We’re always on the search for more men’s style inspiration. So when we came up with the idea of exploring the looks Janie Bryant created for that now iconic Don Draper Mad Men style, we knew just the man to speak with: James, owner of the Instagram account @dondraperstyle. In this post, James walks us through some of the core pieces we’ll need to capture that retro-cool, 1960s Madison Avenue vibe!
Don Draper: The man and his style
What man doesn’t want to possess some of that Don Draper style and attitude?
Usually when you say that, someone will comment, “What?! An alcoholic, depressive, split personality, messed up husk of a man?” And they have a point! Don is pretty messed up.
But what they don’t understand is that when we talk about “Don Draper” we are not referring to Dick Whitman. Or the conflicted, confused and corrupted mix of Dick and Don that he becomes over the course of the series. We are referring to DON DRAPER! The persona he has adopted to hide all those parts of himself. The persona that, in the early seasons, has every man in awe of him, and every woman in lust.
The facade is what we strive to emulate. We all have those parts of ourselves we’re not happy with, the parts that we would rather other people not know about. But when we step out that door, we all put on a mask. Why not have it be DON DRAPER?
A part of this persona is, of course, the clothes. Oh the clothes! The sharpest of suits, the coolest of casual outfits, and the overall feeling of confidence that comes with looking the best you can. In this era of enforced workplace casual, doesn’t it feel good to put on the sharp suit and tie and go against the grain?
Here are some of the basics of the Don Draper style that we all can emulate.
The Grey Suit
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is a 1955 novel by Sloan Wilson and epitomizes mid-century American office apparel. In offices throughout the land, men of all shapes and sizes could be seen heading to their desks wearing this uniform. But did anyone look as good as Don wearing it? Don Draper was born to wear the Gray Suit.
Throughout the years he wore many gray suits of different shades, materials and cuts. But the crisp white shirt, striped tie and white pocket square remained constant. To recreate the 1960s style suit it’s best to avoid the skinny fits that have been prevalent in recent years. Instead aim for a slim, but looser fitting suit to get that mid-century Brooks Brothers style. Another important feature are the lapels. As much as possible keep them quite thin. No 1980s superwides here please! And the attitude! Walk tall with confidence. Don’t be a schlub in a suit. Be Don!
Marks & Spencer The Ultimate Grey Tailored Fit Suit Jacket (£85.00/$149.00) and Trousers (£64.00/$115.00)
A very affordable alternative that gives us the right look. The fabric is 53% wool/43% polyester/4% elastane blend that helps to keep you feeling comfortable and looking wrinkle-free all day. Bonus points: the suit would also work well for many of the Sean Connery Bond looks! If you’d like something in a slightly lighter tone, the Kenneth Cole Unlisted Slim Fit Suit in Medium Grey ($84.49 to $277.40) at Amazon will also work.
A big part of Don’s look are the ties. He wore a LOT of ties throughout the run of the show, many of them quite specific in their style and design. So in order to minimize our tie budget I’ll advise on the best one to go with the ubiquitous gray suit. In the first episode he wore his essential tie – a silver background with black and white stripes running through it. It’s a beautiful tie that works well with the suit and forms the basis for many of his ties throughout the series. You can of course go with a plain tie. But to really get the Draper look go for striped.
The Tie Bar has a good 100% silk alternative with the right silver background but with two thin black stripes instead of one large stripe. However, it still catches the overall feel of the one Don wore.
The weather in New York can be … mixed. Boiling in the summer, freezing in the winter, rainy in spring and fall. So it’s a good idea to have many options for layering. Which Don of course does. His raincoat is the typical New York businessman look: the high collared tan trench coat. He wears many coats throughout the series, but this is the one I associate most with him. It’s also a look that is as easy to wear today as it was 60 years ago.
For a more affordable coat, Amazon has a few good options – the best being the Jean Paul Germain Big and Tall Buster. It has the right collar, covered placket and button tab adjusters on the sleeves. And the 60% cotton/40% polyester shell fabric will provide some protection in wetter conditions, while the quilted zip-out liner will help when the weather turns cooler.
A more contemporary option, once again from Marks & Spencer. The shell fabric is a 63% cotton/37% polyamide blend treated with their proprietary Stormwear water resistant coating. The coat is also lightly padded, making it suitable for cooler temperatures. Expect the fit on this to be shorter and trimmer than the more classic raincoat Don wore. M&S has multiple sizes in regular and long lengths available. Express also has their Water-Resistant Tech Trech Coat on sale for $124.60. It’s a slightly lighter khaki color but it has all the correct style details.
The Weekend Casual Look
As well-known as Don’s his sartorial choices for the office are, his off duty game is strong too. He regularly uses a mix of sportscoats in various plaids, combined with v-neck jumpers and check shirts. In order to keep this as a “budget” option we can take advantage of the gray suit you most certainly already have (you have one, don’t you?!). In Season 1 episode 3 (The Marriage of Figaro), the Drapers are having a birthday party for their daughter Sally at the house. It is the epitome of suburban bliss (Editor’s question: is this the episode where Don has Sally playing bartender for the guests?)
Don puts the other suburban dads to shame with his ultra slick look. It simply consists of a navy blazer, a black 3 button polo shirt and gray slacks. I regularly wear this look for a night out, never mind a kid’s birthday party!
The trousers from your grey suit will work for the bottom half of this look. For the blazer, we turn again to Marks & Spencer. This option is an unstructured style made with a textured 55% polyester, 27% wool, 12% cotton, 5% viscose and 1% elastane fabric that keeps the look and fit contemporary without being too “fashion”. For more alternatives, look at the post on the James Bond Navy Blazer.
Don has no problem embracing luxury. So a silk and cotton blend polo shirt would be completely in his wheelhouse. This option is a 55% silk/45% cotton blend in a soft knit. It also has a button-less Johnny collar which gives it a more sophisticated look that will work well with the blazer. Sometimes, just sometimes, we can improve on Don’s looks just a little.
Every man should own a Tux because every man should have an occasion to wear one. Don certainly has more than a few reasons to wear his throughout the series. Whether it’s for an awards gala, a black tie ball or a night at the theater, a well fitting tuxedo should always be part of a man’s sartorial arsenal.
Spier & Mackay Guabello Black Tuxedo: $498.00
A timeless design at an affordable price. The details include wider peak lapels, one button front closure, jetted pockets and satin trim. The fabric is a Super 130s 100% Australian Merino wool and they’ve used a half-canvassed construction with a 100% Bemberg lining. This is about as classic as it gets and you’ll look just as great wearing it today as you would attending a Marketing Awards dinner in the 1960s.
Do you have some suggestions for how we can achieve some Don Draper Mad Men style? Is there another Don Draper look you’d like us to cover? Let us know in the comments! For more Mad Men inspiration, check out @dondraperstyle on Instagram! And our friends at BAMF Style have also written some excellent articles analyzing other Mad Men outfits, so make sure to give them a look!