Mad Men: Don’s Blue Knit Golf Shirt for Memorial Day

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Episode 2.06: "Maidenform")

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Episode 2.06: “Maidenform”)

Vitals

Jon Hamm as Don Draper, mysterious ad man and Korean War veteran

Ossining, New York, Spring 1962

Series: Mad Men
Episode: “Maidenform” (Episode 2.06)
Air Date: August 31, 2008
Director: Phil Abraham
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

It’s Memorial Day weekend on Mad Men, and the Drapers and their Ossining neighbors gather at the Willow Oaks Golf Club’s annual Ribs and Fashion Show to bemoan their self-described “high-class problems” ranging from the sticky summer from when the Rosenbergs were murdered to taking the fall for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Among the elite in their tennis whites and the veterans in their aging uniforms, Don’s simple and timeless knit shirt and trousers has been frequently requested as a popular look from the fashion series, despite only appearing in this one episode.

Typically the more incorrigible of the couple, Don finds himself on the other end of the Draper marriage’s jealous wagon as he spies Betty (January Jones) deflecting an awkward apology from the young equestrian Arthur Case (Gabriel Mann). He hardly has time to absorb the baffling situation, instead deep in conversation with the curiously named “Crab” Colson (Matt McKenzie), a one-time PR flack for Lem Jones Associates. This now-defunct firm had been hired by the CIA in real life to represent the Cuban Revolutionary Council and, as Crab puts it, “inspire the Cuban people to a coordinated wave of sabotage and rebellion.

In his excellent critical volume Mad Men Carousel, Matt Zoller Seitz analyzes the layers of fear and loathing at the fashion show, “one of the Waspiest places in a very waspy show… a place where the clothes are white and the servants are black, and where the country’s fate is decided, often in cavalier language that makes it sound like a bigger, graver ad campaign.”

The black ops adman tells Don, with evident sadness, that John F. Kennedy’s “vigor disappeared when he realized he couldn’t get anything done” (such is the case with most presidents, it seems.) “Jackie’s smiling all over the world; he’s chasing starlets,” he says. “Everybody’s happy,” Don says, even though nobody is really…

Before the “ribs and fashion show” starts, a ruddy-faced, well-fed man (practically a Thomas Nast caricature of a fat cat) asks all the veterans in the room to stand up and be applauded, starting with one of the last living members of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders (part of the first wave of Yankee imperialists tear-assing through Cuba). Don stands up, but is understandably uncomfortable because he’s not actually Don, and because he killed his commanding officer by accident. He gets even more upset when he sees Sally gazing up at him, beaming.

In character with his sense of guilt and self-destruction, Don impulsively gets up to leave during the fashion show portion of the event… much to Betty’s surprise, as she likely assumes (by the nature of her passive-aggressive response) that her womanizing husband wouldn’t want to miss the club wives modeling the latest swimwear. Of course, she couldn’t possibly yet that the man she’s been sitting with is the erstwhile Private Dick Whitman, who unknowingly but inarguably engineered the death of Lieutenant Donald Draper more than a decade earlier.

Indeed, Don seems to be one of the few in attendance who understands that Memorial Day wasn’t established to celebrate by gorging on barbecued meats but rather to remember those Americans killed in the performance of their military duties. As someone directly responsible for one of those deaths, Don—er, Dick—must feel overwhelming guilt and shame at the applause he receives not only from fellow veterans in attendance, but particularly his own daughter as it’s the authentically adoring eyes of eight-year-old Sally (Kiernan Shipka) that affect him the most.

Don’s discomfort aside, the luncheon is one of the last moments of relative happiness for the Draper family, as Don unknowingly moves the pieces into place that would lead to the end of his marriage: first, arranging the business relationship with Crab Colson that would result in Betty’s straw-breaking humiliation over dinner in “A Night to Remember” and—most significantly—continuing his affair with Bobbie Barrett (Melinda McGraw) that would be thrown in Betty’s face at the end of the following episode, “The Gold Violin”.

