Don Draper’s Gun Club Check Sportcoat

Jon Hamm as Don Draper, drowning his sorrows in badassery in

Jon Hamm as Don Draper, drowning his sorrows in badassery in “The Good News” (Mad Men, Ep. 4.03).

Vitals

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

Series: Mad Men
Episode: “The Good News (Episode 4.03)
Air Date: August 8, 2010
Director: Jennifer Getzinger
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant

Background

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 softcore dominatrix and the driest, most British person in his office.

To put his troubles behind him during one of the loneliest times of the year, Don plans a trip to Acapulco for New Year’s, ostensibly to lose himself in a sea of cocktails and bikini-clad girls. 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.

* Some sarcasm intended. He’s not an easy guy to feel bad for.

What’d He Wear?

As each season of Mad Men progresses through the 1960s, Don’s checkered sport coats become louder and louder. This progression reaches its apex halfway through season 5 when Don struts into the Campbell home wearing an eye-catching plaid sport coat that would be horrifying on anyone else, but Jon Hamm still manages to look debonair.

For Don’s New Year’s journey to California in “The Good News”, he ditches his gray business suit and opts for a very classy sport coat with a gun club check.

Dick + Anna '64

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.

GQ article breaks down the traditional colors seen with 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.

Gilt goes on to explain:

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.

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. While a yellow jacket might be too loud for some men, the overcheck actually manages to keep it subdued and grounded rather than tacky.

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 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.)

The sport coat itself is constructed of a twill-woven wool that is lightweight enough to be comfortable in the warm climate of Southern California. Gun club check is often seen on heavier fabrics like Harris tweed, but that would be too warm in a city that doesn’t get much cooler than 50°F around this time of year. Plus, an urbanite like Don wouldn’t have much use for a Harris tweed jacket while in either L.A. or New York.

Don’s jacket has a single-breasted, 2-button front with slim notch lapels. The padded shoulders have roped sleeveheads. The three patch pockets – one of the left breast and one on each hip – further indicate the jacket’s casual nature. It has 2-button cuffs, a short rear single vent, and an overall shorter fit that was fashionable in 1964. All in all, very fine work from the show’s deservedly esteemed costume designer Janie Bryant.

Stephanie fortifies for her dance with Don.

Stephanie fortifies for her dance with Don.

GQ promoted a Brooks Brothers example that looks like a heavier version of Don’s jacket. It’s not a spot-on match, but it’s hard to go wrong with Brooks Brothers. Plus, Brooks Brothers actually made the sport coat worn by Jon Hamm on screen. The ScreenBid.com auction from July 2015 described the jacket as a: “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.

Don’s sport coat, as displayed for the ScreenBid.com auction.

Don nicely calls out the blue overcheck with a blue short-sleeve shirt. While many men eschew short-sleeve shirts with sport coats – or short-sleeved shirts in general – it is an effective look for a confident, well-built man in a warm climate (which certainly defines Don Draper in California). The shirt also has a very subtle blue overcheck.

No means no, Don.

No means no, Don.

Don’s blue shirt has white buttons down the front placket and smaller white buttons to fasten down the slim collar. The sleeves have narrow cuffs, and there is a pocket over his left breast for his always-present Lucky Strikes.

mm403gc-CL-shirt-full

Don wears a pair of charcoal flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and cuffed bottoms that break high over his shoes. He wears his usual slim black leather belt that fastens in the front with a small dulled silver buckle. The belt matches his shoes, which are definitely black leather and either have a plain toe or a split toe. I believe I see a strap over the arch, indicating loafers, but this could just be the light and my eye playing tricks on me. Since slip-on loafers are more casual and this is a more casual outfit, I would prefer wearing loafers over oxfords.

mm403gc-CL-shoes-pants

Either way, he wears thin dark dress socks – likely in black also – that effectively carry the leg line from the trouser bottoms into his mysterious shoes.

