How To Compete With Don Draper

Dazzled by TV ad exec Don Draper? You’re not alone. Here are some tips on how to channel that Mad Men-era charisma.

By Diane Mapes

e’s smolderingly handsome, insanely confident and doesn’t really exist. But Don Draper of AMC’s drama Mad Men fame is still stealing hearts — not to mention Sunday nights — from millions of women, nationwide.

Perhaps your girlfriend is one of them and you’d like to even the playing field. Read on for tips on
He has that bad boy image and that completely appeals to women.
how you can take a page from this dashing dreamboat’s playbook.

The Don Draper mystique
“Don Draper — usually pronounced as one word — is a source of breathless adoration for my girlfriend,” says Lincoln, a 42-year-old Boston lawyer who says his girlfriend won’t allow any talking during the show.

What’s the secret to his success?

“He has that bad boy image and that completely appeals to women,” says Lincoln. “But he also has the three kids and the picket fence. It’s a deadly combination.”

Leading-man looks and over-the-top confidence are also on his side, says Paul Isakson, a single 30-something advertising guru from Minneapolis, MN, who, as a lark, began “tweeting” as Draper on the popular microblogging site Twitter. But the character has one other thing going for him: he keeps his mouth shut.

“He’s an observer,” says Isakson, who received hundreds of flirtatious messages from smitten women while posting as the character. “He stays on the outside. He’s curious about human nature but wants to be removed and not reveal anything about himself. He’s very guarded with his personal information.”

That brooding silence is something any man can use to his advantage according to die-hard Mad Men fan Jennifer Worick, author of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating & Sex. “In this era of transparency and full disclosure, it’s nice to have someone just shut up,” says Worick. “Silence can be magical, and when someone doesn’t speak, you can make up your own fantasy of what they are really like instead of having it shattered when they tell you about their past relationships or experiences blacking out after drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon. Mystery is sexy, and frankly, it’s like catnip to me.”

The 60s aesthetic
“My girlfriend is a Mad Men madwoman,” says Eugene, a 26-year-old software engineer from Manhattan. “The show combines her love of all things old-fashioned with — so she tells me — ruggedly handsome men dressed in fine-tailored suits.”

So how can modern guys compete with Don Draper’s retro-sexual appeal?

“Instead of trying to compete, I’d just roll with it,” says Isakson. “Find out why she’s caught up in Mad Men. Is it the era, the characters, the clothes? Have a good conversation about the show the next time you watch it together. Find out what she likes about it and then play off of that.”

If your girlfriend’s into the era and the clothes, host a Mad Men viewing party where
I’ll go out of my way to point out his sleazy cheating ways during an episode.
everybody dresses up as their favorite character, suggests Isakson. Or learn how to make cocktails — a martini for her, an old-fashioned for you — and serve them up while watching the show together.

Incorporating a few 60s touches into your wardrobe is another way to show you’re paying attention to what she likes. “Smart guys will see what turns their gal on about the show and try it on for size,” says Worick. “Come home in a cool hat, don’t say a word, and take her into the bedroom. That’ll put Don Draper out of her head forever. Or at least until Sunday night.”

Eugene, whose girlfriend is “militant” about watching the show (“She has to turn it on; she has to hold the remote”) says he’s definitely heard suggestions about adopting a Mad Men aesthetic. “She sometimes drops hints: ‘You’d look great in a skinny tie’ — but it hasn’t reached the point where I’ve bought a whole new wardrobe,” he says.

Eugene has folded a few retro bits into his look, though. “I’ve recently gotten into the art of wet shaving using an old-style safety razor and shaving brush,” he says. “I think she gets a kick out of watching me shave this way. I’m also looking into incorporating suspenders into my formal wear.”

The good, the bad, the ugly…
Of course, Draper’s character is not perfect. In fact, he has one huge gaping flaw: his well-documented faithlessness. “Don cheats on his wife all the time, even when he’s trying not to,” says Isakson. “He’s a fantastic character, but would he make a good husband or boyfriend? Obviously not.” Eugene, who regularly watches with his girlfriend, says pointing out Draper’s rampant infidelity is his secret weapon. “I’ll go out of my way to point out his sleazy cheating ways during an episode,” he says. “I’ll tell her, ‘I can’t believe this guy would treat his pregnant wife this way. What a dirt bag!’”

Worick says there are definitely lessons to learn when it comes to the brilliant-but-tortured Madison Avenue executive. “Basically, Don Draper is James Bond without the gun or accent,” she says. “Borrow his quiet confidence, his sleek style, his swagger, and the way he always lets a woman know she’s a woman by walking on the curbside or putting his hand on the small of her back. But leave the deception, the infidelity, and, quite frankly, the smoking in the 60s where it belongs. It looks cool on screen but getting cigarette smoke out of your clothes is a real pain.”

Fantasy fulfillment
Watching the show together and then indulging in a bit of role-playing is another way to have fun with the Mad Men fantasy, say experts. But a word of caution: don’t go too far in the fantasy-fulfillment department. “Recently, I was driving to meet my girlfriend and noticed someone was filming a movie in her neighborhood,” says Lincoln. “So I said, ‘Let’s go see what’s going on.’” The two of them wandered down the block and immediately recognized Jon Hamm, the actor who plays Draper on Mad Men. Undaunted by stardom and excited to make his girlfriend’s dream come true, Lincoln led his girlfriend over to the actor and made introductions. “She immediately went into full-blown schoolgirl mode,” he says. “She told him how much she loved the show, about her crush on both him and January Jones, and then she apologized for her post-workout attire and hair.” Ever the devoted boyfriend, Lincoln snapped a picture of the two of them with his iPhone, after which he was “barely acknowledged by either one.”

Since then, she’s been “cooing” about Don Draper and the show even more, says Lincoln. “Draper stole my girlfriend — in person! — and I set it up. Now she’s even worse.”

Diane Mapes is a freelance writer based in Seattle and the author of How to Date in a Post-Dating World. She can be reached via her Web site,
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