Mad Men, 1969 Style – Don Draper’s Brown Suit
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, displaced ad man seeking to salvage his professional and personal lives
New York City, Spring 1969
Series: Mad Men
– “Time Zones” (Episode 7.01), dir. Scott Hornbacher, aired 4/13/2014
– “A Day’s Work” (Episode 7.02), dir. Michael Uppendahl, aired 4/20/2014
– “Field Trip” (Episode 7.03), dir. Christopher Manley, aired 4/27/2014
– “The Runaways” (Episode 7.05), dir. Christopher Manley, aired 5/11/2014
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
On #MadMenMonday, we turn again to Don Draper’s style for the office with a chocolate brown suit that clothed our ad man through many episodes of the show’s penultimate season, set in the early months of 1969 as he flounders in virtual unemployment after his unpredictable behavior made the one-time advertising hotshot a liability for Sterling Cooper & Partners.
Two months after his failed pitch to Hershey executives in the sixth season finale, Don is flying across the episode’s titular time zones from Los Angeles back to New York on a TWA flight that lands him next to the recently widowed Lee (Neve Campbell!), who falls asleep on his shoulder mid-flight and offers to “make [him] feel better.” Don turns down Lee’s offer in favor of returning home to coverage of Richard Nixon’s inauguration and providing pitches to Fred Rumsen (Joel Murray), who’s been reduced to freelancing after his own unpredictable behavior—drunkenly pissing himself at work—had led to his own dismissal nearly seven years earlier.
“Field Trip” (Episode 7.03) finds Don humbly returning to SC&P in spring 1969 after nearly six months out of the office… interestingly, the same duration that Roger Sterling had suggested for Freddy’s own forced leave in the second season. Despite the resentment and the tough stipulations he must accept as the terms of his re-employment, Don accepts with just one word before cutting to the end credits, scored by Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9”:
“Field Trip” may have been a technical turning point for Don Draper’s career, but “The Runaways” (Episode 7.05) proves what makes the character so compelling. Having gotten his mojo back after “The Monolith” (Episode 7.04) and Freddy’s concise advise to “do the work, Don,” the erstwhile creative director surprises Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin) and Lou Avery (Allan Havey) during their secret Commander cigarettes pitch meeting at the Algonquin Hotel to try to win over Philip Morris. Cutler and Avery are quietly fuming, all but assuring Don that his recently regained tenure at the agency will be short-lived, but Don is unfazed, coolly sending the two execs off in a cab as he lights his Old Gold and ushers a taxi for himself to the opening notes of Waylon Jennings’ “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line”.
Few could analyze the use of this music cue better than The A.V. Club‘s stalwart reviewer, Emily VanDerWerff, who noted in her contemporary recap:
Okay, let’s work backwards. Waylon Jennings. “You Got The Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line.” Don trying to take power from Cutler and Lou. Stephanie as a daughter figure Don never sees. Sally as the daughter he actually has whose nose is broken (except not really) but he never finds out about it. Henry as the surrogate father. Henry as the surrogate Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon.
Richard Nixon! Waylon Jennings is Richard Nixon! The rise of the Republican right largely piggybacked off the desire to see moral order and certainty arise, the desire to have “daddy” come back in and make everything right again. But that’s not how it works! You can’t just have Don Draper walk in and change the fact that everything is falling apart and the apocalypse is coming through his mere presence. Nothing can ever go back to the way it was, because that’s not how life works.
VanDerWerff’s summary of the episode is particularly interesting, capturing the show’s prominent themes as Mad Men entered its final stretch:
We want to see Don stride into that room and convince Phillip Morris that he’s the guy who can get them what they want. We want to see him put Cutler and Lou in their places. We want to see him whistle for a taxi and have the car come right to him. More than anything, I think, we want him to get the old band together, to team up with Peggy and Pete and Joan and Roger and Bert and kick some ass, take back the company that’s supposed to be theirs. But it’s not really theirs anymore, just as the America that was unquestionably Don Draper’s in the pilot has crumbled out from under his feet, both through acts he’s undertaken himself and acts that have taken place around him. The world around Don Draper has become a different place, but he’s stayed the same. It’s not the computer that drives you mad; it’s everything the computer represents. You will be replaced. Maybe not today. Maybe not even a year from now. But you will be. And you can’t stop it. Maybe that’s the ultimate tragedy of Mad Men: The more you long for stasis, the more the universe starts readying a new version.
