The Mad Men Guide to a Manly Haircut

by Brett on October 27, 2009 · 140 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Hair


AMC’s Mad Men is one of television’s most popular shows right now. Yeah, the story is good, but the attention to retro detail and the classic style of Don Draper and crew is at least an equal attraction. Well-tailored grey suits, pocket squares, and skinny ties makes the men on the show look cool, sophisticated, and manly.

But that classic and masculine look would be ruined if Don Draper sported a dopey looking haircut. Do you think advertising clients and women would take Don Draper seriously if he combed his hair forward and spiked it up front like many young men do these days? I don’t think so.

Don Draper and the other men at Sterling Cooper have haircuts that demand that you take them seriously. Your grandpa probably did his hair the same way: tight on the sides with a sharp part on the left side of the head. And of course, the hair needs that healthy looking shine.

Unfortunately, many men today walk around with the same boyish haircuts they’ve had since high school. Sure, your hair spiked in the front or tussled carelessly looked cool when you were 17, but it looks goofy when you’re 30. You want a haircut that looks manly, not juvenile.

To help upgrade your hairstyle to something more respectable, we provide the following tips from the Emmy Award-winning hairstylist of Mad Men, Gloria Ponce.

How to Get the Mad Man Hairstyles

The hair product. If you really want to recapture that slicked back, clean look of the 40′s, 50′s, and 60′s, get your hands on some Brylcreem. The stuff is a little greasy, but boy it really makes a man’s hair look nice. It smells pretty damn manly, too. I’ve used Brylcreem to style my hair for awhile now. My wife loves the way it makes my hair look, and I get compliments on it all the time.

If gramp’s hair products are too greasy for your taste, but you still want that shiny, put together look, try the modern products used by the Mad Men hairstylist. Gloria Ponce uses American Crew hair products on the Mad Men set. Her go to product for all the male actors is American Crew Pomade. The pomade gives you the same hold and shine as Brylcreem, but it isn’t as greasy. She’ll also use American Crew Firm Hold Styling Gel when the hair really needs to stay in place. Unlike other gels, this gel doesn’t flake and leave you looking like you have a bad case of dandruff. Plus it gives you that nice Mad Men shine without making your hair as hard as a helmet.

It comes down to a matter of preference on whether you go the Brylcreem or the American Crew route. They’ll both give you the same look. Personally, I like my Brylcreem. If it was good enough for granddad, it’s good enough for me. Plus, it’s cheaper and you can get it at your local drugstore.

The Don Draper

Don Draper

Tell your barber…

Ask him to cut your hair tight and tapered on the sides and leave it long and full on the top. Tell the barber that you also want your part on the left side of your head. Yeah, I said part. The part demands respect. The part is powerful. Your barber can cut your hair in order to help your hair part more easily.

To style…

Take your hair product of choice and run it through your hair while it’s still damp. Take your comb and create your part on the left side of your head. Create a small wave on the front of your hair by combing your bangs up and back towards the right. Comb back the sides of your hair. Bada-bing! Instant Draper.

The Pete Campbell

pete campbell

Tell your barber…

Like with the Draper-do, you’ll want it nice and tight on the sides. The only difference is to have your barber cut it a bit shorter on the top than you would with the Don Draper hairstyle. And if you want to part it on the right, ala Pete, tell him that too.

To style…

Use a bit more product. Pete Campbell’s hairstyle is much more slick and wet looking than the other characters. When you comb it, start off with a sharp part on the right side of your head. When you create the wave in the front, keep it close to the head. It’s not as high as some of the other men on the show. Pete’s style is good for younger men or men with smaller frames.

The Roger Sterling

roger sterling

Tell your barber…

Sterling’s look is much shorter and barbered than the other men on the show. It’s almost like a military cut. Get it cut short on the top, but leave it long enough so that you can comb a part on the right side of your head. Sides are tight. Make sure he tapers the sides so they blend in nicely with the top. You won’t want any lines like you have a bowl cut.

To style…

Add product to your damp hair and comb it over to create your part. Create the wave in the front. Because your hair is shorter, it won’t be as high as Don Draper’s. Comb back the sides. Now you’re ready schmooze with clients at a 12 martini lunch.

