Jon Hamm as Don Draper, former ad man in search of himself
Bonneville Speedway, Utah, to California, Fall 1970
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “Person to Person” (Episode 7.14)
Air Date: May 17, 2015
Director: Matthew Weiner
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Moving forward has been the theme of Don Draper’s life, a trajectory made plainly simple at the start of the final episode of Mad Men as a denim-clad Dick Whitman barrels toward the viewers through the desert at more than 130 miles per hour.
Back in New York, Don’s naïve secretary Meredith (Stephanie Drake) shares her concern with Roger Sterling that her former boss may have died, ultimately suggesting that “I hope he’s in a better place.” Geographically, maybe. Mentally, absolutely.
Dick—that’s Don to you and me—appears to be living the life he was meant to live, speeding a muscle car through the Utah desert in a scene reminiscent of Vanishing Point. Not far from the Bonneville Speedway, Don has abandoned the trappings of his Madison Avenue life of lies as he helps two aspiring racers build their dream car out of an aqua blue 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS, impressing them with his automotive knowledge.
Much as he did when we met him ten years earlier in the pilot episode, Don Draper looks to be on top of the world, though it’s now the world on his terms and not the terms he thinks are expected of him. As in “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”, Don is depicted enjoying a drink (an Old Fashioned in 1960 vs. a can of Schlitz in 1970) while showing off his knowledge to two men (waiters in 1960 vs. racers in 1970) to the tune of a popular song communicating each respective era’s approach to love (Don Cherry’s crooning “Band of Gold” in 1960 vs. The Doors’ fuzzy but radio-friendly hit “Hello, I Love You” in 1970.)
In Don’s mind, this is probably the best place he’s ever been in, far from the corporate trappings of McCann-Erickson, where his erstwhile SC&P colleagues are fighting for relevance against a backdrop of tacky Halloween decorations. Don’s new life is nothing glamorous, to be sure, but glamour had always been part of his disguise. He’s now free to be Dick Whitman, the happy-go-lucky mechanic who swills Schlitz and enjoys one-night stands without the guilt of a lonely wife at home. Don’s “better place” is shattered when, in the midst of an excited phone conversation with his daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka), he learns that his ex-wife Betty (January Jones) is within six months of dying from lung cancer… and that there’s nothing he can do to make anyone feel better about it.
In the premiere episode of the second half of the final season, Don scoffed at Ted Chaough’s tired suggestion that “there are three women in every man’s life,” but The AV Club reviewer John Teti notes that this theme comes full circle in the final episode of the series as “Don places phone calls to three women, and each call provides Don an essential glimpse of the life he left behind.” The first two calls, first to Sally and then to Betty after learning of her condition, shatter his remaining illusion that he can still return home to “save the day”. Bobbie Barrett’s words about “being bad, then going home and being good” have resonated with him for the better part of a decade, and it was always part of his emotional escape strategy. Now, he’s forbidden to return home to avoid forsaking the status quo to which children have adapted in his absence.
The next we see Don, he’s made it to his usual safe haven of California, seeking refuge with Stephanie Horton (Caity Lotz), the young woman who remains his last link to Anna Draper. Penney’s bag in hand like a hobo, Don is grumpy and reticent, but Stephanie knows she has to labor to break through his wall. “What’s going on?” she asks. “Nothin’ much—I’m retired,” he responds quickly. “Been on the road.” Though Stephanie is dealing with some problems of her own, she’s able to sense that her de facto uncle in in trouble, suggesting that he join her at “some kind of retreat” up the coast.
What’d He Wear?
For the start of the final episode, Don Draper has traded in the previous episode’s “suburban dad” road-wear of Derby jacket, sport shirts, slacks, and penny loafers for a greaser-inspired getup.
Like the first scene itself, the outfit is an inversion of his business suit from the first episode. “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” introduced us to the 1960 Manhattanite Don Draper, the quintessential “man in the gray flannel suit” who could sell any pitch. Ten years later, we begin our final chapter with Don now dressed in another matching jacket, trousers, and white shirt, though it’s a “denim sandwich” combination of a trucker jacket, jeans, and undershirt, more appropriate for the Bonneville Salt Flats than a boardroom.
Immediately after the finale aired, Jake Woolf asked GQ readers: “Was Don Draper’s Jean Jacket the Best Part of the Mad Men Finale?” Hyperbole aside, there was something refreshing about seeing Dick in the blue-collar comfort of the venerable trucker jacket that has been a staple of denim specialists like Levi’s, Lee, and Wrangler across the 20th century. (Read more about the evolution of the Levi’s trucker jacket at Brag Vintage as well as the timeline of Levi’s, Lee, and Wrangler models written by Albert Muzquiz for Primer!)