What’d He Wear?
Although brown is often associated with menswear trends of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Don Draper didn’t wait to incorporate brown business suits into his office attire until 1969. As early as the first season set in 1960, he was sporting a brown striped suit for important client pitches, and an autumnal brown suit made several appearances across the second season. Outdated “no brown in town” maxim from London aside, brown suits have long been accepted and welcome for business since at least the late 1930s. Thirty years later, Don seems to favor this chocolate brown suit when he’s motivated to “do the work,” per Freddy Rumsen’s maxim… or at least appear to be doing it.
When we met Don Draper in the first episode, he was “the man in the gray flannel suit,” literally clad in a businesslike gray worsted as he dominated the halls and conference rooms of Sterling Cooper, projecting the perfect image of the slick businessman. Nearly a decade later, his carefully built self-image has been all but demolished, and he’s returned to show SC&P that he intends to “do the work” rather than coasting on his reputation. The professional-looking gray suits remained in his closet as he struts into the Time & Life Building in a well-tailored chocolate brown worsted suit that reflects his new, grounded approach to work.
The single-breasted suit jacket has notch lapels of moderate width that roll over the top button for a clean 3/2-roll front. In the welted breast pocket, Don wears one of his neatly folded white linen pocket squares. The jacket also has straight flapped hip pockets, two-button cuffs, and a single vent.
Don’s flat front trousers follow the standard template for his suits with side pockets, two back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms with a short, clean break over his shoes. Through the trouser belt loops, he wears a narrow black leather belt with a gold-toned box-style buckle, though this etched rectangular buckle is more elegant than the dulled silver box-style buckles of his belts in earlier seasons.
Don is still a year away from incorporating more varied shirts into his office wardrobe, sporting white or gently off-white cotton dress shirts with semi-spread collars, front plackets, and breast pockets for many decks of Old Gold cigarettes. (Old Gold had replaced Lucky Strike as Don’s brand of choice after the tobacco brand dropped his agency during the show’s fourth season.)
All of Don’s shirts for the office are finished with double (French) cuffs, which he closes with gold cuff links when wearing this chocolate brown suit. The most prominently featured set of cuff links with his suit are the squared gold links with their large black onyx center squares in “Field Trip” (Episode 7.03).
Four Striped Ties
Don exclusively wears striped ties with this brown suit, all consistently patterned with stripes of at least two colors against a solid ground, crossing diagonally in the right-down-to-left “downhill” direction. By 1969, neatly patterned repp and regimental stripes were increasingly more popular than the minimalist ties Don sported earlier in the decade, setting the tone for what would be the dominant neckwear fashions of the ’70s.
When the suit makes its first appearance in “Time Zones” (Episode 7.01) for his flight back to the Big Apple, Don’s tie is block-striped in a warm brown and dark navy, with each double set of stripes separated by a narrow tan-and-gold double stripe. Don may have some U.S. Army service to his name (as well as to Dick Whitman’s name), but this particular tie shares visual similarities with the regimental stripe of the 2nd (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), which consists of block stripes in ruby and dark navy separated by a thin triple stripe set in gold, white, and gold.
Tie One On:
- Best Match! Ben Silver “2nd City of London Regiment” tie in ruby and dark navy with thin triple gold uphill stripe sets (Ben Silver, $128)
- Ben Silver “Mogador Woven Stripe Tie” in claret brown with amber and navy uphill stripe sets (Ben Silver, $145)
- Canali “Large Diagonal Stripe Silk Tie” in brown with ivory-on-blue uphill stripes (Neiman Marcus, $295)
- Ermenegildo Zegna “Four-Color Stripe Silk Tie” uphill-striped in brown, blue, ivory, and navy (Neiman Marcus, $195)
- Robert Talbott “Beltonians” regimental striped tie in brown, tan, and dark navy (O’Connell’s, $90)
- WANDM tie in navy, brown, beige, and gray uphill block stripes (Amazon, $11.98)
“A Day’s Work” (Episode 7.02) finds Don loitering in his bachelor pad, having spent his long day doing nothing. He dresses professionally for the sole purpose of a visit from his former secretary Dawn (Teyonah Parris), who is still loyally providing him with office intel, before Dawn swiftly goes on her way and Don plops himself back down in front of the tube.
