you picked this song because it’s old? That doesn’t mean it’s bad. Stephanie: It’s kind of corny. Don: I think it sounds like she’s inviting us to a very beautiful place where there’s no surfing at all. Stephanie: Have you ever been there? Don: No… but every time I hear this song, I want to go.
The conversation tells us just how much the times are changing. The song, while clearly of a more classic era, was recorded in 1957 and was still only seven years old at the time of the scene. Yet for Stephanie, who grew up during the advent of rock, it may as well be from the ’40s. Still, it’s a great song, and it even found a place in Die Hard 2 nearly twenty years earlier. (Stephanie’s questionable taste is further explored three seasons later when she shows up at Megan’s doorstep seven months pregnant with a drug dealer’s baby. But more on that later…)
Tom and Lorenzo, who earned a reputation for excellent Mad Men episode reviews, broke down this scene and the significance of the song in their post:
Stephanie gets up to play a song on the jukebox and she picks Patti Page’s 1957 hit, “Old Cape Cod,” as a way to tease the two older people into dancing. “If you spend an evening you’ll want to stay,” go the lyrics, which are referencing Don’s own feelings at the moment. He’s only there for the night, but it’s the first time we’ve seen Don smile since before the Kennedy assassination. He’s enjoying himself in this place with these people.
Don and Stephanie are briefly transported back to “old Cape Cod”.
Tom and Lorenzo also comment on how Don’s night worsens after this brief moment of bliss:
Of course he’s still Don Draper, with all his demons intact, which means he makes a clumsy and – dare we say it? – almost embarrassing play for the half-his-age Stephanie later that night when he drives her home. Once again, he strikes out. Not just because Stephanie’s not interested, but because she’s got a bomb to drop: Anna doesn’t have much time left to live because she’s got cancer and worse, she doesn’t know it. Don is devastated and angry. Later, when he gets back to Anna’s place, he tenderly lifts her sleeping form off the couch and carries her to bed.
How to Get the Look
“Dear Don, Stephanie doesn’t think we look old.” Don receives this photo from his visit to Anna in the following episode, “The Rejected” (Episode 4.04).
Don Draper keeps his “California casual” look businesslike but fresh, fashionable for 1964 but timeless enough to transcend the era.
Yellow cream gun club check single-breasted 2-button sport coat with slim notch lapels, patch breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and single vent
French blue tonal-striped sport shirt with slim button-down collar, front placket, breast pocket, and cuffed short sleeves
Dark gray wool flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
Black leather slim belt with rounded steel box-style buckle
Black leather apron-toe derby shoes
Black cotton lisle socks
White crew-neck short-sleeve cotton undershirt
White cotton boxer shorts with elastic waistband and single-button fly
Rolex Explorer I with a stainless 36mm case, black dial, and stainless Oyster-styler link bracelet
I was inspired by Don’s attire, having found a vintage yellow jacket with a similar—if not exactly a gun club—check that I wore with a teal blue striped short-sleeved shirt for a lakeside dinner date with my girlfriend in 2017.