The distinctive red tag on the left pocket flap makes it clear that Don’s blue stonewash denim trucker jacket is a Levi’s product, an evolution of the “Type 3” 557XX jacket that the brand introduced in 1967, though close-ups from the ScreenBid auction photos show that the jacket has an anachronistic post-1971 “Levi’s” red tag rather than the pre-1971 “LEVI” red tag; in fact, the pockets and details of Don’s jacket indicate an item no older than the 1980s. (Read more about the ScreenBid auction, where this jacket was described as a size 46L, here.)
The waist-length jacket is lined in red and black buffalo plaid flannel through the inside and under the collar, most visible when a drunken Don rests in his room after hearing Betty’s bad news with the discarded jacket thrown over a chair in the corner of the room (see here!) Flannel-lined trucker jackets like Don’s were popular from the late ’60s through the 1980s, though it appears that the only flannel-lined trucker jacket that Levi’s currently offers (as of November 2019) has a snap-up front rather than the classic riveted button closure, available here.
Don’s jacket has six branded copper rivet buttons up the front as well as a single-button closure on each cuff and a short tab on each side of the waistband to adjust the fit on one of two buttons. The two chest pockets are outlined with bronze stitching and covered with a pointed flap that closes through a single button matching the six down the front. The jacket also has two vertical hand pockets, positioned behind the tapered “V”-shaped stitching that extends down the front of the jacket from under each chest pocket flap.
A denim jacket and jeans is already a considerably dressed down alternative to Don’s closet of tailored business suits, but Don makes an extra leap down the chain of formality in “Person to Person” by wearing his undershirts as outerwear, rarely sporting anything under his trucker jacket other than the white cotton short-sleeved T-shirts he had previously worn only as undershirts since the first episode of the series. (According to ScreenBid, these shirts were made by Fruit of the Loom.)
Don sporting only a white undershirt under his trucker jacket illustrates how much he has stripped himself down to the audience and to himself, no longer covering up the layer that had long been buried by the tailored trappings of “Don Draper, award-winning ad man”… he’s now just Dick Whitman, a guy who loves cars.
“You hung up my jeans,” a surprised Don comments to an all-but anonymous blonde, Eve (Fiona Gubelmann), with whom he shares his bed in the Utah motel. Also made by Levi’s, these blue stonewash denim jeans have the standard belt loops and five-pocket layout that have been the standard since Levi Strauss & Co. modernized the 501® Original Fit in 1947, removing archaic additions like the back cinch or suspender buttons. According to ScreenBid, Don’s jeans are a size 36×33.
Don wears a thick dark brown leather belt with a large squared brass single-prong buckle, coordinating his dark brown leather plain-toe work boots. These boots are derby-laced with three sets of eyelets and three sets of speed hooks. The same boots and jeans would return at the end of the episode, worn with Don’s brown, blue, and white plaid flannel shirt during his tearful “person to person” telephone call to Peggy.
Don occasionally takes some breaks from denim, balancing his trucker jacket and undershirt with a pair of light khaki chinos and his previously worn brown loafers when he shows up at Stephanie’s doorstep in L.A. These flat front chinos have side pockets, jetted back pockets (with no buttons), and a fitted waistband with no belt loops. They are straight through the legs and plain-hemmed on the bottoms, breaking over his black Gold Toe socks and his walnut brown Brooks Brothers penny loafers.
Don’s sunglasses make their final appearance on Stephanie’s threshold, serving the dual purpose of function (shielding his eyes from the bright California sun) and form (one final attempt to hide his inner sadness.) As confirmed by my friend, eyewear expert Preston Fassel, Don’s gold-framed aviator sunglasses during the seventh season are the Ray-Ban Caravan model, a fashionable evolution of the American Optical Flight Goggle 58 military shades that Don wore earlier in the show’s run.
Though he’s given up his luxury lifestyle, fashionable suits, and shiny Cadillac coupe, Don wisely holds onto his Omega Seamaster DeVille, the classic timepiece evoking timeless, understated luxury that dressed his wrist from the fifth season premiere through the end of the finale. The stainless steel Omega has a slim 34mm case, black cross-hair dial with 3:00 date window, and textured black leather strap. It was among four watches that appeared on the series included in a December 2015 Christie’s auction, where it sold for $11,875. According to the auction listing, “the watches were leased to the show by vintage watch specialist Derek Dier, who has supplied watches to the movie industry, noted musicians, actors, writers, artists, international dignitaries and Fortune 500 CEOs. Mad Men Property Master Ellen Freund worked with Dier to select the watches.” The Christie’s page further describes the watch as: “Signed Omega, Automatic, Seamaster, De Ville, Ref. 166.020, Movement No. 23’943’081, Circa 1960.”
Don wears his same white cotton boxer shorts.
Much later that night, Stephanie and Don arrive at the coastal retreat, the latter dressed again in his trucker jacket and jeans while having also added a layer with the short-sleeved plaid shirt that should be familiar from “The Milk and Honey Route” (Episode 7.13). Apropos the time of year, the shirt is autumnally colored in a hunter green, orange, black, and white plaid.
