Jon Hamm as Don Draper, conflicted ad man
Los Angeles, Spring 1969
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “The Runaways” (Episode 7.05)
Air Date: May 11, 2014
Director: Christopher Manley
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Despite being one of the most popular shows in the streaming service’s stable of non-original content, today marks the last day that Mad Men is available to Netflix subscribers in the U.S. The first part of Mad Men‘s seventh and final season spends time with displaced ad man Don Draper as he travels from coast to coast by plane, juggling his professional aspirations in New York with his slowly stagnating marriage in L.A.
The geographic reversal is interesting, not only in the context of Mad Men but also in the east vs. west trope espoused by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Henry David Thoreau, as we’re used to seeing Don romanticizing California even when professionally soaring through the ranks of Madison Avenue’s advertising world. Now, his position has shifted with decided roots in L.A. via second wife Megan (Jessica Paré) taking up residence in Laurel Canyon to further her acting career while, back in New York, he’s been reduced to a glorified intern at the agency he helped to start… and that’s just in the eyes of those who are comfortable working with him.
It’s telling that Don catches a late broadcast of Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1937) during a later visit to the coast, as Don’s own erstwhile Shangri-La has been crumbling as he feels increasingly alien in Megan’s world of hippies, drugs, and free love.
When one of Don’s visits to L.A. coincides with a party for Megan’s friends, it’s even more telling that Don chooses the temporary sanctuary of escape with Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) of all people, finding familiarity in someone from his office, even if the once-unassuming media buyer has transformed himself into a sleazy, pompous blowhard. Solidified by booze, Harry’s sycophancy rises to a new level as he embraces his face-time with Don, revealing more than he was intended to about SC&P courting Philip Morris’ new Commander cigarette brand in a power play that will undoubtedly put Don’s fledgling attempts to restart his career on ice. Don returns to Megan’s pad, refreshed to find that all guests have departed save for one—the flirtatious Amy (Jenny Wade)—who eagerly joins both Don and Megan in bed for a late night romp that, rather than bringing the couple closer together, all but solidifies their estrangement.
Don may have been an active participant in the impromptu ménage à trois, but neither his head nor heart were in it. Instead, he was stuck in a conversation he had with Harry Crane… who would no doubt be honored to know he was on Don’s mind during such a provocative situation. With his most considerable professional rivals, Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin) and Lou Avery (Allan Harvey), angling to bring a new cigarette account into the SC&P fold, Don needs to get back to New York to prove that, in the parlance of Waylon Jennings over the closing song, he’s still the only daddy that’ll walk the line.
What’d He Wear?
After some initially feet-dragging, Don Draper has fully embraced the power of plaid… at least for parties. Megan first forced him into a bold plaid sports coat and tie for a dinner party with the Campbells and Cosgroves during the series’ transformative fifth season, set primarily across the back half of 1966. Over the years to follow, the laconic ad man has recognized how an eye-catching dash of plaid can liven up any occasion with a closet full of plaid jackets in varying patterns and colorways, wearing them all year be the occasion a quiet New Year’s Eve celebration, catching an afternoon movie, or even a late night at the office.
In this case, it’s a Laurel Canyon party in the late spring of 1969. It’s been a tumultuous decade for Americans, shaken up by war, activism, and political assassinations, though Megan Draper’s Hollywood remains a bastion of good vibes, a mere months before even this free love-loving town would be shaken up by the gruesome Cielo Drive murders.
Did Don pack this plaid jacket for the trip or was it stashed with some select clothes he keeps at Megan’s home? Either way, it’s a tactful choice for the party as he knows the latest Mrs. Draper likes him in plaid. I believe “The Runaways” marks the only appearance of this particular cotton sport jacket, patterned in a gray-and-cream tartan plaid with a red windowpane overcheck, subtly coordinating with the red-and-white piping on his black polo.
Aside from its loud plaid pattern and cotton (or cotton-blend) construction, Don’s single-breasted sports coat is cut and styled similarly to the jackets of his business suits and follows the same slightly shorter length contemporary to men’s fashion trends of the late ’60s, accentuated by a rounded front skirt opening. The two buttons are placed a few inches higher than Jon Hamm’s natural waist line, similar to several of Don’s jackets across the series’ latter seasons though it’s less jarring on this casual sport jacket that Don doesn’t wear buttoned over a white shirt and tie.