What’d He Wear?

Among the field of cricket sweaters and undersized service uniforms, Don stands fashionably tall in his blue knitted polo shirt and glen plaid trousers, a simple and briefly seen outfit that has stood out as a favorite for fans of Mad Men style.

Don’s short-sleeved shirt is finely knitted in a slate blue yarn, its steely shade suggesting the gray “suits of armor” that costume designer Janie Bryant chose for Don’s office-wear. (Read my full interview with Ms. Bryant here!) The raglan sleeves are banded at the ends, just over an inch above where the forearm meets the elbow, echoed by the banded waist hem. The ribbed placket has three smoke-gray plastic four-hole sew-through buttons, the top button worn undone to allow the soft collar to lay elegantly on Don’s shoulders.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Episode 2.06: "Maidenform")

As is the case for most Draper family social occasions, Don’s still on the clock, using the Ribs and Fashion Show cocktail hour as an opportunity to make inroads with the well-connected Crab Colson.

After Mad Men wrapped in 2015, a blue knitted polyester short-sleeved polo with a three-button placket was auctioned as one of Jon Hamm’s screen-worn shirts, but the bright turquoise shade, white buttons (including one through the back of the collar), and short side vents indicated that this vintage shirt by Mr. John Sportswear was not the same item worn in “Maidenform”.

Crab: Glad to be in shorts. (spotting Don’s trousers) You don’t play?
Don: I don’t mind watching.

Crab is clearly dressed for tennis in his layered whites and shorts, but Don’s weekend-ready rig doesn’t limit him specifically to athletic endeavors at the club, even though his two-tone cleats suggest golf. This makes Don’s choice of words even more curious, as there’s nothing to say he wasn’t freshly off the green.

Don's screen-worn golf shoes.

Jon Hamm’s screen-worn black-and-white leather Brooks Brothers golf shoes were auctioned by ScreenBid following the series finale.

“Spectator shoes” are a long-time colloquial shorthand for duo-toned footwear, appropriate here not only for the man who “[doesn’t] mind watching” but also in reference to the style’s other nickname as “correspondent shoes”. In early 20th century England, these sporty shoes were considered too loud for tasteful gentlemen to wear and thus often associated with the cads named as third party correspondents in divorce cases; Don would certainly fit that description, given his doubly adulterous role cheating on Betty and cuckolding Jimmy Barrett.

In the more liberally minded world of 1960s America, few would think twice of seeing a gent in two-toned shoes—particularly when dressed for golf—but the footwear’s history remains significant given the history of the scene.

According to the post-production ScreenBid auction, Brooks Brothers made Don’s black-and-white leather tasseled brogues. The white uppers are overlaid with black medallion perforated wingtips, black oxford-style lace panels layered under a black tassel, and black collars around the backs of the foot openings. These Goodyear-welted shoes are finished with hard leather soles that have eleven green cleats: four on each heel and seven in a “V” formation toward the toes.

Don’s worsted wool flat front trousers are a fine-woven Prince of Wales check in black-and-white with a subtle pink overcheck that presents as a gray semi-solid from a distance. These are detailed with straight vertical pockets along the side seams, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Episode 2.06: "Maidenform")

Through the second and third seasons of Mad Men, Don wears a yellow gold Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique dress watch with a sentimental inscription from Betty. JLC pioneered the Reverso Classique in 1931, specifically targeting its reversible hard steel case toward polo players who would want to protect their watch faces during play without having to remove their timepieces.

According to an AMC interview with Mad Men‘s property master Gay Perello, Jon Hamm was initially reluctant to switch from the watch he wore during the first season:

Showing it to Jon on the first day… he said, “I’m kind of a round watch face guy.” And I said, “Well, we talked about that, but let’s look at this cool little feature that you can play with.” Then he said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, this will work,” and he started to really like it… And then [Matthew Weiner] had wrote in an episode that Betty takes his watch to have it engraved, so it got to have a little more play than we thought it would.

