1960s Menswear Outfits 60s Fashion for Guys
Updated: 22:01 BST, 10 March 2012
Cast at the age of 36 as Don Draper in the award-winning TV show, here the actor talks about life before fame, his parents' death and overcoming depression
'Famous people bring more viewers to television and I was not by anyone's definition famous. I had to audition eight times before studio executives were convinced,' said Jon Hamm on being cast as Don Draper
Sean Connery will forever be synonymous with 007; Jon Hamm has become inseparable from his alter ego Don Draper.
Don is the stylish and enigmatic creative director of a top ad agency in the award-winning U.S. drama series about the cut-throat world of advertising.
Curiously, my rendezvous with Hamm feels like a scene from Mad Men. He sits in a low-lit booth at the back of an old-school Italian restaurant – all dark wood, marble floors and bottle-green leather banquettes.
A pretty blonde waitress delivers a large bourbon on the rocks, compliments of a ‘friend’ sitting a few tables away. He raises his glass in thanks, drinks deeply and then, with that inscrutable smile, offers the glass to me: ‘It’s nice. Elmer T Lee Bourbon. You really should try it.’
'I don't drink as much as Don Draper. I would be unconscious if I did,' said Jon
A conversation with Draper, a two-packs-a-day man, would inevitably be conducted through a thick cloud of smoke, but Hamm kicked the nicotine habit years ago.
And it’s hard to imagine what the heavy-drinking Draper would make of the jug of iced tea Hamm orders.
‘I don’t drink as much as Don Draper,’ says the 41-year-old actor.
‘I would be unconscious if I did.’
Mad Men’s success has been phenomenal – a record 15 Emmys and four Golden Globes – and the show has had a major impact on the male wardrobe. It harks back to a period when men turned out in immaculate suits; Draper epitomises sharply defined masculinity.
‘I put my trust and myself into the capable hands of the costume designer.
'I remember the first day we went in and started trying on suits. There were probably 100 vintage suits that she had found.
'They were a modern cut for the Sixties, though very different from the ones we wear now – slender- legged and high-waisted.
'Today suits sit much lower on the hips and there’s a little more room through the leg and thighs. This is even with the Mad Men influence, which has made suit trousers considerably narrower.
‘The sexes were defined and accentuated in the Sixties. There wasn’t the androgynous crossover look that started happening in the Seventies. Draper is very conservative; he’s not a peacock. His job is not to stand out. He wears suits that blend in. Don is a man with a lot of secrets so he would prefer that you didn’t spend too much time looking at him.’
The character has clearly had an impact on Hamm.
‘Mad Men has educated me in style. I’ve learnt how to appreciate clothes and to buy things that fit properly.
'I like well-made clothes that last and are comfortable. I wear a variety of designers for different occasions: Rag & Bone – American designers, relatively new on the scene; Shipley & Halmos; and for suits I like Paul Smith, Armani, Calvin Klein and Gucci. Salvatore Ferragamo is not a designer I’ve worn a lot but I’ll be at a fashion shoot and be shown a suit and think, “Hey, this is really nice.”
'Mad Men has educated me in style. I've learn how to appreciate clothes and to buy things that fit properly. I like well-made clothes that last and are comfortable,' said Jon
'And you look at the label and go, “Oh wow, Ferragamo!” Mostly the label is known for shoes, bags and belts and now they’re making nice suits. It is the same with Bottega Veneta.’
‘Aggressively casual’ is how Hamm, 6ft 1in, describes his own style.
In person, his look is certainly more relaxed, dressed in khakis, an open-necked Hartford shirt, Ray-Bans in the pocket and Converse trainers. The only sign of affluence is an Omega Seamaster ‘James Bond’ watch.
Has the show changed how he dresses?
‘If I go to an event or I’m supposed to be dressed up, then of course I’ll put some thought into it. But just kicking around the neighbourhood? No. It’s not my job. My advice on style? Take a shower, comb your hair, tuck your shirt in, indulge in nicer shoes, make sure your tie is properly tied…’
There is an inscrutability to Hamm that he shares with Draper. But while members of the public often confuse Hamm with his on-screen persona, they’re ‘disabused of that notion very quickly’.
There are parallels to their lives, though. Draper’s back-story is troubled – an orphan who was raised poor. Hamm’s early life contained its own tragedies.
Jon says his portrayal of Draper is inspired by his father. 'My dad was very much of the same era as Don. He was very smart, good with people, everybody's friend. But he also had a dark side to him. He was a sad guy'
Born in St Louis, Missouri, an only child, he was raised by his mother Deborah following his parents’ divorce when he was two.
‘I’d ask my mother, “What’s it all about?” and she would just say, “It didn’t work out.” Then when Hamm was ten, his mother died of stomach cancer.
