How to Get a Proper Don Draper Haircut

Updated 04/27/19
Photo © Cindy Ord | Getty Images

The Don Draper-inspired haircut from "Mad Men" might have gained visibility since the popular show, but it has always been a stylish option. The haircut is basically a classic taper with a very clean, slick side part. It's also very versatile. You can wear the style as actor Jon Hamm wears it on "Mad Men," in a formal fashion, slicked back with a neat side part; or you can wear it with a matte finish product for a less formal yet impeccably well-groomed look.

The style can also be worn with the top combed forward. or tousled around loosely for a more casual look. There are plenty of options for style, all of which are classic, and one of the reasons it's so well-loved. Most guys get stuck wearing the same look every day, but this style allows you to get multiple looks out of the same haircut. Getting the look is easy, you just have to know the tricks. After you get the classic Don Draper haircut, pair it with a sharp suit, and you'll be ready for business.

Get the Right Haircut 

It all starts with the haircut. For this one, you’ll need to find a barber (an old-school barber at that), one who knows how to do a properly tapered haircut. Finding the most classically trained barber around is a good strategy, since he probably has had a lot of practice doing tapered haircuts.

Have your barber cut the hair short on the back and sides (leaving enough length to comb back). The neckline should be left in a natural taper, and the top should be left longer. Go with about one inch on the sides and back and at least three inches on top. You might ask your barber if your hair needs to be cut in a way that will allow it to part more easily since the part is key to the Don Draper haircut. Take a photo of Hamm as Draper to the barber to make sure he knows what you're after.

Learn How to Style It

For this style, you’ll need to go with a high-shine pomade. A good one to try is Fatboy's Tough Guy Water Wax, ($21.) It's made specifically to hold this kind of haircut. After shampooing, while your hair is still damp, apply a nickel-sized amount of the pomade, and comb your hair straight back. Then create a part (on the side of your head your hair naturally parts) by using a fine-toothed comb. To really pull off this style, the side part must be perfectly straight and clean. 

Comb the hair from the part to the side while pushing the bangs up and back. If you notice you’re not getting as much height as you want in the front, a blow dryer can be used to give you some lift. Using a brush, apply a little heat while directing the front up and to the side. If you’re concerned that the pomade won’t hold your hair in place, use a bit of strong-hold hairspray to set the style. If you have thick hair, choose a stronger product; if your hair is fine, go for a lighter product. 

Shampoo Often

Because you’re all pomaded up for this style, it's a good idea to wash your hair before bed every night. There are two reasons for this: you don’t want your pillow to get all greasy, and you don’t want styling product building up on your hair or scalp. Shampooing your hair in the morning will help eliminate any bedhead, and make styling easier. Because you'll be shampooing more frequently, it’s essential to use proper shampooing technique and products, so know what those are.

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