Final Note: If you really want to ensure that your barber gets your haircut the way you want it, print off this post and show him a picture of the haircut you want. You can never go wrong doing that.

{ 138 comments… read them below or add one }

101 H. Clyde Disney March 5, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Hi, I just had a couple other comments, I thought might be intresting. When I was a child in the early 50s I would visit my grandmother’s house frequently. On every chair in the place she had these hand crocheted doilies as I would call them. Three on the couches.

I asked one time what they were and why. She told me that the proper name for them was ‘Anti-Macasser’ Macasser tree oil was the most comment hair grease back when she was young. (early 20s) Their purpose was to keep the furniture clean, because, sure enough, the grease men slicked their hair down with did indeed leave grease stains that would ruin any fabric.

I am fairly opinionated, as I would think most people who like this site are. I am also quite accepting of others who have differing opinions. (even though I know they are wrong! LOL)

This site is very valuable for young men who have just not been around traditional clothes values etc. I live in central Florida, One great problem here is that it is just too hot. Most of the time people just want to wear Tee shirts and shorts. The young prople just have no place to learn of these things. My Kudos for this website.

One final comment on the grease issue. Ever wonder where the term ‘Slick” comes from?

I mean the use of the word to mean someone who is slightly shady, or not trust worthy. “Hey Slick! Or, “That fellow is a slick one, watch out for him”

102 REDD March 8, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Telling the barber exactly how I’d like my hair cut is something that I routinely struggle with – when I say that I want a “business cut” or “to not look like a bum” he’ll look somewhat chagrined. Thanks for the helpful tips.

103 kevin March 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm

If you can get a bottle of jeris hair tonic you wont regret it . It smells great but wont leave your hair all greasy. I’ve got more complements from women about how good I smell . They think its cologne or something . My wife goes nuts when she smells it . She says she can smell my pillow and it has that smell to it . I buy mine from my barber . I heard you can also get it at sallys beauty supplies . It comes in a plastic bottle but it has that old school barbers bottle look to it .

104 kevin March 12, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Hey P , Who cares what you have a “tolerance ” for . I dont have a tolerance for people who throw around the homophobia thing either . Its a cheap way to try and win an argument .

105 Hemm Tim March 15, 2010 at 2:33 pm

White walls and cropped on the top is best.

106 RJ April 18, 2010 at 9:40 am

I have to disagree with Brett. Having grown up in the 50s era (granted, a small child), the standard cuts were much shorter on the sides/back. Flattops were common. And crewcuts of various lengths also were standard fare. It’s a matter of opinion on what looks better–I’d say it’s individual taste. And today’s styles are fine…and certainly as good or better than some “hair designer’s” perception of what things were like in the ’50s and ’60s. But…each to his own…Brylcreem continues to be in business!!

107 RJ April 18, 2010 at 9:46 am

Oh, and by the way…the “part” issue: if hair is parted, the natural lay of the hair determines to a great extent the side on which it should be (can be) parted. Most men have a left-sided “crown” and clockwise whorl that encourages a left part. A substantial minority of men have the opposite–a right-sided “crown” and counter clockwise whorl to the hair, both of which encourage a right-sided part if the hair is to be parted. (Interestingly, some studies have shown that gay men statistically are more likely to have the counter clockwise whorl–why?) Styling the hair against its natural pattern of growth is possible, of course, but it is more difficult and generally requires much more “product” to hold it in place.

108 Ben May 5, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Like RJ, I’m not sure the side on which one parts one’s hair matters in terms of getting one of these hair cuts. My hair whorl turns counter-clockwise which makes it very difficult, and sort of silly-looking, to part my hair on the left side. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get any of these haircuts. Which side you part your hair on doesn’t really pertain to the style of the hair itself.

109 Ben May 5, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Also, I think it’s a lot harder for blond or light-haired men like me to get away with using tons of product, particularly anything greasy or oily like brylcreem. On dark hair, it adds shine, but for light-colored hair, it also changes the color and just gives us a wet-headed that is neither professional nor attractive. When I use product, which is infrequently, I either stick to a wax pomade or, in a pinch, a small dab of ordinary body lotion.

