Don Draper’s Light Gray Thin-Striped Suit
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, mysterious advertising creative director
New York City, Spring 1960 and 1962
Series: Mad Men
– “5G” (Episode 1.05), dir. Lesli Linka Glatter, aired 8/16/2007
– “Red in the Face” (Episode 1.07), dir. Tim Hunter, aired 8/30/2007
– “The New Girl” (Episode 2.05), dir. Jennifer Getzinger, aired 8/24/2008
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
Happy birthday to Jon Hamm, born March 10, 1971, and arguably most famous for his Emmy-winning performance on AMC’s Mad Men as suave 1960s ad man Don Draper.
Donald Draper? What kinda name is that?
The appearance at Adam Whitman (Jay Paulson) in the series’ fifth episode, “5G”, adds credence to the brief moment two episodes earlier when the smooth operator we’d known as Don Draper is stopped on a train by an old Army pal who calls him “Dick Whitman”. After a brief glance around the train to ensure no one he recognizes is within earshot, Don acknowledges the man and continues with his day, albeit somewhat nonplussed that he hasn’t been able to outrun his past as quickly as he had hoped.
While “5G” is a more serious, high-stakes episode for Don, we get to see a more mischievous and admittedly petty side of the ad man two episodes later in “Red in the Face” (Episode 1.07), one of my favorite episodes of the series.
Humiliated by his older colleague and frequent drinking buddy Roger Sterling (John Slattery) making a pass at Don’s wife, Don arranges an opportunity for him to turn the tables. Roger, assuming the two men have put bygones behind them, invites Don to the famous Grand Central Oyster Bar for the quintessential three-martini lunch, though the two men exchange more than their fair share of martinis, oysters, and even cheesecake. Don is sure to visibly keep pace with the swaggering older Roger: “I’ve always thought you were a man who could keep up, Don.”
When the two men return to the office in time for a meeting with the GOP to talk Dick Nixon’s 1960 election strategy, the elevator operator Hollis (La Monde Byrd)—a few extra greenbacks in his pocket thanks to an earlier arrangement with Don—informs them that the elevator is out of order. The two drunken, sweating ad men climb the 23 flights of stairs to the Sterling Cooper office, though the younger and considerably more fit Don makes a show of lighting a Lucky Strike during his ascent while the coughing, sputtering Roger claims he has lost his tie pin (which he wasn’t wearing) and hangs back to make his embarrassing final dash in solitude.
The duo finally reach the wood-paneled office and are duly introduced to their potential clients. Don may still be catching his breath, but he’s the vision of health compared to a pale Roger, sweat-stained through his three-piece suit, who staggers up to the men and makes his own introduction in the form of a seafood-flavored stream of vomit splashing onto the Grand Old Party’s pant legs.
Two years later, it’s Don whose drinking gets him into trouble when he’s out on the road with his latest mistress, Bobbie Barrett (Melinda McGraw), the domineering wife of an obnoxious comedian in Sterling Cooper’s employ. Don had spent his first interactions trying to resist the woman’s overtures but he finds himself weakening by the events of “The New Girl” (Episode 2.05), finding a particularly kindred spirit as she doles out the Draper-like advice: “This is America. Pick a job and then become the person that does it.”
Any shot at bliss with this woman who also likes bridges and foreign films is ruined by an awkward reunion with Rachel Menken (Maggie Siff), now married to the bookish Tilden Katz, sending Don spiraling on an immediate path of self-destruction with Bobbie as cocktails at Sardi’s turns into passing the bottle behind the wheel of his Dodge, where her distracting ear-nibbling leads to the tipsy ad man totaling the sedan to the juxtaposing sounds of Percy Faith’s “Theme from A Summer Place“.
Fortunately for Don, this is 1962 and his blood alcohol content of .15%(!) is still within the legal limit and his only punishment is to pay a $150 fine. Unfortunately for Don, his $63 and “some subway tokens” aren’t enough to cover the fine—even in this more lenient of eras—and he has to call “an employee” to cover the remainder. When he picks up the phone, we aren’t yet sure who it’ll be. Roger Sterling? A trusted member of his creative team?