Don’s Reverso Classique has a rectangular white dial and secures to his left wrist on a brown leather strap.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Episode 2.06: "Maidenform")

Don returns home wearing a tan gabardine golf jacket, thematically appropriate following his day on the green. The waist-length windbreaker has a two-button standing collar that he wears flat, set-in sleeves with a button-fastened pointed tab at each cuff, and slanted hand pockets. The hem is semi-elasticized around the back only, and the plain back (devoid of yoke or shirring) indicates that this is not the same jacket—in a similar style and collar—that we briefly saw when the Draper family returned from their Mother’s Day outing in “Babylon” (Episode 1.06).

Though Baracuta pioneered this type of windbreaker with the G4 (“G” for “golf”), Don’s jacket has a horizontal chest seam not present on the Baracuta while also lacking that British brand’s signature tartan lining. By mid-century, the Baracuta had inspired scores of imitations on both sides of the pond from brands like London Fog, Van Heusen, and McGregor, the latter responsible for James Dean’s famous red jacket in Rebel Without a Cause.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Episode 2.06: "Maidenform")

Don also carries his go-to summer hat, a dark gray paper straw Pinzano short-brimmed trilby with a lavender-on-black multi-striped band.

What to Imbibe

Don departs from his usual tippling tendencies during the Memorial Day barbecue, foregoing his trademark whiskey drink in favor of something clear and served with lime, possibly a Gin & Tonic or a Vodka Tonic, the former being a more likely possibility given the bottle of Hiram Walker’s gin spied on the bar between he and Crab.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Episode 2.06: "Maidenform")

Arriving home, Don breaks another of his “rules” by drinking milk, despite declaring among his oyster-and-martini confessions in “Red in the Face” (Episode 1.07) a season earlier that:

Drinking milk… I never liked it. I hate cows.

Of course, this being Mad Men, nothing is unintentional, and Redditors have even dissected the show’s symbolism of milk as representative of childhood and specifically the mother’s love that Don never had. Exploring this in context of “Maidenform”, Don had just learned the curiously significant fact that Bobbie has an 18-year-old son and must forego a rendezvous to spend time with him. In the wake of this, Don’s first action upon arriving to an empty home is to pull the glass milk bottle from the Draper family fridge, drinking to replenish himself after yet another mother’s rejection of him.

How to Get the Look

Jon Hamm and January Jones on Mad Men (Episode 2.06: "Maidenform")

Jon Hamm and January Jones on Mad Men (Episode 2.06: “Maidenform”)

Don Draper dresses smartly for Memorial Day at the country club, affecting a casual dignity in his blue knitted shirt, Prince of Wales check trousers, and golf shoes.

  • Blue-slate knitted short-sleeve polo shirt with 3-button placket, banded raglan sleeves, and banded hem
  • Tan gabardine golf windbreaker with 2-button standing collar, slanted hand pockets, button-fastened pointed-tab cuffs, and elasticized back hem
  • Black-and-white Prince of Wales check worsted wool flat front trousers with belt loops, straight/on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black-and-white leather wingtip tasseled oxford golf brogues
  • White cotton crew-neck short-sleeve undershirt
  • Dark gray paper straw short-brimmed trilby with lavender-on-black multi-striped band
  • Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique wristwatch with a gold case, square white dial, and brown alligator leather strap

Knitwear like this found its heyday during the Mad Men era of the early ’60s (think Goodfellas), though the style has recently been enjoying a retro-inspired renaissance with most menswear outfitters including knitted polos and button-ups among its lineups for summer 2021. If you’re looking to channel that Draper-approved look this year, the closest examples I’ve seen include:

  • H&M — Fine-knit Polo Shirt in “Pale blue” cotton
  • Mango Man — Knit Cotton Polo Shirt in “Sky blue”
  • Paul Fredrick — Silk Cotton and Cashmere Three Button Polo in “Medium blue”
  • Sunspel — Sea Island Cotton Knit Polo in “Washed denim”

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the whole series.

The Quote

Everybody’s happy.

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