The dark gray trousers are a good choice for winter, even in the warm winter of L.A., but Don also has a pair of khaki chinos in this sequence that would work equally as well with this jacket. His chinos also have belt loops and cuffed bottoms as well as on-seam side pockets and jetted rear pockets that close with a button.

Painting the house is no excuse for wearing shabby pants.

Painting the house is no excuse for wearing shabby pants.

Underneath, Don wears his standard underwear of white crew neck short-sleeve cotton t-shirt and white cotton undershorts with an elastic waistband and single-button fly. Some people may prefer a bit more clothing while hanging around the house, but Anna has no complaints: “I’m not going to fight watching Dick Whitman paint my living room in his shorts.”

Although painting the house apparently is an acceptable excuse for not wearing pants at all.

Although painting the house apparently is an acceptable excuse for not wearing pants at all.

If someone does fight the image of you in your underwear, it’s time to put on some pants.

Don also swaps his businessman image by leaving his fedora at home and opting for a straw trilby during his afternoon evening in the sun.

mm403gc-CX-hat

The fourth season also marks a new watch for Don, his third out of four worn throughout the show. This one is a Rolex Explorer I, the classic Rolex luxury sport watch that has remained nearly identical since its introduction in 1953. Don’s Explorer, confirmed by the Arabic 3, 6, and 9 markers on the black dial, has a stainless case and bracelet.

The Rolex Explorer adds a manly touch to a night of introspection.

The Rolex Explorer adds a manly touch to a night of introspection.

Although some consider the Explorer’s continued diameter of 36 mm to be a bit too small, the Explorer is undoubtedly a masculinely minimalist and utilitarian watch that was a fine choice for Draper’s wrist. I would’ve been sorrier to see it go if it hadn’t been replaced by the equally awesome Seamaster Deville from the fifth season onward.

Go Big or Go Home

Harkening back to his simpler Dick Whitman roots, Don joins Anna and her young niece Stephanie for a night of beer and bar food at a local L.A. roadhouse (“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 seven months pregnant with a drug dealer’s baby. But more on that later…)

Tom and Lorenzo, who have 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.

mm403gc-LS-dance

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

Don keeps his “California casual” look business-like but fresh. A few details are concessions to the era, but the look is dead-on for a fashionable gentleman turning heads in 1964 L.A.

mm403gc-crop

  • Gun club check (yellow cream with black, rust red, and light blue check) single-breasted Brooks Brothers sport coat with slim notch lapels, 2-button front, patch breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and short rear vent
  • Blue (with subtle blue overcheck) short-sleeve shirt with slim button-down collar, front placket, breast pocket, and cuffed sleeves
  • Charcoal gray flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and cuffed bottoms
  • Black leather slim belt with dulled silver buckle
  • Black leather full-strap penny loafers
  • Black thin dress socks
  • White crew neck short-sleeve cotton undershirt
  • White cotton boxer shorts with elastic waistband and 1-button fly
  • Rolex Explorer I with a stainless case, black face, and stainless bracelet
  • Light brown straw trilby with a slim black ribbon

This is a much more practical version of the yellow check sport coat and blue Hawaiian shirt he wears in Hawaii two seasons later if you’re not into the whole tropical thing.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the fourth season.

The Quote

Trust me, I work in advertising.

This sentiment doesn’t go over well with young radical-to-be Stephanie, who exclaims, “You’re kidding me. It’s pollution!” Don coolly retorts: “So stop buying things.”

4 comments

  1. Pingback: Don Draper’s California Adventure | BAMF Style
  2. Teeritz

    I remember the episode, but I don’t recall if we get a decent close-up of Draper’s Rolex. You can be fairly certain that it would be the classic Ref 1016 model, since the episode is set in 1964. The less said about the current 39mm model, the better. And don’t even get me started on the 41mm DateJusts!

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  3. Pingback: Bond’s Gun Club Check in The Living Daylights | BAMF Style
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