‘It was particularly difficult because that was the first experience I’d had with anyone dying,’ he says quietly.
‘Cancer’s a bad way to go because you get really frail, you get really sick, you lose everything and then you die. It’s hard to watch.
'One of the hardest parts was watching how my grandparents and my father were dealing with it. It was a sad realisation how permanent it was. When you’re a kid, permanent is like a weekend.’
'I didn't have any drive to get up and do anything,' said Jon of the time after his father's death
Hamm moved in with his grandmother and father.
He says his portrayal of Draper is inspired by his father.
‘My dad was very much of the same era as Don. He was very smart, good with people, everybody’s friend. But he also had a dark side to him. He was a sad guy. He had two wives who both passed away at an incredibly young age; his first wife from a brain aneurism.
'Like Draper he was a drinker – for a long time. But he was also a diabetic so that didn’t really mix well. He was sick for years and had to quit.’
Tragically, when Hamm was 20, his father died.
‘I very much knew what the idea of permanence was by that point. I dropped out of school, moved into the basement of my older half-sister Julie’s house, enrolled in a local college and sank into depression.
‘It was the classic definition of clinical depression; you want to stay in bed all day, you sleep till four o’clock in the afternoon. I didn’t have any drive to get up and do anything. It was rough: it stinks.
'Other people who are better than me at putting thoughts into words describe it as a black cloud that descends on you. You become numb. You feel so overwhelmed that it’s hard to take any step towards solving your situation.’
Were there suicidal thoughts?
‘Yeah, sure. When you’re in that space that’s something that comes up. It’s like a record skipping; it just gets caught in this loop and needs to be jostled out of the loop. And then all of a sudden the song plays again and then you get back on the track.
'I was prescribed Prozac, which I took for a month. The therapy and the pharmaceuticals clear up your brain chemistry just enough so you can start taking steps forward.’
Comparisons have been made between Hamm and George Clooney. Both achieved success in their mid-thirties, bringing a maturity to their performances. Hamm is certain that being cast in Mad Men at 36 was very different to if he had got his breakthrough role in his twenties.
Jon has directed the first two-hour episode of Series 5. There are two more series of Mad Men planned
‘I’d have probably handled it with way less grace,’ he laughs.
‘Most of us are different in our twenties than we are in our thirties. I may have gone off the rails – who knows? You’re less comfortable with who you are. I’m thrilled that it happened later for me.’
Draper is a high-rolling bachelor who has multiple affairs with beautiful women; Hamm couldn’t be more different.
‘It’s a better idea in theory than in practice,’ he grins.
‘The idea of trying to maintain as many relationships as Don maintains is an exercise in folly.’
Hamm met his girlfriend, actress and director Jennifer Westfeldt, 15 years ago. He owns a house in LA and an apartment in New York. He first moved to LA in 1994 to pursue acting; barely scraping a living, there were bit parts in Ally McBeal and CSI: Miami.
Waiting for his big break, Hamm taught drama to 13 to 14-year-olds and took a job as a set decorator on soft porn movies.
He says it was his ‘lowest point. I made decent money, but it was gross and sad.’
Interestingly, the role he enjoyed the most was in a restaurant as he came out of his depression.
‘I was a dishwasher in a local Greek restaurant. No money, but it was something to do. It got me out of bed. I like restaurants. They become these weird families and you get very close to people.’
Hamm still feels astonishment at being cast as a leading man.
‘I was at the very bottom of the list. I wasn’t even on the list,’ he jokes.
'Aggressively casual' is how Jon, 6ft 1in, describes his own style
‘Famous people bring more viewers to television and I was not by anyone’s definition famous. I had to audition eight times before studio executives were convinced. Of course I was thrilled to get the job.
'And then what always happens, you get the job and you go, “Oh, now I actually have to do it!”’
Reportedly earning 0,000 per episode, in addition to earnings from his Hollywood film roles, he says his greatest extravagance is a Mercedes CLS 63. ‘
Talk to Jeremy Clarkson about that car,’ he grins. ‘He’ll tell you all about it.’
Hamm has directed the first two-hour episode of Series 5. And there are two more series of Mad Men planned. He won’t consider any more.
‘If there’s anything we’ve learnt from British television series, it’s that they’re better when they end.
'As good as The Office and Extras were and Downton Abbey is, you have to complete them.
'You’re never going to recapture the magic that you had during that original run because it was so surprising, so different.
'Nostalgia is not the greatest way to go in art; you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Having an ending is part of being a good storyteller.’
The waitress arrives with the bill. I reach for my wallet, but Hamm has already deftly pulled out his gold American Express card.
‘I’m taking care of it,’ he insists. ‘My pleasure.’
Very cool. Very Don Draper.
‘Mad Men’ Season 5 begins on Sky Atlantic HD on March 27