Don Draper’s Brown Striped Suit for Thanksgiving 1960

Jon Hamm as Don Draper in "The Wheel", Episode 1.13 of Mad Men.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper in “The Wheel”, Episode 1.13 of Mad Men.

Vitals

Jon Hamm as Don Draper, mysterious advertising creative director

New York City, Spring to Fall 1960

Series: Mad Men
Episodes:
– “Ladies Room” (Episode 1.02), dir. Alan Taylor, aired 7/26/2007
– “New Amsterdam” (Episode 1.04), dir. Tim Hunter, aired 8/9/2007
– “Shoot” (Episode 1.09), dir. Paul Feig, aired 9/13/2007
– “The Wheel” (Episode 1.13), dir. Matthew Weiner, aired 10/18/2007
Creator:
 Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant

Background

This particular suit makes sporadic appearances across the masterful debut season of Mad Men, AMC’s much-acclaimed drama set in the world of American advertising in the 1960s.

We first see the dashing ad exec Don Draper (Jon Hamm) wearing it as he takes a drag from one of his Lucky Strikes during a meeting with his creative team in the second episode, “Ladies Room” (Episode 1.02). After he clears the office of the meeting’s junior attendees, he contemplates the age-old question of “what women want” with the agency’s senior accounts man, Roger Sterling (John Slattery).

Two episodes later in “New Amsterdam” (Episode 1.04), the suit shows up during a contentious client meeting with the stubborn and “pious” Walt from Bethlehem Steel. Sniveling and ambitious junior account man Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) is none too pleased about Don’s treatment of Walt, and Don uses the younger man’s rebuke as an opportunity to insult his side of their shared profession:

Don: You do your job. Take him sailing, get him in a bathing suit. Leave the ideas to me.
Pete: (defiant) I have ideas.
Don: I’m sure you do. Sterling Cooper has more failed artists and intellectuals than the Third Reich.

But the suit’s most significant appearance comes in the first season’s memorable finale, “The Wheel” (Episode 1.13), set in the final work days leading up to Thanksgiving 1960. Don makes the easy decision to forego spending the holiday with his family in favor of preparing for a pitch to Kodak to win the business advertising their new slide projector, tentatively named The Wheel. “‘Kodak reinvented the wheel.’ They’re gonna hear that ten times,” Don drolly speculates.

However, a return to the shoebox full of mementos from his past life as Dick Whitman, the jarring news of his half-brother Adam’s suicide, and a late night conversation with a pantless Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) who has been sleeping in his office after his first – of many – extramarital dalliance, inspires Don to refocus his pitch on family and nostalgia.

Neither Don, Harry, or the audience could have expected this moment to result in one of the most stirring scenes in modern television.

Neither Don, Harry, or the audience could have expected this moment to result in one of the most stirring scenes in modern television.

The next day, Don’s still wearing the same suit but looking as good as ever, no doubt having changed his shirt for one of the fresh ones kept in his drawer. He wows Kodak as well as his own team with a nostalgic pitch for Kodak’s projector, which he rechristened the “Carousel”.

Scored by David Carbonara’s “The Carousel”, this sentimental sequence remains emotionally effective not only for the show’s viewers but also its own characters as poor Harry Crane runs from the room in remorseful tears.

Kodak reps and Sterling Cooper sit back to watch Don's pitch. Harry Crane won't know what hit him.

Kodak reps and Sterling Cooper sit back to watch Don’s pitch. Harry Crane won’t know what hit him.

Don himself returns home with a newfound appreciation for the family life he had taken for granted… but, sadly, his realization came too late as he’s already missed the chance to spend Thanksgiving with his wife and children, who are spending the holiday at her parents’ house. The season closes with Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”, anachronistic for the show’s 1960 setting but ushering in the next season that begins in 1962.

Interestingly, show creator Matthew Weiner’s conception of this moment came from his own moment of uncertainty. “At the time, I didn’t know if there was gonna be another season of the show,” Weiner said, according to a Business Insider article covering a Mad Men-related exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image. “And it was important for me to not only use Bob Dylan, because I love the idea of the central premise of the show that someone like Don, who lived in that world and dressed like that and had that job was going to be listening to this music… I also just love the words to this song because it’s a moment of Don in deep regret about losing his family.”

