Steve McQueen’s Gray Plaid Suit as Thomas Crown
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
Tailor: Douglas Hayward
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.”
Mister Crew 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 suit with a muted glen plaid check pattern. 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 the later years of his James Bond tenure, 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 two-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.
The fit of the jacket, and most suit jackets in the film, is very complimentary to McQueen’s build, with roped sleeveheads and a well-suppressed waist to present a strong silhouette.
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.
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.
Crown wears flat front suit trousers with a medium-high waist that appropriately rises to just under the bottom of the waistcoat, presenting a clean “gig line” straight down the waistcoat and the trouser fly.
The trousers have either a fitted waistband or side adjuster tabs, which would be a reasonable choice given the suit’s English tailoring. They have frogmouth front pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms with a short break.
Crown sports rather unique shoes, a pair of black calf leather semi-brogue derby shoes with single lace eyelets at the top of the high vamps and perforated cap toes. The single lace is tied at the top of the vamp, making the shoe look longer and presenting a loafer-like effect. He appears to be wearing them with black dress socks.
This unique pair of shoes would later make a return appearance with one of his dark navy suits.
Crown wears a silky sky blue shirt with a large spread collar and double (French) cuffs, fastened with large round mother-of-pearl cufflinks.
Crown wears a French blue twill-ribbed silk tie, knotted with a dimpled half Windsor knot.
Persol sunglasses were a McQueen staple both in real life and as Thomas Crown, specifically the Persol 714 folding model with tortoise frames and blue-tinted lenses 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.
For the final touch, Crown dons a pair of drab slate-blue 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
Tailored by the legendary Doug Hayward, this distinctive suit looks damn good Steve McQueen, and it could be tempting to make a copy of your own down to the last cuff button. However, the best lesson to take from Thomas Crown’s distinctively detailed gray plaid suit is to find what fits and flatters you—both your physique and your personality.
- Gray glen plaid tailored suit (with blue silk lining):
- 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 shirt with spread collar and double/French cuffs
- Large round mother-of-pearl cufflinks
- French blue silk twill necktie, tied in a dimpled half Windsor knot
- Black calf leather semi-brogue wingtip derby shoes with single-row lacing
- 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 pocket square
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Steve McQueen is so sharp in this movie. My wife and I love both versions of Thomas Crown. They are two totally different movies.
Jim, I totally agree. Expect to see several more posts from Thomas Crown in the upcoming months! Hopefully, I’ll be able to get my hands on the Brosnan remake. Typically, in my experience, when a remake differs from the original in terms of plot, etc., it makes for a very good film (such as the new Ocean’s Eleven or Brosnan’s Thomas Crown). Verbatim remakes, like the Baldwin/Basinger version of The Getaway, are just unnecessary. I look forward to seeing the modern adaptation!
This was the first suit I ever had made. And still the only shades I ever paid nearly that much money for (thank God for eBay).
Max, great choice! I’m sure you get a lot of double-takes and positive comments in a sharp suit like this. Have you found any other shirt-and-tie pairings that work as well as the blues in the film?
A pair of sunglasses like McQueen’s custom Persols would certainly be worth the investment! How is it viewing the world through blue-tinted shades?
The only other shirt/tie I’ve worn with it with any consistency is a pink shirt with a Ted Baker purple/lavender/pink paisley tie. That works reasonably well, but only on a bright day in Spring. The suit itself is bold enough that I tend to be more subdued with the shirt and tie. I generally hold that one element can be loud and the rest needs to sit quietly. If you have one of these suits, though, it is worth experimenting with cooler hues of pink and purple, but probably with a more sedate tie than mine.
The glasses are shockingly heavy, at least if you mostly wear Ray Bans. The Persol lenses are glass rather than plastic and are pretty thick. I also have never gotten used to the hinge at the bridge of my nose (note: mine are not the “Steve McQueen Edition” — just 714s with blue lenses). They look wicked cool, though. I mostly only wear them either with the Crown suit or with the blue turtleneck/brown tweed get-up, in large part because I worry about breaking or losing them.
P.S. — Apparently the best way to be a BAMF is to star in a movie opposite Faye Dunaway. You’ve already hit her top three (Condor, Bonnie, Crown). If you manage to work in Chinatown, Network and Towering Inferno you’ll have covered her complete greatest hits.
Chinatown is definitely on the agenda! To be honest, I’ve never seen Network but if you think there’s anything worth covering, I’d be happy to check it out! Plus it’s been on my watch list for awhile. She certainly made the rounds of my favorite films of the ’60s and ’70s though…
I haven’t seen Network myself in many years, but it definitely does not stick out in my memory as BAMF appropriate. It is a great movie (an avatar of 1970s society-in-transition films), but I’ll watch anything Faye Dunaway 1967-78.
Reblogged this on Autobiography of a Cad.
Great article. There is a picture of McQueen wearing only the suit pants, in a behind the scenes shot. There is a pair of suspenders hanging down, so that solves that mystery.
Gotta love the Internet when you discover things like this! Great write-up on what must be one of the coolest suits + dude combinations of all-time. One day I’ve promised I’ll treat myself and go into a tailors and have a bespoke version made – and I’ll be taking a copy of this article with me! Loving the blog. Keep up the good work :-]
Thanks, Tim! I really appreciate the comments, and I wish you luck in getting your own Thomas Crown suit made. Definitely one of the sharpest and most stylish movies of all time.
How can I get a suit like Mcqueens
Regarding my life long obsession with Crown’s glen plaid suit….I actually ordered a custom look alike at Brooks Brothers (in Boston!) and cancelled after realizing the cost was way over what I planned…But I always wanted to get a copy made since then, even though a three piece banker’s look had little use for me in the real world.
In a paperback fan book “Steve McQueen: Star on Wheels” from back when, the author made a big point of how Steve’s then wife Nelly was with him to have the suit made at Ron Postal Designs in Beverly Hills, and how she said it was “the first time he looked like a gentleman”. Do you have any idea how this obviously conflicting fact might have crept into the history of the suit? Honestly, a Saville Row tailor was far from my mind when I saw the film; I don’t see a great deal of a British bespoke cut there…
Two other minor points- I always thought Crown’s Rolls was deep blue, in several shots it seems clear, and why would a Boston finance type go for a blue French cuff silk shirt? Seems a bit to continental and ‘dandy’ for such a guy…
Thanks for all of your amazing articles!