110 MJ May 17, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Great article. I’ve adopted the Don Draper haircut along with using Brylcreem. I’ve tried a number of styles over the years, but I think the parted on the side wetlook style is the best. I do have to admit it does take more effort than wearing it dry, but you can’t beat the result. For me it takes a bit extra time getting the side part to be just right. But the wonderful thing about Brylcreem is it sure helps keeping it parted once you get it. Unless its windy out, I rarely have to recomb my hair. And unlike using gel or hairspray, my hair does not feel stiff or sticky. Instead, Brylcreem makes it soft, pliable, wet looking, and just plain neet. The aroma of Brylcreem is pretty cool too.

111 tibor former USMC June 1, 2010 at 4:12 am

I have that fine light brown or blond hair that was mentioned above, still at age 44, yet interestingly it’s thick at the same time. It’s also highly unmanagable, therefore I have to use product and have done so since I was probably 14 or 15, except for my four years as a Marine. If I wouldn’t use it, I’d look like a “kid.” Just fluffy fine hair with a baby face. I tried Brylcreem in 1981, but it was too greasy, and for years used supermarket or drug store gel and mousse, until about 2003 when I discovered the American Crew line. The Pomade is my favorite, followed by Forming Cream and then Classic Wax. Fiber is good for short hair. The Grooming Cream is a bit too greasy. Yet, all of these vary on the length of my hair. which is usually Tom Brokaw or sometimes Charlie Rose long. I still once a year, or say every 18 months take my Wahl clippers out and do my sides at 2 or even 3, and the top at 8. If I screw up, then I’ll just go for a USMC low reg; and if I screw that one up I can go for a medium or high, and then a high and tight. The tapering is difficult on your own, and I can see why many here have attested to a simple one guard length. But, I really should look for a traditional barber. Here in NYC there are so many chic chic salons, and I’ve tried them over the years, yet was never really happy with the result let alone the price.

112 Ken June 15, 2010 at 10:38 am

To Tibor former US Marine:

For a good cheap barber in NYC, try one of the Reamir shops – you can find one almost anywhere in Manhattan, and there are a few in the boroughs.

113 jeremiah June 22, 2010 at 9:00 am

man down hear in texaz we rockin that taper and even all over

114 M July 12, 2010 at 9:29 am

That’s a really cool car.

115 rmrm July 14, 2010 at 11:05 am

Where do you buy pomade? I buy it every year when I go to Hong Kong but haven’t seen it in the states. Did I just overlook it?

116 Garret July 26, 2010 at 7:54 pm

I’m been having a hairstyle like this for the past month or it’s basicly like a mix of Roger and Don but a little shorter. Being that I’m still in college, I’ve found the Axe clean-cut pomade to be of good use as well as something that holds and retains a soft feel on the hair for an affordable price.

117 Fred October 3, 2012 at 8:38 am

Hey, I’m sorry to doubt your sources but I read in this article that Gloria Ponce actually uses a different product for Jon Hamm’s coupe:

118 David McWhite November 14, 2012 at 10:04 pm

All of these styles look great, but what look should a guy go for who has a widow’s peak the size of Mt. Vernon? I’m asking for a friend, of course…

119 tony @ iconic hair December 12, 2012 at 8:00 am

shave it in !!!! @ iconic we started a bit of a trend shaving a (thin) line in the parting once we had styled and parted it. simply seeing where the parting sits best then exaggerating it with the trimmers and open razor and making it easier for our customers to recreate .

120 Tyler G. December 17, 2012 at 11:17 am

This is a great article. I’ve been wanting to try this look, but I’m still a bit cautious. I’m a fan of my mop-style look, because I think it looks good on me, it’s easy to maintain, and (most importantly) the bangs cover up my large forehead. Maybe I can try an old-school look for a while, then go back if I don’t like it…

121 Dan January 21, 2013 at 8:00 pm

I have wanted that old school look for a while. I have very very dry coarse hair that resembles my dogs. I recently found a new barber and his products are amazing. Check out Robs Chop shop. Single barber chair (Paider), great atmosphere. Google it.