It’s the eve of Valentine’s Day, but—as reviewer Sonia Saraiya so succinctly stated in her joint review for The A.V. Club—”Don is lonely.” His maroon striped tie adds a dash of romantic red to the outfit, patterned with sets of thin taupe-and-cream stripes spaced about an inch apart against the maroon ground.
Tie One On:
- Brooks Brothers “Wide Stripe Tie” in wine red woven silk with white and slate downhill stripes (Brooks Brothers, $89.50)
- Canali “Men’s Alt Stripe Silk Satin Tie” in dark red with thin taupe and beige uphill stripes (Neiman Marcus, $160)
- Poszetka “Silk Raspberry Red Regimental Tie” in dark red with gold and light blue uphill stripe sets (Poszetka, 31€)
- Retreez microfiber polyester tie in burgundy with white-and-red uphill stripes (Amazon, $10.99)
- The Tie Bar “Short Cut Stripe” silk/wool tie in burgundy with rust, gray, and white downhill stripes (The Tie Bar, $25)
- Ties.com “Bann Burgundy Tie” in burgundy silk with alternating red/white and red/tan downhill stripe sets (Ties.com, $35)
- WANDM tie in burgundy with double white uphill stripes (Amazon, $11.98)
For the most part, Don’s striped ties with this suit are neatly striped in a repeating series like the classic regimental, college, and club ties. However, he dresses for his return to SC&P in “Field Trip” (Episode 7.03) in a more abstract striped tie, patterned in a non-balanced series of mint green and orange gradient stripes against a black ground.
Tie One On:
- Kai silk tie with green and orange multi-stripes on black ground (Amazon, $14.99)
- Marshall Field & Company vintage 1960s polyester tie with mixed orange, brown, and black downhill stripes (Rusty Zipper, $16)
- Secdtie microfiber jacquard woven tie with downhill gradient stripes in green, slate, and orange (Amazon, $11.99)
At the end of “The Runaways” (Episode 7.05), Don returns to New York from California, simultaneously energized and demoralized by his chance chat with Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) and subsequent (unrelated) ménage à trois with his wife Megan (Jessica Paré) and her friend Amy (Jenny Wade), ready to reclaim his role in the agency by crashing Cutler and Avery’s covert meeting with Philip Morris representatives to discuss the Commander cigarettes account.
For this final appearance of the chocolate brown suit, Don returns to the tried-and-true reliability of a regimental tie with thin sets of yellow and dark navy stripes against a taupe brown ground.
Tie One On:
- Antica Seteria Comasca “Mogador – Cambridge” tie in brown melange silk/cotton with blue-and-cream uphill stripe sets (Antica Seteria Comasca, $41.99)
- Drake’s handmade silk/cotton tie in brown with thin cream-and-green uphill stripe sets (Drake’s, £145)
- Best Match! Eagle satin multi-stripe tie in taupe with blue, white, and navy downhill stripe sets (Belk, $29.99)
- Edwards Garment “Narrow Stripe Tie” in gold polyester with thin navy-and-pale blue downhill stripe sets (OpenTip.com, $15.92)
- Franco Bassi “Melange Stripe Tie” in brown silk with navy and beige uphill stripe sets (Franco Bassi, 95€
- J. Press “Classic Stripe Tie” in brown silk with light blue, white, and navy downhill stripe sets (J. Press, $79)
- KITON “Napoli” handmade beige linen tie with blue-and-cream downhill stripe sets (Sartoriale, $97)
- Wembley vintage 1960s light brown downhill-striped tie in brown, beige, and blue (Rusty Zipper, $10.80)
Completing the Look
There seems to be an enduring menswear debate that questions the most appropriate footwear for brown suits. I think the most important considerations are the suit’s color and context. For example, with a lighter brown or khaki suit worn either for work or play, I like to wear medium brown leather monks or brogues. With a warmer brown tweed suit, I like darker brown derbies or boots.
In the case of Don Draper’s rich brown suit for these seventh season episodes of Mad Men, his black leather derbies are a fine accompaniment for his workday. Where brown shoes may look too much like they’re trying to match the rest of the suit, black shoes have a decided contrast with the dark suiting and also allow for a visual balance with Jon Hamm’s dark hair (top), Don’s black belt (middle), and the shoes themselves (bottom). Black derby shoes also reinforce the professional context for which Don is wearing the suit as opposed to the more playful potential of brown or burgundy shoes.