What’d He Wear?

The Brown Striped Suit

“No brown in town” had hardly ever been the rule in America that it once was across the pond, and it would have been all but forgotten on both sides of the Atlantic by 1960 when Madison Avenue’s ad men were riding up the elevators to their swanky, wood-paneled offices.

“While there are those diehards who refuse to consider a brown suit, there is no man who cannot wear one to personal advantage,” writes Alan Flusser in his definitive Dressing the Man. “The dark brown suit offers many virtues, the first being its freedom from dependence on the predictable blue and gray.”

Blue and gray are undeniably staples of Don Draper’s wardrobe, though he’s never shied away from professional attire in varying shades of brown, particularly when he needs to rely on the palette’s earthiness. For instance, Don grounds himself with this brown striped suit – one of his first season favorites – when presenting to a client with a reputation for piety in “New Amsterdam” (Episode 1.04) and for an important nostalgia-centered pitch in “The Wheel” (Episode 1.13).

Don updates his professional brown suits throughout the seasons with differing shades and patterns, but his first makes an appearance in the show’s second episode, “Ladies Room” (Episode 1.02), when he holds court in his office wearing a dark brown flannel with rust-colored rope striping.

"Ladies Room" (Episode 1.02)

“Ladies Room” (Episode 1.02)

Don’s suit jacket suggests fashion sensibilities of the 1950s with its full fit and length, perfectly appropriate for 1960 but perhaps an explanation for why this suit makes its final appearance at the end of the first season in favor of more contemporary suits to follow.

The single-breasted suit jacket has a 3/2-button roll, with the center fastening button appropriately dividing the shirt and tie above it and the trousers below it for balanced proportions. The jacket has straight flapped hip pockets in line with the lowest button, and Don wears a neatly folded white cotton pocket square in the jacket’s welted breast pocket. The jacket also has a single vent, non-functional “kissing” two-button cuffs, and narrow shoulders with roped sleeveheads.

Don wows his audience with a sharp suit and a sharp presentation.

Don wows his audience with a sharp suit and a sharp presentation.

When worn properly, Don’s flat front trousers have a long rise in accordance with the era’s fashions, but long nights in the office find his trouser waistline slumping, despite his slim vintage Brooks Brothers belts with box-style buckles to hold them up. His trousers have straight side pockets, jetted back pockets (with no buttons), and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms.

One of many late nights in the office spent drinking, preparing the perfect pitch, and drinking some more.

One of many late nights in the office spent drinking, preparing the perfect pitch, and drinking some more.

Don almost always matches his belt leather to his shoes, wearing a dark brown leather belt with a steel box buckle in “Ladies Room” (Episode 1.02) and “The Wheel” (Episode 1.13) and a black leather belt with a brass buckle in “New Amsterdam” (Episode 1.04) and “Shoot” (Episode 1.09).

Shirts and Ties

Particularly during his career at Sterling Cooper in the early 1960s, Don exclusively wears white dress shirts with his suits, notably keeping a backup collection of laundered and folded white shirts in his desk drawer when he needs to change after spending the night “in the city”. His shirts have a semi-spread collar, front placket, and breast pocket for his ubiquitous Lucky Strike cigarettes.

It's really amazing that this guy made it to 1970 without getting lung cancer. For more about Don Draper's "weird agelessness", check out Neima Jahromi's thoughtful piece for The New Yorker just before the show's finale in May 2015.

It’s really amazing that this guy made it to 1970 without getting lung cancer.
For more about Don Draper’s “weird agelessness”, check out Neima Jahromi’s thoughtful piece for The New Yorker just before the show’s finale in May 2015.

All of Don’s shirts at the office have squared double (French) cuffs, where he wears a rotating selection of stylish links. In “Ladies Room” (Episode 1.02), he coordinates with his gold-toned tie with a set of gold elongated hexagonal cuff links.