122 OtherBen February 9, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I’ve been styling my hair like this for the past year and I’ve received lots of praise, I use Murrays Pomade, great shine and hold! Being a college student I do get a lot of stares from fellow classmates, but out of class I get lots of compliments…mostly from older women in their 40′s and stuff, I dont mind though. Classy hairstyle, and great look.

123 Jesse February 17, 2013 at 9:09 pm

I would love to see an AoM article on hairstyles that comply with military regulations. I can only get a skin-fade with a 3 on top so many times before I get sick of it. These are super classy, though.

124 m March 27, 2013 at 5:59 am

I never liked combing or styling my hair because it made me feel vulnerable. It showed that I was “trying”. My hair was usually shaggy, hoping to refelct that i didnt care about how i looked. Recently, though, I told my barber “lets do the don draper”. I put product in it and combed it perfectly with a wave in the front. I have never received more compliments on my hair before. I feel more confident and respected…funny eh?

125 Dylan March 30, 2013 at 11:20 pm

I love this article; I’m a 15 year old who, after going all his life with his mother cutting it at an all around 3 with the clippers, decided to add a little style. I go with a slightly longer version of ‘the Pete Campbell’ above with a far left part and style with Brylcreem. Ever since I made the change I have had a constant stream of complements heading my way. Now with my new wardrobe (also thanks to this site) I think I look quite nice, and everyone I meet seems to agree. Can’t see myself moving away from this style any time soon. Thank you AoM!

126 Jose April 19, 2013 at 7:37 pm

I actually had Donald Draper’s hair style, in the 90s my mom use to comb it to the right side instead to the left and all you do is ask your barber that you want a regular cut, short on the top enough to comb it to the side and also he does the sides in a regularly way that he cuts it he’ll get it oh and of course don’t forget the taper it does make it more legit :) hope this helps

127 Rick June 6, 2013 at 8:10 am

Try Imperial Barber Products line of Pomades. You won’t be sorry.

128 miles July 15, 2013 at 8:29 pm

man i wish i could pull it off… sadly im cursed with curly hair

129 Ruben August 4, 2013 at 9:44 pm

I have been getting my hair cut like Pete Campbell for years. I just have a little more volume since my hair is super thick. The best way to finish off this look is to get a ducktail its an awesome way to finish of these hair styles. Also for people with more out of control hair try murray’s superior hair dressing pomade. That stuff has mega hold, but doesn’t make your hair hard

130 Shane August 20, 2013 at 8:40 am

@David McWhite: I, too, have a pretty substantial widow’s peak to deal with. My baraber deals with it pretty nicely by keeping the top a bit longer so that I can flip the top back and to the right (gives it that little bump in the front of the part). You can see the widow’s peak, but with this style it doesn’t look goofy or out of place. Also, you need to go to an old-school BARBER, not a lady at Supercuts. Treat your barber well and he will keep you looking tip top.

My two pennies on the topic:

As far as product, I recommend using Groom & Clean (I get it at Walgreens). It is a greaseless gel that smells wonderful all day. Not as messy as Brylcreem but gives a similar healthy shine look that lasts all day. My lady can run her fingers through my hair without having to immediately wash them afterwards. Plus, no stiffness or flakes like with actual gel or hairspray (as a man, I would NEVER recommend any fellow man use hairspray–it may be good for movie sets and such but is ridiculous in real life, in my opinion). If your hair gets messy during the day with Groom & Clean in it, simply wet your comb and run it through your hair again (always have a comb in your pocket). Voila, all better.

I am a 25 year old man who is lucky enough to have a great corporate position. This means I am working with powerful, well-groomed, older business men all day who probably think of me as “sport” or “kid” and have a hard time taking me seriously. The manicured hair (cut every two weeks), crisp clothes (dry clean religiously), and absolutely smooth shaven face (every morning) really go a long way toward being taken more seriously. My friends give me crap for looking like a “tight-ass,” as they say, but I rather enjoy looking dapper.