The notch lapels moderately bridge the narrower lapels popular earlier in the ’60s with the exaggerated widths of the decade to follow, detailed with the subtle and appropriately sporty detail of gently “swelled” edges. The structured shoulders are gently roped at the sleeveheads, and each sleeve is finished with three buttons at the cuff. The single-vented jacket has a welted breast pocket and flapped hip pockets that slant gently toward center when compared to the horizontal axis of Don’s plaid.
Don wisely balances the extravagantly patterned sports coat with more subdued underpinnings in all black. He tucks his black piped-collar polo shirt into his black flat front trousers, held up with a black leather belt that fastens through a steel box-style buckle with rounded edges. The belt leather coordinates with his black derby shoes.
Don’s black knit polo follows the Ban-Lon trend the originated when Joseph Bancroft & Sons Company developed this unique process for crimping yarn to nylon in 1954, kicking off a two-decade trend of everything from sweaters to swimsuits made from this soft-knit synthetic material. “Ban-Lon” soon became a shorthand for retro-minded knitwear whether produced by the Bancroft process or not and began enjoying a resurgence over the last decade thanks to the Mad Men influence that also re-popularized business suits, skinny ties, and classic cocktail culture.
I can’t confirm if Don’s shirt is actual Ban-Lon or a more natural fiber like merino wool, but it’s a characteristically tasteful item from the Draper wardrobe that follows fashion while still rooting in timeless style by avoiding fad-informed excess. In addition to the squared patch pocket over the breast, the shirt is detailed with edge-stitched raglan sleeves that extend to each elbow, three black plastic sew-through buttons, and a wide collar whose breadth gives visual indication that we’re approaching the ’70s. While many Ban-Lon or similar polo shirts had ribbed waist hems, Don’s is unbanded for a more relaxed fit around the waist.
The body of Don’s shirt is black with the edge of the collar and top of the breast pocket piped in narrow red and white striping for a subtle “dipped” contrast against the dark shirt, just enough to look interesting without clashing against the bold pattern of his sports coat.
As we see when Don undresses for what proves to be a surprisingly eventful night in bed, he doesn’t wear one of his usual undershirts. While the crew-neck top of a white T-shirt would add an unsightly patch above the buttoned portion of his polo, the undershirt would also serve as a protective layer between his skin oils and the material of his knit shirt, which suggests that he may indeed be wearing Ban-Lon, which was celebrated for its easily washable properties especially when compared to a more delicate fabric like merino wool.
Though he foregoes the undershirt, Don still wears his regular white cotton boxer shorts.
Through the last three seasons of Mad Men, Don wears an elegant Omega Seamaster DeVille watch with a slim stainless steel 34mm case and black cross-hair dial with a 3:00 date window on a black textured leather strap.
Don’s Omega 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.”
What to Listen to
Before Megan’s “merry band of players” takes over the soundtrack with a take on Sidney Bechet’s “Petite Fleur” (following an ill-received few bars of “Dixie”), the party was scored by “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” by Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Though primarily associated with the Canadian-American jazz-rock fusion band, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” was originally recorded by Brenda Holloway (no relation to Joan), who co-wrote the tune with Berry Gordy Jr., Frank Wilson, and her sister Patrice Holloway. While Holloway’s version peaked at number 39 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, the cover recorded by Blood, Sweat & Tears would shoot up to #2 by April 1969, making it indeed one of the most popular songs in America at the time of Megan’s party. Only the Fifth Dimension’s zeitgeist-defining medley “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” would prevent Blood, Sweat & Tears’ energetic track from taking the top spot.
How to Get the Look
Don Draper has confidently developed his range of dressing from the slick ad men we met in the show’s first few seasons, having rotated a number of plaid sport jackets into his stable that are deftly and appropriately worn for soirees like this Bohemian get-together in 1969 SoCal. There’s a reason Don racked up two placements on GQ‘s rundown of the five best dressed men from this episode!
- Gray-and-cream tartan plaid (with red overcheck) cotton single-breasted 2-button sport jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and single vent
- Black Ban-Lon knitted short-sleeve polo shirt with wide red-and-white piped collar, three-button top, patch breast pocket with red-and-white piped opening, and elbow-length raglan sleeves
- Black flat front trousers with belt loops, “quarter top” side pockets, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black leather belt with steel rounded-edge square box-type buckle
- Black leather derby shoes
- Black socks
- White cotton boxer shorts
- Omega Seamaster DeVille wristwatch with stainless 34mm case, textured black crocodile strap, and black dial with date indicator
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I’m doin’ fine.