I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one surprised when Peggy Olson stepped into the station, considerably matured from the naive Brooklynite we met at the series’ outset and in the midst of her own romantic struggles. The mystery of why Peggy would drive out to Long Island in a car painstakingly borrowed from her brother-in-law with the $110 she could scrape together is soon solved with a flashback to a post-natal Peggy in the hospital, waking up to Don at her bedside, urging to her “get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.”
A year and a half later, he trades in his secret on her for her to keep a dangerous secret for him.
What’d He Wear?
For these three pivotal moments across Mad Men‘s first two seasons, Don Draper dresses in an office-friendly pinstriped gray suit that was identified by a ScreenBid auction as a Calvin Klein suit, size 42R. Following the initial ScreenBid auction, the suit was included in another auction in November 2016 where the listing still exists on iCollector.com as of March 2020 with photos of the suit, including labels that identify it as a part of the “Academy Award Clothes” catalog.
Given that Calvin Klein himself had only turned 18 in November 1960 when the end of the first season is set, it’s not strictly a period suit but the cloth and cut are very evocative of a classic business suit from mid-century America, particularly the dawn of the ’60s when the longer, fuller-cut jackets of the fabulous fifties were giving way to the narrower, more minimalist styles associated with the early ’60s.
The 100% wool suiting is a light gray with a thin, closely spaced white pinstripe often called a “pencil stripe” as it isn’t quite as thin as a pin but not as wide as chalk. The light color and lightweight wool make this suit a fitting choice for these episodes, respectively set in the late spring of 1960 and ’62.
Don must know it’s a worthwhile suit as he (or, perhaps more realistically, Betty) chose it for him to wear when the Draper family was posing for portraits that Betty had arranged in “5G” (Episode 1.05). In fact, this was my basis for a quintessential Mad Men-esque suit when I was shopping for something to wear for internship interviews and family weddings in the spring of 2009 and eventually found a similar suit with a two-button jacket at Banana Republic.
Don’s light gray thin-striped suit has a single-breasted jacket, fully cut with elegant drape through the chest, creating a fantastic silhouette with stronger shoulders and a more suppressed waist than the classic American “sack cut” that had been popularized by Brooks Brothers suits. The jacket has notch lapels, with a buttonhole through the left lapel, that roll to a full three-button front. Don always wears a white pocket square in a neat “TV fold” in the jacket’s welted breast pocket, and the jacket also has straight flapped hip pockets, long double vents, and three buttons at the cuff of each sleeve.
After two appearances in the first season, this suit returns in the second season episode “The New Girl” (Episode 2.05) only to be ruined when Don crashes his Dodge on a drunken nighttime drive out to Long Island. The iCollector auction listing describes the damage as “a four-inch tear along the left shoulder seam”, which—aside from some wrinkles and dirt—appears to be the extent of the sartorial harm.
Don’s matching suit trousers are flat-fronted with an appropriately medium-high rise. They have straight pockets along the side seams, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms.
Through Don’s trouser belt loops, he wears his usual leather belts with enclosed steel box-style buckles, typically coordinating his belt leather to his shoes by wearing a dark brown belt in “Red in the Face” (Episode 1.07) but a black belt in “The New Girl” (Episode 2.05).
A black Brooks Brothers-branded belt was included in the aforementioned ScreenBid auction, likely of vintage provenance and finished with a dulled steel buckle with rounded edges and an embossed “L”.
Shirts and Ties
Until the show’s final season, Don exclusively wore white or off-white shirts to the office, reserving his blue or striped shirts for evening outings such as a double date with the Sterlings in “Ladies Room” (Episode 1.02) or a Valentine’s Day dinner out with Betty in “For Those Who Think Young” (Episode 2.01). Indeed, white shirts are essentially a uniform for Sterling Cooper’s creative and accounts teams circa 1960, with Don keeping a backup supply in his desk drawer as seen in the pilot episode, ensuring that his shirts and ties won’t clash after nights “staying in the city”.
Don’s white cotton shirts have narrow semi-spread collars, front plackets, breast pockets for his Luckies, and squared double (French) cuffs for a rotation of cuff links, despite his assertion in “Marriage of Figaro” (Episode 1.03) that he “was raised that men don’t wear jewelry.”
In “5G” (Episode 1.05), he wears a straight tie of solid navy silk, first seen in the first episode “New Amsterdam” (Episode 1.04) with his taupe 3/2-roll sack suit.
A few solid blue and navy ties that Don wore were auctioned off after the series, including a 3.75″-wide dark blue textured Dacron polyester Superba tie and a 2″-wide navy silk Calvin Klein tie, the latter of which likely being the neckwear featured in “5G”.
In “Red in the Face” (Episode 1.07), he wears a more complex tie, patterned in black, tan, and blue variated stripes following a “downhill” direction.
In November 2019, Mad Men‘s esteemed costume designer Janie Bryant posted two behind-the-scenes photos on her Instagram account of Jon Hamm in costume as Don Draper, commenting that “This photo is of Jon showing my set costumers exactly what cuff links I had him wear for that particular scene/script day. Jon and I always joked how Don Draper would match his socks to his trousers!”
Don definitely wears the same cuff links in “Red in the Face” (Episode 1.07) and “The New Girl” (Episode 2.05), a set of white gold squares with a large purple square stone set in the center of each. He’s evidently had these fixed as these are the same finnicky cuff links that kept falling out of his shirt in “Marriage of Figaro”, fueling his flirtation with Rachel Menken when she flicked one back at him during a meeting and ultimately replaced them with medieval knights’ helmets in the same episode.
It may be significant or sheer coincidence that he’s wearing them again in “The New Girl” (Episode 2.05) when he encounters the new Mrs. Katz at Sardi’s, but the cuff links themselves hang in there better than ever, even staying fastened through each cuff throughout the ordeal of a car accident!
Don’s tie in “The New Girl” (Episode 2.05) is silver silk with neat rows of squares, extending five across beneath the knot and each consisting of four navy embroidered dots. This particular tie made its first appearance with Don’s silky gray windowpane suit in “Babylon” (Episode 1.06).
Of Don’s ties with this suit, this lighter silver tie may be my least favorite as it blends together with the similarly colored suit and neutral shirt, not providing enough balance against Jon Hamm’s higher-contrast complexion, face, and hair.
Everything Else: From Head to Toe…to Wrist
“He doesn’t even wear a hat!” the aging Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) complains of JFK in “Red in the Face” (Episode 1.07), illustrating just how revolutionary it would be for a man in mid-century America to take on the open air without covering his head. Throughout the decade, Don arrives at the office in his trusty trilby, rotating through a few different short-brimmed hats of varying felts, though the Stetson we see in these episodes of the first season is dark gray with a pinched crown and black grosgrain band, decorated with a feather on the left side.
Though Kennedy’s presidency signaled the end of the headgear era for American business-wear, raincoats have remained an obvious necessity due to their practicality. Following his anomalous attire of the pilot episode, Don’s preferred raincoat for the first few seasons was a taupe gabardine knee-length raglan coat with an ulster collar, four-button fly front, long single vent, handwarmer pockets, tab cuffs, and an iridescent red satin-finished lining.
As mentioned earlier, Don tends to follow the accepted menswear standard of matching his belts to his shoes. In “Red in the Face” (Episode 1.07), he wears dark oxblood leather five-eyelet oxfords with a pair of tan socks that are patterned with broken brown vertical stripes.
In “The New Girl” (Episode 2.05), Don again wears earthy striped socks with this suit, though his shoes are black leather apron-toe derbies. These may be the same three-eyelet apron-toe Florsheim derbies that were confirmed to appear three episodes later, or they may be other shoes from Draper-worn brands like Brooks Brothers or Peal & Co., an London shoemaker that closed in 1965 until the name was revived by Brooks later in the decade.
While some debate persists, there was a general consensus that Don Draper’s wristwatch during the first season—or at least the first episode—was a steel Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox with a replacement black-and-white “tuxedo dial”, worn on a black leather strap, suggested by Joe’s Daily. The Memovox was a revolutionary timepiece upon its 1956 introduction as the first automatic watch with a mechanical alarm function.
John, a BAMF Style reader, commented on a previous article that Don’s wristwatch through most of the first season was not a Memovox but, in fact, more likely a Rolex Cellini with a 37mm or 39mm case, providing a link with an image of two screen-worn watches with a caption describing them as “a Rolex and an Omega.” I appreciate John’s comment as it forced me to take a closer look at the watch and, indeed, the face of Don’s watch appears to have the signature Rolex crown logo just below the 12:00 marker.
For the second and third seasons, Don has been confirmed to wear an 18-karat rose gold Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique, the classic dress watch with a swiveling “Reverso” case originally designed to protect the face during polo matches between British Army officers stationed in India.
Introduced in 1931, the Deco-styled watch took on a stylish second life as a status symbol rather than a hard-wearing wristwatch for officers, and the case-reversal functionality evolved to serve the more fashionable purpose of revealing a personalized image on the alternate side of the case. Worn on a brown crocodile strap, Don tends to keep his Reverso worn with its white rectangular dial facing outward, though his shirt cuff covers it for most of the time this suit is worn during “The New Girl”. Should one be interested in a pink gold Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso à la Draper today, be prepared to spend just under $20,000!
What to Imbibe
Roger: You ready for another? Or have you topped off your tank?
Don: You’re leadin’ this dance.
“I’m on the Roger Sterling diet,” Don assures his epicurean colleague when they’re out for oysters and vodka martinis at New York’s fabled Grand Central Oyster Bar in “Red in the Face” (Episode 1.07). The episode’s title refers metaphorically to Roger’s embarrassment, though his true complexion takes on a pallid white as he vomits up the martinis and mollusks after Don’s gambit sends them walking up 23 flights of stairs to avoid being late for a meeting with the Nixon campaign.
While still not feeling his best, Don at least manages to keep down his lunch and still resemble a human while Roger comes face to face with the drawbacks of middle age, having only just “bragged” about his ulcer when he noticed Don keeping up with his countless rounds of martinis:
You keep matching me like this and you’ll have an ulcer of your own… any day now!
Roger should perhaps slow down his consumption of them, but his choice of vodka martinis is far more appetizing than the dash of Smirnoff added to his milk we witnessed at the beginning of the episode. Martinis and Gibsons, their onion-garnished cousins, are Roger’s cocktail of choice throughout Mad Men‘s seven-season run, and he makes clear his preference for vodka rather than gin. No matter which spirit he prefers, all serious martini drinkers can agree with Roger’s direction to the waiter: “Easy on the vermouth.”
Once he’s off the “Roger Sterling diet”, Don Draper famously drank the venerable Old Fashioned cocktail, established as his favorite drink in the pilot episode and one that we find him drinking through the end of the sixth season. Even the martini-swilling Bobbie Barrett knows this in “The New Girl” (Episode 2.05), ordering for Don when he joins her at Sardi’s: “He’ll have an Old Fashioned.” Don eventually returns the favor by ordering their dinners: steak tartare for her and hearts of palm salad for him. Ugh. I’ll have what she‘s having.
Behind the wheel of his Dodge a few hours and one Rachel Menken sighting later, Don and Bobbie are passing a bottle of bourbon with an unclear blue-and-red label, the same fictional prop bottle seen atop Fred Rumsen’s office bar when the bourbon-soaked Freddie wets himself in the midst of preparing for a pitch in “Six-Month Leave” (Episode 2.09). It makes sense to not associate a real brand with these two careless imbibers’ dangerous drinking-and-driving in “The New Girl”, particularly as it ends up in a crash.
How to Get the Look
The quintessential American businessman, Don Draper kept his closet lined with several gray suits in all cuts, patterns, and shades, with this lighter gray pencil-striped suit standing out as a definitive mid-century office suit, ideal for maintaining sartorial professionalism during three-martini lunches or an after-hours rendezvous.
- Light gray narrowly spaced white-pinstriped wool suit:
- Single-breasted 3-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket (with white cotton pocket square), straight flapped hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and long double vents
- 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
- White gold square cuff links with square purple stones
- Solid navy, variated-stripe, or silver patterned silk straight ties
- Black or dark brown belt with steel box-type buckle
- Black or oxblood calf leather lace-up shoes
- Tan socks with brown stripes
- Gray felt short-brimmed Stetson trilby with black grosgrain ribbon
- Taupe gabardine raglan-sleeve raincoat with ulster collar, 4-button fly front, handwarmer pockets, single-button semi-tab cuffs, single vent, and red iridescent satin-finished lining
- Steel-cased wristwatch with black-and-white “tuxedo dial” on black textured leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the entire series, though you’ll only find this suit featured in the first and second seasons.
Negotiating is a bore.
Can you do an article on Don’s decision to start wearing a blue dress shirt with his suit in season 7B (1970)?
Absolutely, there’s a little something like that in the works!
Awesome, can’t wait!