"Ladies Room" (Episode 1.02)

“Ladies Room” (Episode 1.02)

With his toned down dark tie in “The Wheel” (Episode 1.13), Don wears a simpler pair of flat silver square cuff links.

Pre-pitch confidence in "The Wheel" (Episode 1.13).

Pre-pitch confidence in “The Wheel” (Episode 1.13).

For this suit’s first two appearances, in “Ladies Room” (Episode 1.02) and “New Amsterdam” (Episode 1.04), Don wears an “old gold”-colored tie with yellow scattered dots placed along a series of subtle “downhill” diagonal ribs.

Old gold, a shade closer to brown mustard than the shiny yellow gold of jewelry, is a curious color for Don Draper as the show’s first scene establishes Old Gold cigarettes as the primary competitor for his client, Lucky Strike; by the show’s end, Don himself would shift to smoking Old Golds… but I digress. This is Don’s most commonly worn tie with this suit.

Don takes a stand in "New Amsterdam" (Episode 1.04).

Don takes a stand in “New Amsterdam” (Episode 1.04).

In “Shoot” (Episode 1.09), Don steps into his office to find a mysterious package from McCann-Erickson’s Jim Hobart, offering membership in the New York Athletic Club in exchange for Don bringing his creative directing talent to their agency. As he opens the gift and considers his professional conflict during an internal meeting, he wears a slim tie with equally narrow “downhill” stripes in olive, black, beige, and brown.

Same place, three months later. Don contemplates a new opportunity in "Shoot" (Episode 1.09).

Same place, three months later. Don contemplates a new opportunity in “Shoot” (Episode 1.09).

The suit’s final appearance finds it paired with Don’s most subdued tie, a slim piece of neckwear in a solid brown so dark that it looks black in some lighting.

Sometimes Don Draper even impresses himself.

Sometimes Don Draper even impresses himself.

Everything Else: From Head to Toe…to Wrist

Like all professional gentlemen of the mid-century era, Don would never dream of traversing to and from his office without his hat and coat. For the former, he typically sports a felt short-brimmed fedora – made from gray, taupe, or brown felt – with a black grosgrain band.

Don’s coat changes depending on the season, pressing his usual khaki thigh-length raincoat into service on the warm but wet rainy days of spring and summer. This raglan-sleeve coat has single-button pointed half-tab cuffs, a single vent, and red iridescent satin-finished lining.

Arriving at the office in "Shoot" (Episode 1.09).

Arriving at the office in “Shoot” (Episode 1.09).

For chillier days, like the late November days leading up to Thanksgiving 1960, Don wears a brown glen plaid wool topcoat with slim-notched lapels, a single-breasted front with three widely spaced buttons, straight flapped hip pockets, and set-in sleeves with half-cuffed ends.

Though he invariably wears chocolate brown dress socks to continue the leg line of his trousers, Don switches between wearing brown and black shoes with this particular suit. The makers of these shoes can’t be definitively determined, though Jon Hamm was known to wear dress shoes made by Florsheim and by Peal and Co. (by Brooks Brothers) across the show’s run.

For the transitional seasons of early spring and late fall (as seen in “Ladies Room” and “The Wheel”), Don wears a pair of brown leather cap-toe derby shoes. During the warmer months like late spring into summer, he wears black calf leather cap-toe oxfords, a more formal style.

The wristwatch that Don wears throughout the first season has been strongly hypothesized to be a steel Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox with a replacement black and white “tuxedo dial” and a black leather strap. The Memovox was very innovative when introduced in 1956 as it was the first automatic wristwatch to include a mechanical alarm function. It was produced through the 1960s and revived in 2012. Don would stick with Jaeger-LeCoultre, wearing the Reverso style in the second and third seasons, before he switched to his Rolex Explorer in the fourth season and his Omega Seamaster DeVille for Mad Men‘s final three seasons.

Late night anguish in "The Wheel" (Episode 1.13).

Late night anguish in “The Wheel” (Episode 1.13).

As far as underwear goes, interested parties can follow Don’s example with all white cotton for his crew-neck short-sleeved undershirts and boxer shorts.

Go Big or Go Home

Just go home!

What to Imbibe

Canadian Club had been Don’s fuel for conceptualizing the Kodak pitch… up to the moment that he curled into the fetal position and passed out on his couch. However, he still accepts Duck Phillips’ congratulatory glass when Ken Cosgrove offers a “here’s how!” toast after the pitch’s success.

MAD MEN

MAD MEN

To answer Peggy Olsen’s question in the pilot about the difference between “rye” and “Canadian whisky”, it is technically incorrect to use both terms interchangeably as Canadian whiskies – like Canadian Club – are required by law to have been mashed, distilled, and aged at least three years in Canada. Some Canadian distillers add small amounts of rye grain to their mashes, creating a demand for “rye” in Canada, though corn remains the primary grain for most Canadian whisky.

Corn, rye, and barley are used in the three distinctive mashes for Canadian Club, which celebrates its 160th anniversary of production this year. Hiram Walker had initially founded his distillery in Detroit in 1858 but very quickly moved it across the Detroit River to Windsor, Ontario, as the temperance movement picked up legs across the U.S. Within two years, it gained the nickname of “club whisky” for its popularity in gentlemen’s clubs, and it took the formal name of Canadian Club in 1890 to adhere to American import laws regarding country of origin.

Prohibition only bolstered C.C.’s popularity, as gangsters like Al Capone went to great lengths to smuggle it into the U.S., creating a demand for this smooth whiskey that found its legal American sales skyrocketing once Prohibition was repealed in 1933. By the start of World War II less than a decade later, C.C. was being sold in 90 countries around the globe. The famous “Canadian Club” neon sign was placed in Times Square in 1952, where it would remain an iconic fixture of Times Square photography for 21 years. The brand has only continued to grow, with new bottlings like Canadian Club Reserve and Canadian Club rye introduced over the last few decades.

And from what vessel would Don and his cronies drink Canadian Club? Why, a round, silver-rimmed rocks tumbler based on Dorothy Thorpe’s famous “Roly Poly” design.

How to Get the Look

“Whether in a winter or summer weight, plain or pinstriped, double- or single-breasted, the high-class brown suit will always be a power player in any male wardrobe aspiring to permanent stylishness,” writes Alan Flusser in Dressing the Man, and they are words that Don Draper takes to heart with his rotation of strong brown suits over the course of the show.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper in "New Amsterdam", Episode 1.04 of Mad Men.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper in “New Amsterdam”, Episode 1.04 of Mad Men.

  • Dark brown flannel suit with rust-colored rope stripe
    • Single-breasted 3/2-roll jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket (with white cotton pocket square), straight flapped hip pockets, spaced 2-button cuffs, and single vent
    • Flat front trousers with belt loops, straight/on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
  • White cotton dress shirt with semi-spread collar, front placket, breast pocket, and double/French cuffs with gauntlet button
    • Gold elongated hexagon cuff links
  • Gold silk tie with scattered yellow dots
  • Dark brown belt with steel box-type buckle
  • Dark brown calf leather cap-toe derby shoes
  • Dark brown dress socks
  • Taupe felt short-brimmed fedora with black grosgrain ribbon
  • Khaki raglan-sleeve raincoat or brown glen plaid topcoat, weather dependent
  • Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox steel-cased wristwatch with black-and-white “tuxedo dial” and black leather strap

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Start with the first season, but you’ll eventually want to check out the whole series.

If you want to see the show – and Jon Hamm’s powerful performance as Don Draper – at some of its best, check out the nostalgic Kodak pitch moment from the first season finale, “The Wheel” (Episode 1.13).

The Quote

Well, technology is a glittering lure. But there is a rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash – if they have a sentimental bond with the product.

My first job, I was in-house at a fur company with this old pro of a copywriter, a Greek, named Teddy. Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is “new.” It creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of calamine lotion. He also talked about a deeper bond with a product: nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent.

Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a space ship… it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called The Wheel. It’s called a Carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around, and back home again… to a place where we know we are loved.

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