Last Friday would have been Steve McQueen’s 83rd birthday. To celebrate Steve and honor an early request from a BAMF Style follower…
Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown, millionaire criminal mastermind
Boston, June 1968
Film: The Thomas Crown Affair
Release Date: June 19, 1968
Director: Norman Jewison
Costume Designer: Alan Levine
Steve McQueen was racking up several iconic tough guy looks by 1968, with both The Great Escape and Bullitt under his belt. Now, as millionaire playboy Thomas Crown, he would be playing more of a romantic lead and would need the wardrobe to match.
On many other actors, McQueen’s Thomas Crown suits would look too dandy or foppish, but McQueen pulls off these nearly over-the-top looks with gusto. His attitude gives his character a cheekier side that says, “I’ll wear whatever I want just to tell you I’m filthy rich.”
Rake described Thomas Crown’s look as giving off a “sartorial bravado”, as well as providing an excellent breakdown of his suits in the film. It’s only fitting that, if the film had to be remade, the remake starred Pierce Brosnan, who likely exited the womb wearing a sharp tailored three-piece suit.
What’d He Wear?
McQueen’s legendary first suit worn as Thomas Crown is a medium gray three-piece with a muted Glen Plaid or “Prince of Wales” check. The gray suit has hints of blue, complemented by the blue lining, shirt, and tie. Saville Row’s Douglas Hayward, a “tailor to the stars” during this era that also lent his hand to a few Roger Moore suits during his Bond era, created the suit with classic British tailoring in mind, giving McQueen a look very contemporary for swinging London.
The jacket is single-breasted with slim (but not too slim) notch lapels and a 2-button front. The jacket is very distinctive with Hayward’s sartorial touches, including a long vent on each side and fishtail-styled cuffs with one button on each sleeve. There is a straight flapped hip pocket on each side and a dove gray silk handkerchief rakishly puffed in his breast pocket, known as an “Astaire” style for obvious reasons.
The fit of the jacket, and most suit jackets in the film, is very complimentary to McQueen’s build, with roped shoulders on large sleeveheads and a well-suppressed waist to present a strong silhouette. The jacket also has a voluminous back to aid and ease maneuverability.
Crown’s waistcoat is, like most of his in the film, single-breasted with no lapels. It fastens down the front with five dark horn buttons. The cut is straight across the bottom, as was fashionable at the time, especially among fictional spies as seen in Thunderball and on Get Smart. The straight, high cut emphasizes McQueen’s leg length, making him appear slightly taller than his 5’10” height. The vest also has two lower hip pockets and a blue silk lining to match that of his jacket.
When we first meet Crown, he is checking his gold Patek Philippe hunter-case pocket watch, a simple but elegant timepiece worn on a thick gold chain through the fourth button of his waistcoat in the “double Albert” style with a fob drop. The fob itself is a gold Phi Beta Kappa fraternity key. As a Dartmouth graduate, this would make Crown a chapter brother of Daniel Webster and Nelson Rockefeller.
The flat front suit trousers have plain-hemmed bottoms and frogmouth front side pockets. The high-waisted rise ends just under the bottom of the vest, presenting a clean line down the waistcoat fastening through the trouser fly. I am not sure if these pants are worn with side adjusters, suspenders, or a belt.
Crown wears a light powder blue silk shirt with a large spread collar and double cuffs, fastened with large round mother-of-pearl cufflinks.
Crown’s necktie is in French blue silk, knotted with a dimpled half Windsor knot.
One of McQueen’s staple accessories, both as Crown and in real life, is a pair of tortoiseshell Persol sunglasses with blue-tinted lenses. The particular pair worn by McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair is Persol 714 folding sunglasses. The blue tint was custom made for McQueen by optician Dennis Roberts. Fans can pick up their own pair at various sites online, including EyeGoodies. However, these will typically put a bite on your wallet.
We don’t get much of a look at Crown’s feet in these scenes, but his standard footwear is a pair of slim black leather British benchmade plain-toe loafers, worn with black dress socks.
For the final touch, Crown dons a pair of drab blue teal leather gloves when handling his ill-gotten gains in the cemetery.
Go Big or Go Home
What to do after a long day of working and/or arranging a multi-million dollar bank robbery?
Get an extra chilled, extra dry Martini and sit back, relaxing with a cigar.
Crown drives a “mason black” 1967 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow fixed head coupe. The Rolls, chassis #CRX2672, was a left-hand drive model ordered by Hollywood producer Jerry Bresler with enhancements such as a lower steering column, Firestone whitewall tires, electric aerial, electric windows, Sundym glass, air conditioning, a driver’s door mirror, a hazard warning device, a companion box between the seats, and inertia-reel safety belts in the front seats. Naturally, Crown has a set of personalized Massachusetts plates: “TC 100”.
How to Get the Look
This is one of the most custom-made looks I’ve covered on this blog yet. A suit like this leaves room for injections of your own personality, as long as you stick to the strong yet ethereal blue-gray tones.
- Medium gray glen plaid tailored suit (with blue silk lining), consisting of:
- Single-breasted 2-button suit jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 1-button “fishtail” cuffs, and long double vents
- Single-breasted 5-button waistcoat with two welt pockets and straight hem
- Flat front trousers with frogmouth front pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Light blue silk dress shirt with large spread collar and double/French cuffs
- Large round mother-of-pearl cufflinks
- French blue silk necktie, tied in a dimpled half Windsor knot
- Black leather plain-toe loafers
- Black dress socks
- Gold hunter-cased Patek Philippe pocket watch, worn on a thick gold “double Albert” chain (with a Phi Beta Kappa key fob) in his left vest pocket
- Persol 714 folding sunglasses with tortoiseshell frames and blue lenses
- Drab blue teal leather gloves
- Dove gray silk handkerchief, worn in the jacket breast pocket
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
I have yet to see the Brosnan/Russo 1999 remake. I’m a fan of Pierce, but I’ve heard that the remake was unnecessary. Any thoughts? Worth watching at least from a sartorial perspective, or no?
Matt Spaiser wrote an excellent analysis of one of Pierce’s suits in the remake, likely the film’s attempt to modernize the McQueen Glen Plaid suit seen here.