Keep the hair classy and serious and watch how differently people perceive you. It really is amazing.

Good article and good site.

131 Tyler B. August 30, 2013 at 11:25 am

Hey so I’ve been reading AoM for a little while and I just started wet shaving and I love it. So I figured why not try this too?

The only concern I have thick hair so when my hair gets long, it gets wavy and hard to deal with. So I’m thinking more of something in between the Pete Cambell and Don Draper. Not sure though.

Also I’m still not sure if this would work well with my hair. I’m definitely excited for a change but I’m kinda worried that it might look strange without a pomade or tonic in it. Also does it usually take a while to grow back out of the style if it’s not something I want to go for?

Cool article and I’ve read the other one about products (I like how they’re very cheap too):

132 Meilseoir Schwartzthal October 3, 2013 at 9:21 am

I have found, at least here in Massachusetts – and I don’t know that it’s worth the drive some area where the barbers are more hair history knowledgeable, say New York City or Hollywood, and that assumption is probably a fanciful assumption on my part – that you will absolutely not get a “Mad Men” haircut at a barbershop. No amount of detail in explanation will get through what I would call “interpretive listening” [you say versus they hear (they must think "that's ridiculous, he must actually mean") it's like fighting a very strong spell-check/predictive text on a phone. Even area by area by area designations of finger-lengths ["I want ___ finger-lengths on the crown, ___ finger-lengths on the overall top, ___finger-lengths on the sides tapering to ___finger-length and nothing shorter than ___ finger-length."] will not work at a barbershop. You cannot walk into a barbershop say “I want a regular” and get the same regular you would have gotten in 1950. The “long” version of a regular now was the “short” version then. You would have to go to a salon now if you want a “Don Draper” haircut, or any haircut requiring your stylist to carefully listen, not just try to ‘get the gist’ and say “I know what you mean” and promptly display…no they didn’t. I think the problem is overspecialization. When salons became unisex, they took over the mens hair that wasn’t very very short, and barbershops took over the very very short haircuts. So much so that the words “short” and “long” have new meaning now. Re-educating a new barber, already set-in-their-ways, about the haircuts of yesteryear is like teaching someone Mandarin or Greek….from scratch….in three minutes.

133 Rolf November 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm

This is interesting, but I have naturally curly, wavy, full hair and there is no way any of this would work on my head. Is there an alternative I can do?

134 Roger December 16, 2013 at 8:04 am

I don’t know about other branches, but there’s kind of only one Marine regulation haircut:

“Hair will be neat and closely trimmed. The hair may be clipped at the edges of the side and back; will be evenly graduated from zero length at the hairline in the lower portion of the head to the upper portion of the head; and will not be over 3 inches in length fully extended on the upper portion of the head; the back and sides of the head below the hairline may be shaved to remove body hair. Sideburns will not extend below the top of the orifice of the ear. Sideburns will not be styled to taper or flare. The length of an individual hair of the sideburn will not exceed 1/8 inch when fully extended.”

Not all that much room for interpretation there, but we managed to have fun with it!

135 jamie January 28, 2014 at 11:53 am

Just recently starte wearing the undercut with a short taper on the sides. I can honostly say the response has been all positive. I wa use to having the short spikey look, let it grow out went with the more “daper” look and the respect level at work has wnet up

136 Ron Roper February 17, 2014 at 1:35 am

I’ve been cursed with receding hairlines left and right that make my front look more like a penincula(sp?). I.always tell my wife when it turns into an island, I’m shaving my head. Anyway, anyone have a problem with parting their hair with something like that?

137 Nathaniel Kaiser March 20, 2014 at 7:38 am

All of these styles look awesome. but what can a guy around my age (21) do? i have a kind of large forehead, and my hair is not receding, but i don’t have the best looking hair line in the front:( my hair is also not very thick at all. i always see all of these nice looking hair styles, but i just keep my long shaggy look because all of these nice hair styles require you to have nice thick hair….

138 John Patrick Harris April 7, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Am I to assume that you need to have substantial amounts of hair to try these styles?

I have a thinning crown with thick hair on the sides and back so I guess this won’t be possible?

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter