Don Draper’s Suit: How to Dress Like a Modern Day Mad Man

Don Draper may not be the best of gentlemen, but he certainly has great style. With Mad Men Season 4 starting tomorrow, we decided to take a look at getting the look — on the cheap.

Mad Men paints the 60′s as a red-blooded, chauvinistic world full of smoking, affairs, and whisky trays in every decent man’s office. While the vices of the show are clearly exaggerated, we’ve certainly come a long way for the better in our society.

Though if there’s one thing every man is envious of when he watches Mad Men it’s the style these men exude every day, whether in a board meeting or at a barbecue.

I’m not the first to say it, and I’m not ashamed to repeat it: Don Draper looks damn good in a suit.

Part of this certainly comes from charisma and confidence, but more so it’s the attention to detail that’s placed in his style. Here at Primer we take a balanced approach to men’s fashion. We know the importance of appearance socially and professionally. We want to be kempt and well-dressed, but we don’t want to put a lot of extra time or money into it. And we unfortunately grew up in an age when wearing more than a t-shirt or athletic shoes grants you dandy status.
So how do you achieve the air of Draper while not spending a lot of money, extra time, or looking out of place with the under-dressed guys around you?

Don Draper’s Suit

The secret to looking like a million bucks may seem rather obvious — wear a suit that fits. Where most guys get this wrong is assuming that the jacket that fits the most off-the-rack is the one that fits the best.

As the saying goes, you want the suit to fit you, not the other way around.

You want to create a slim profile, not a boxy one. Every suit you buy should be brought in to fit your body. In fact, many  off-the-rack suits are cut so they can be tailored to fit the buyer, meaning they aren’t even intended to be worn as-is. For example, sleeves on many pre-made suits are intentionally long to allow for tailoring. If you buy a jacket where the sleeves fit, it will likely be too small in other areas.

Here are some key things to have your tailor look at:

  • You’ll want to have the waist brought in to achieve a tapered look. This is one of the easiest ways to tell if a man’s suit has been tailored for him. Without this being performed, you’re almost guaranteed to look like you’re wearing a ski jacket.
  • The bottom of the coat should end around your thumb’s knuckle
  • The shoulders of the suit should create a natural line straight down your arms. Considering this, it’s easy to tell if the shoulders are too wide or too narrow.
  • The sleeves should show about a half inch of your shirt cuff when your arms are straight down.

It’s certainly possible to get a great suit off-the-rack and tailored. There’s a growing trend of companies that offer made to order suits based off of your exact measurements and preferences.

The last suit I bought I ordered through Indochino, one of the more popular of these types of online ‘bespoke’ clothiers, and I wholeheartedly recommend them.  For the price of a run-of-the-mill suit at Macy’s I was able to pick the exact style, color, and options and have it created just for me. It’s an incredible deal, and my experience with the service was excellent.

To fulfill my Mad Men craving, I bought Indochino’s Essential Gray suit that looks very close to what Draper is wearing in some of these pictures. I’d recommend checking out these alternatives:

The Montecristo Suit Black Mod Suit Charcoal Performance Suit

Many of the suits featured on Mad Men are reminiscent of the ‘mod suits’ of the 50′s and 60′s. I personally don’t like how tapered the pants are on these types of suits, but it’s still possible to achieve the look with a roomier cut.

Slim is In

The guys on Mad Men are famous for their skinny ties, and if you read Primer, you know we definitely endorse a slimmer tie than what you probably grew up with. There is an important style convention to know when wearing a skinny tie: Your suit’s lapels should relate to the width of your tie.  If you wear a suit with normal or wide lapels with a skinny tie you’re going to exaggerate how slim the tie is. The wider the lapels, the wider the tie.

For your tie go solid black or try diagonal stripes as Draper does in the photos. The Tie Bar has a good selection of skinny (and other) ties for only $15.

The Draper is in the Details

There are two details that will nail this look. They’re subtle and may be overlooked by many, but still important.

The pocket square and tie bar.

Both the pocket square and tie bar fell out of favor over the last couple decades, but have been seeing a resurgence. They’re everywhere on Mad Men, and have been on the pages of style magazines ever since.

There are a number of ways to choose what color pocket square to wear, but since we’re wearing a dark or gray suit with a white shirt opt for a white pocket square using a straight fold. Nothing fancy, but it adds a spot of contrast.

The tie bar also helps break up the silhouette of a dark solid tie. Just like ties, never pay more than $20 for one, (unless it’s real gold or silver). Again, check out The Tie Bar, they’ve got a 1 inch tie clip that will look great with your skinny tie for $15.

Looking great doesn’t have to be expensive or flashy. Take note of some of the intricacies of the suit styles on Mad Men and you can create a refined and modern look without feeling out of place.

No Mad Men suit would be complete without a bottle of Canadian Club. Cheers.

Mad Men images and characters copyright AMC.

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page.