The plaid shirt and jeans combination makes one brief final appearance in a vignette of Don at sunset, overlooking Anderson Canyon from Big Sur, presumably just one morning of sun salutations away from total enlightenment…and the development of an iconic Coca-Cola commercial.
It’s not #CarWeek, but let’s take a brief look at the metallic blue 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS that Don speeds through the Utah desert at the beginning of the episode.
Chevrolet introduced the Chevelle as the only all-new model in the U.S. auto lineup for 1964, a mid-sized model that offered everything from two-door coupes and convertibles to four-door sedans and station wagons, taking on rivals like the Ford Fairlane and Plymouth Belvedere. The Chevelle was also an early contender in the growing muscle car segment that would hit its zenith around 1970. The “big block” 396 cubic-inch V8 engine was available as a performance-oriented option from the beginning, carrying over into the second generation of redesigned Chevelles for the 1968 model year.
The following year, Chevrolet touted the Chevelle as “America’s most popular mid-size car” and, for 1970, introduced the powerful 454 cubic inch engine as a top performance package for the Super Sport (SS) models, offered in the LS5 engine at 360 horsepower or the tough-as-nails LS6 engine reportedly underrated at 450 horsepower. While Don drives a Chevelle with SS badging, the side fender badging lacks the “454” under “SS” that would indicate one of these beefed-up versions; thus, we can deduce that Don’s Chevelle SS is fitted with either one of a pair of 396 V8 options, still no slouch at 350 to 375 horsepower, respectively. Given that the Chevelle belongs to a pair of prospective race car drivers, let’s assume it’s the more powerful option, a 402 cubic-inch big block still marketed as a “396”.
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454
Body Style: 2-door hardtop sport coupe
Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)
Engine: 402 cubic inch (6.6 L) Chevrolet “396” V8 with four-barrel carburetor
Power: 375 hp (279.5 kW; 380 PS) @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 415 lb·ft (563 N·m) @ 3600 rpm
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Wheelbase: 112 inches (2845 mm)
Length: 197.2 inches (5009 mm)
Width: 75.4 inches (1915 mm)
Height: 52.6 inches (1336 mm)
As federal regulations and restrictions put a chokehold on American muscle cars, the decade to follow saw increased gas prices and emissions concern lead to a decrease emphasis on performance as one-time juggernauts like the Chevelle, Charger, Challenger, and Mustang became mere shadows of their once-powerful selves.
What to Imbibe
Do you have any liquor? I’ve been drinkin’ beer all night.
By “Person to Person”, Don Draper gives no indication of missing the staunch bottle of Canadian Club from his office desk or his go-to order of a strong Old Fashioned at the local oak-paneled watering hole. In the finale episode of Mad Men, Don drinks nothing but beer, most prominently Schlitz.
Schlitz can trace its origins to the brewery founded by August Krug in 1849, though it wasn’t until 1856 that the brewery’s 25-year-old bookkeeper Joseph Schlitz assumed management responsibilities, two years before he married Krug’s widow Anna Maria Krug. Though Schlitz died at sea in May 1875, a week shy of his 44th birthday, Schlitz rose to become the world’s top-selling brewery in the years following Prohibition, a standing that was only assisted by the introduction of the Old Milwaukee value brand during the 1930s. The brewery’s popularity was hurt by a 76-day strike that gave Anheuser-Busch the upper hand through the 1950s, but, 100 years after Schlitz’s death, Schlitz was still the #2 brewery in America.
An aggressively risky ad campaign launched by Leo Burnett and another massive strike led to Schlitz’s decline by the 1980s, when it was sold to Stroh Brewery Company and repositioned as a “bargain brand” that all but extinguished the once-powerful brand’s status.
How to Get the Look
The final episode of Mad Men introduces us to a reinvented Don Draper now living his truth as Dick Whitman and looking far from the slick ad man we met at the start of the series set a decade earlier, swapping out his tailored suits for a trucker jacket and jeans.
- Dark blue stonewash denim Levi’s 557XX “Type 3” trucker jacket with six copper rivet buttons, two single-button flapped chest pockets, two vertical jetted hand pockets, adjustable waist hem tabs, and red-and-black buffalo plaid flannel lining
- White cotton crew-neck T-shirt
- Dark blue stonewash denim Levi’s 501 Original Fit jeans
- Dark brown thick leather belt with squared brass single-prong buckle
- Dark brown leather plain-toe work boots with three-eyelet derby lacing and three speed hook sets
- Black Gold Toe socks
- White cotton boxer shorts
- Omega Seamaster DeVille wristwatch with stainless 34mm case, textured black crocodile strap, and black dial with date indicator
- Ray-Ban Caravan gold-framed aviator sunglasses
If denim-on-denim isn’t your style, get your comfiest pair of flat front khakis and swap out the work boots for more chino-friendly penny loafers.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
A lot has happened.