Worn with black dress socks, Don’s black calf leather derby shoes appear to have a split-toe front and five lace eyelets. The maker of these specific shoes is unconfirmed though auction listings have confirmed both Florsheim and Peal and Co. (by Brooks Brothers) as Don’s shoemakers at various points across the series run.
The professional world of 1969 was much different than ten years earlier as hats had been increasingly fallen out of fashion—encouraged by the youthful John F. Kennedy foregoing them during his administration in the early years of the 1960s, setting a presidential precedent that would rapidly be adopted by the rest of the country over the rest of the decade.
In addition to following the decorum of not wearing a hat indoors, it’s fitting that Don returns to SC&P literally hat in hand in “Field Trip” (Episode 7.03), and the hat is never seen atop his head until he’s firmly entrenched back in the workplace. In “The Runaways” (Episode 7.05), he’s wearing this gray felt short-brimmed trilby as he’s lording over Jim Cutler, crouched in the back seat of a taxi that Don summoned for him after crashing the Commander cigarettes meeting. The hat has a pinched crown and narrow black ribbed grosgrain silk band with a feather in the left side.
To combat the spring chill as well as the chilly reception he encounters at SC&P, Don wears his usual raglan-sleeve balmacaan raincoat, though it’s a newer one than the coat from earlier seasons that had a slimmer collar and a degree of shimmer. This khaki gabardine coat has a wide bal-type collar, slanted hand pockets with wide welts, and a long single vent. The front has a covered fly for the five khaki sew-through plastic buttons.
After the first four seasons found him cycling through two Jaeger-LeCoultres and a Rolex Explorer, Don Draper first strapped on his Omega Semaster De Ville at the top of the fifth season when he was at the top of his game on the eve of his 40th birthday, living the good life with his stylish wife and a partnership at one of the most ambitious agencies in the business.
Nearly three years later, all of that has changed for Don, but he’s still wearing the same Omega and must be reminded of that degree of success when counting down the minutes to the start of his first workday back at SC&P in “Field Trip” (Episode 7.03). This is the best look we get at the luxury watch, strapped to his left wrist on a black textured leather band with its gleaming yet subtle stainless steel case that allows the black dial—with its elegantly minimalist silver hour markers (two for 12:00, 6:00, and 9:00) and date window at 3:00—to take center stage.
Don’s Omega watch was one of four screen-worn timepieces that was included in a Christie’s auction from December 2015. The listing for the Omega, which eventually sold for $11,875, described it as “Signed Omega, Automatic, Seamaster, De Ville, Ref. 166.020, Movement No. 23’943’081, Circa 1960.” Ellen Freund, Mad Men‘s property master, worked with vintage watch specialist Derek Dier to select each character’s signature watch.
How to Get the Look
Mad Men may have established Don Draper as the archetypal man in the gray flannel suit, but he’s a master of many palettes, specifically a grounded but rich chocolate brown suit when he needs to “do the work” and regain his agency’s trust as the series built up to its finale.
- Chocolate brown worsted wool suit:
- Single-breasted 3/2-roll jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and single vent
- Flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White cotton dress shirt with semi-spread collar, front placket, breast pocket, and double/French cuffs
- Ornate gold cuff links
- Earth-toned regimental tie with “downhill” stripe direction
- Black leather belt with etched gold rectangular box-style buckle
- Black calf leather 5-eyelet derby shoes
- Black cotton lisle dress socks
- Omega Seamaster DeVille wristwatch with stainless 34mm case, textured black crocodile strap, and black dial with date indicator
- Gray felt short-brimmed trilby with black ribbed grosgrain silk band and decorative feather
- Khaki gabardine cotton bal-type raincoat with Prussian collar, raglan sleeves, covered 5-button fly, slanted welt hand pockets, and single vent
Note: All prices included in the post above are current as of October 2019, with prices and product availability subject to change.
Check out Iconic Alternatives’ latest post, a collaboration with Instagram’s @dondraperstyle, that breaks down some of the most essential pieces worn by the enigmatic ad man.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the entire series, currently streaming on Netflix and available on DVD/Blu-Ray.
Enthusiasts of Don Draper’s style can also peruse GQ‘s comprehensive attempt to track all of his on-screen attire, which tallies up to 518 different suits, casual ensembles, tuxedoes, and pajama sets here: Everything Don Draper Has Ever Worn on Mad Men, though it should be noted that some of the outfits appear to be presented out of order, particularly toward the final seasons.
Why don’t you fellas catch me up?