Mad Men accurately depicts American society and culture in the 1960s; chain-smoking, heavy drinking, sexism, feminism, adultery, homophobia and racism were part and parcel of the 1960s and yet we can’t help but look back on this time in history through the lens of Mad Men, with a touch of nostalgia. The show’s hero or anti-hero is Don Draper and boy, does this guy make the 1960s look pretty awesome. Men want to be him and women want to be with him. This philandering creative genius at advertising agency, Sterling Cooper (and later at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce) is rarely seen with a hair out of place (except maybe when engaging in post-coital pillow talk) and his dress code is always immaculate, exuding confidence and masculinity in its most extreme form. Don will be remembered as one of TV’s great flawed characters but we love him for it. In his own words “People tell you who they are, but we ignore it — because we want them to be who we want them to be.”
Mad Men has been credited with setting off a wave of renewed interest in the fashion and culture of the early 1960s. Personally, we think that the casual Friday attire has been creeping too pervasively into the Monday – Thursday work wardrobe, and we thank Don Draper and his Mad Men colleagues for showing men (and women) that “success comes from standing out, not fitting in.” On that note, here’s a couple of style pointers that we’ve taken out of Don’s book.
Don Draper is a veteran of the Korean War and men of his time were used to wearing uniforms. The polished and flawless buttoned-down look worn both to work and in casual settings was second nature to men of this time.
The American suit in the early 1960s was characterised by slim lapels, single vents (fashionable at the time but not a desired cut these days) and was thick in the shoulders with a narrow waist to emphasise the masculine V-shape. Men’s suits have evolved since the 1960s and as Don says: “Change is neither good or bad, it simply is.” Thankfully, the importance of wearing well-cut clothing has endured the test of time. We would always advise you to wear clothes that fit well – whether they be polo shirts, dress shirts, chinos or suits. No matter your build, slim or solid, it’s all about the silhouette and well-cut clothes are far more flattering.
Play with plaid but don’t outshine the boss
Don Draper wears a wide variety of suits on the show, but he keeps it simple with no ostentatious patterns or loud pin stripes (Roger Sterling’s suits are more flamboyant). Varying shades of grey, charcoal or blue make up Don Draper’s power suit wardrobe. We like Don’s look, but these days you can get away with a variety of different fabrics – don’t be afraid of checks or stripes. Speaking of checks and stripes – Don wears a few sports jackets on the show in plaid and tweed and it’s no surprise given Mad Men’s cult following, that plaid sports jackets have seen somewhat of a resurgence in popularity these days.
Carry a hanky for the damsels in distress
The pocket on Don’s suit jacket is on the diagonal, which further adds to the slimming effect of the suit and is further highlighted with a white linen pocket square in a simple TV fold. Don Draper is never seen without a pocket square – a trend we’d like to see more men adopting these days.
A crisp white shirt is your uniform
Brilliant white dress shirts with a starched spread collar were typical of 1960s professionals (blue shirts were still considered blue-collar). Don’s stack of freshly pressed white shirts in his bottom desk drawer mean he’s never caught short when ahhh… working back late. Check out Philippe Perzi Vienna’s range of white shirts from our latest collection.
Limit your exposure
Draper favours simple, monochrome straight and slim ties. The patterns range from Ivy League club stripes to solids in dark colours. You’ll never see Don in a red tie! True of the time, his knot is a simple four-in-hand which when combined with collar points that just touch the lapels of his suit, draw your attention to his face. A word of advice, if you decide to wear slim ties, you should match that to the lapels on your suit jacket to maintain the look.
Hand-cuffed to the job
As the go-to creative guy of his era, Don Draper’s impeccable clothing, down to the small details reaffirm that he is in charge. He’s probably only out-done occasionally by Roger Sterling, but Roger’s name was on the door before Don’s, so that’s fitting. Don wears French (or double cuffs) and cufflinks that aren’t ostentatious, but show just enough individuality. Authentic 1960s tie pins are also worn throughout the series.
Don is one smooth operator and sticks to one important rule in menswear; the clothes are there to draw attention to the man’s face and body, not to themselves.
“You want some respect? Go out and get it for yourself.” It’s not surprising that with this attitude, we chose Don Draper to kick off our Style Icon series.