Jon Hamm as Don Draper, affluent ad man and Korean War veteran
Ossining, New York, Summer 1962
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “The Gold Violin” (Episode 2.07)
Air Date: September 7, 2008
Director: Andrew Bernstein
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Following yesterday’s observance of National Picnic Day, I wanted to focus on one of my favorite on-screen picnics. Midway through the second season of Mad Men, the Draper family spends part of a sunny Sunday afternoon bringing a Norman Rockwell painting to life.
By mid-century standards, advertising executive Don Draper (Jon Hamm) appears to illustrate the American dream, providing for his beautiful wife Betty (January Jones) and their two children and having just acquired a sleek new Cadillac that—as was pitched to him—indicates that he’s “already arrived.” Life looks easy for the family, reclining with nary a care in the world as The Pentagons serenade them from the Coupe de Ville’s radio with their dulcet 1962 B-side “I’m in Love”.
Betty: We should do this more often.
Don: We should only do this.
There’s no denying the privileged life that Don and Betty have built for their family, and they exercise this privilege without abandon, from Don instructing his young son to answer the call of nature by, well, pissing in nature to the family’s far less forgivable actions of shaking their litter off their blanket onto the grass before they depart, showing little appreciation for all that Mother Nature had given them during this all-too-carefree afternoon.
Clocking in at just under three minutes, the Draper family picnic may seem like an ultimately superfluous scene—giving viewers a “how things have changed!” moment to laugh in disgust at their disregard for the environment—but it also serves to present how, even after an afternoon of idyllic bliss, Don can’t help but to be casually destructive.
“The Gold Violin” feels like a turning point in Mad Men‘s narrative, marking Don’s self-destructive decisions coming back to haunt him, both in the “present day” of 1962 and a decade prior, via the flashback that introduces us to Anna Draper—the widow of the lieutenant whose identity Dick Whitman stole to transport himself out of the Korean War and into a safe new life as ambitious ad man Don Draper.
What’d He Wear?
As Mad Men centers most around the Madison Avenue offices that lent the series its name, Don Draper’s most prominent costumes consist of his handsome gray business suits, crisp white shirts, and straight ties, but glimpses of his home life show a colorful side of his closet full of the attractive sports shirts that emerged via mid-century America’s increasingly relaxed sartorial standards outside the office.
The Draper family picnic in “The Gold Violin” features the sole appearance of this particular short-sleeved shirt, made from a sage-green multi-striped fabric with a silky mottled finish. The triple set of balanced vertical bar stripes on each side are periwinkle, black, and red, intersected by much wider gray horizontal stripes spaced farther apart that intensify this trio of colors as it passes through them. The left set of stripes are interrupted by a narrow-welted pocket set-in over the left breast, where Don keeps his sunglasses.
The shirt has a trim fit, meant to be worn untucked with a straight hem that doesn’t extend much beyond his waistline and fastened up a plain, placket-less front with five buttons covered in the same sage-colored cloth as the shirt. He wears the highest button undone, though the flat camp collar already provides an open-neck effect that shows the crew-neck top of one of his usual white cotton short-sleeve undershirts.
Don’s go-to weekend trousers from the start of the series are broken-in khakis, a style he came by honestly—well, at least as honestly as his Army past can be considered—as these light tan casual slacks had been popularized through mid-century by servicemen returning from World War II or the Korean War, where Don would have likely encountered them as part of his service and working uniforms.
A decade removed from his time in the Army, Don would have been more likely to have filled his closet with civilian khakis, though similarly styled. His beige cotton flat front trousers in “The Gold Violin” have a zip fly (which likely aided his own beer-fueled calls of nature), plain-hemmed bottoms, on-seam side pockets, and button-through jetted back pockets.
Don holds up his trousers with a black leather belt that closes through a gold-toned single-prong buckle, the belt leather coordinating to his black leather moc-toe slip-on shoes, so named for the substantially stitched U-shaped seam around the front edge of each shoe that resembles traditional Native American moccasin construction. Straps sewn over the vamp suggest that these are likely penny loafers, the style pioneered by G.H. Bass in the 1930s that became a campus favorite when collegians supposedly began placing pennies in the slots cut into the straps of their Bass “Weejuns”.
Don would frequently return to the versatile comfort of penny loafers when dressing down, as significantly seen as his chosen footwear for his road trip wardrobe in the penultimate episode. Don also wears black cotton lisle socks, possibly the yellow-tipped “Gold Toe” style he had frequently worn.
- Alden Cape Cod Beefroll Penny Mocc in black full-grain calf (Lost & Found, $425)
- Cole Haan Howland Penny Loafer in black tumbled leather (Amazon, $99.99)
- Dockers Colleague Penny Loafer in black synthetic leather (Amazon, $54.97)
- G.H. Bass & Co. Logan Penny Loafer in black leather (Nordstrom, $135)
- Grant Stone Traveler Penny in black calf (Heddels Shop, $288)
- J. Crew Leather Penny Loafers in black full-grain leather (J. Crew Factory, $99)
- Lacoste Concours Driving Style Loafer in black leather (Amazon, $94.99)
- Massimo Matteo Florencia Penny Driver in black pebbled leather (Zappos, $59)
- Rockport Modern Prep Penny Loafer in black leather (Amazon, starting at $89.85)
- Rockport Palmer Penny Loafer in black leather (Amazon, $90)
- Sperry Gold Cup Exeter Penny Loafer in black leather (Amazon, $89.95)
- VINNYS Townee Penny Loafer in black "crust" calfskin (Nordstrom, $285)
Don’s Cadillac parked on the hill above them is far from the only luxury enjoyed by the Drapers, as we also see the elegant gold Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique dress watch flashing from the brown leather strap around his left wrist. The new wristwatch had been introduced at the start of Mad Men‘s second season, prominently incorporated into the narrative as Betty had taken Don’s watch to have a sentimental engraving placed on the reverse side of the square case, a feature originally designed so that polo players could protect their watch faces during play by merely flipping the case around so the dial faced inward.
What to Imbibe
As the family wraps up its picnic, Don allows himself “one for the road” by downing the rest of his Miller High Life before spiraling the can into the woods, hearkening to his supposed days playing high school football as he describes to his new acquaintances three episodes later in “The Jet Set”.
Miller introduced High Life as its flagship brew on New Year’s Eve 1903, earning its reputation as “the Champagne of Bottled Beer” within three years of its launch… though the “Bottled” part of its official moniker wouldn’t be dropped until 1969. Indeed, High Life had already long been available in cans by then, as seen by the era-correct flat-top can that Don quickly finishes during the closing seconds of the Draper family picnic.
How to Get the Look
Don Draper dresses casually but tastefully for this intimate family picnic, setting an infallible example that could still be followed 60 years later: an eye-catching (but not garish) short-sleeved sport shirt, trusty khakis, and penny loafers, illustrating how a gent can still be comfortable when dressing up beyond T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers.
- Mottled sage-green multicolor-striped short-sleeved shirt with one-piece sport collar, covered-button plain front, and narrow-welted set-in breast pocket
- Beige cotton flat front trousers with belt loops, straight.on-seam side pockets, button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black leather belt with gold-toned single-prong buckle
- Black leather moc-toe penny loafers
- Black cotton lisle socks
- White cotton crew-neck short-sleeve undershirt
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique wristwatch with a gold case, square white dial, and brown alligator leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the whole series. And don’t litter!
So, I don’t understand… you’d rather play checkers than my “look at the clouds” game?