This Is How You Dress Like Don Draper on the Cheap

by Nicholas Pell on 6 May 2014 0 comments

Looking for that 1960s look for when you head down to the office? It's a lot easier than you think.

Few television shows have had such an impact on popular culture as "Mad Men." No one, so far as we know, is looking to dress like Jesse Pinkman from "Breaking Bad." Lots of guys, however, are looking for the perfect Don Draper-esque suit or hat. Fortunately, the run of "Mad Men" happens to coincide with a sort of golden age of discount made-to-measure suits. Here's how to get the Draper look without the Draper budget.

1. Go Vintage

The cheapest way to get vintage clothes is to actually buy vintage. You'd be surprised at just how little an old suit from the early 1960s is going to cost you. You can get full suits for a couple hundred bucks, easily. What's more, you don't need to worry about getting the precise fit. Any tailor worth his salt can take something you picked up at a flea market look like Roger Sterling ordered made-to-measure. (See also: Criteria for Thrift Shop Clothes Buying)

It's the little things that can really make or break this kind of look. So especially when you're shopping around for ties, cufflinks, and other bits and bobs, you definitely want something from the era. Spend a few bucks here and you'll notice the difference every time you suit up.

Where to Look: Vintage shops, preferably ones that specialize in men. Flea markets. Etsy. eBay.

2. Know the Key Words

You walk into a vintage store, you ask where the men's suits are. Finding them online can be more of a challenge. You need the right keywords and rest assured, searching for "Mad Men suit" is almost certainly going to result in a higher price tag. Instead, search for terms like "60s," "mod," "mid-century modern" and "slim cut" to help you narrow it down. Start by searching for "Mad Men," and see what other keywords online retailers are stuffing into the title and tags.

3. Dig Deep

Let's say you find the right suit, but it's a 36 chest and you're a 42. Or maybe you found a suit with the perfect cut, but it's in a purple more befitting of the Joker than a hungry go-getter such as yourself. That's great. It means that you might be only two or three clicks away from the perfect suit — or at least close enough to keep looking. A lot of vintage shopping is about digging through piles until you find the right thing. Do that, but online, by seeing what else the company has on offer. Once you find a store that has one suit that you like, there's a good chance you're going to find more from them.

4. Buy New

Nothing fits like something made specifically for you and your body. Ten years ago, you would have paid through the nose for a classic-style American suit. The good news is that there are multiple companies selling full- and half-canvas made-to-measure suits. My personal favorites are Indochino and Thick As Thieves Los Angeles (who offer full canvas), but there's also Dragon Inside and Knot Standard. You can wait for Indochino's traveling tailor to come to you, or you and a buddy can measure yourself at home.

(Full canvas and half canvas, by the way, refer to jacket construction; quality suits include a layer of horsehair [or other material] canvas stitched to the wool to provide support and shape. Budget suits use a glued or "fused" liner instead.)

The important thing is that you're going to get a slim, but not too slim, suit that takes its cues from the more timeless aspects of the 1960s. It's going to be something that you can wear to work. What's more, most of these companies, including Indochino, offer some kind of rebate on any alterations that you need made after the fact, which brings us to our last step.

5. Get a New Tailor

Even suits you get made-to-measure require some tailoring. And, as stated above, having a good tailor means that just about any suit you find can be made to fit you, provided that there's enough material there to cover you. Look on Yelp for a good tailor, but make sure you find one who knows the look that you're going for and how to craft it. If you live in a small city, don't be afraid to bring in pictures of your favorite looks from the show to clue him into exactly what you're looking for.

Where do you go to pick up a quality, mid-century men's suit. Please share your finds in comments!

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