Steve McQueen in Gray and Pink as Thomas Crown

With Easter nearly here and Spring finally taking over after a long winter, some men may be looking to incorporate more color into their wardrobe.

Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).

Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).

Vitals

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

Background

Thanks to films like The Great EscapeThe Sand Pebbles, and – most recently – Bullitt, Steve McQueen was at the top of the Hollywood game in 1968. He was already popular enough to be demanding about his roles, and his reputation for difficulty just enhanced the “bad boy” status he was cultivating.

The 1960s, arguably one of the most turbulent decades in American history, was a very difficult time for a celebrity to maintain popularity. The Beatles shed their mop tops and matching suits to follow the trends being set by the counterculture. Steve McQueen, on the other hand, changed his image, taking the role of debonair protagonist Thomas Crown in The Thomas Crown Affair.

Crown still had the devious charm that moviegoers had come to associate with McQueen, but he was filthy rich, wearing expensive suits and playing with toys while stealing even more money for himself. It was the sort of character his usual audiences would have hated, but McQueen injected enough of his own personality into the role that The Thomas Crown Affair became one of his most lauded films.

I previously wrote about the first suit McQueen wears in the film, a Glen Plaid three-piece with blue accents, and used the description from Rake of Crown’s “sartorial bravado”; just because he wears suits, Crown isn’t part of the establishment. He’s more like a spy, slyly challenging convention. He doesn’t need to rob banks for money, but he likes it, mostly because it’s something he shouldn’t be doing.

What’d He Wear?

Crown is a high-level executive, so he owns the clothing for the part. His suits are a fascinating mix of cutting-edge businesswear and progressive colors. A narrative contemporary like Don Draper would scoff at Crown’s unorthodox dress, and that’s exactly what Crown would want.

For his date night with Vicki – the insurance investigator played by an obviously stunning Faye Dunaway – Crown wears a dark gray gabardine three-piece suit. The suit itself is a very stoic, traditional suit. Some of the suit’s more unique details, like the long rear jacket vents or the straight bottom of the waistcoat, indicate that it was cut in the same style as the louder Glen Plaid suit from the opening sequence.

Crown welcomes Vicki into his den of iniquity.

Crown welcomes Vicki into his den of iniquity.

The suit jacket is single-breasted with slim notch lapels that roll down to a 2-button front. The jacket is cut traditionally with natural shoulders and a gently suppressed waist. The long double rear vents are a fashion-forward nod at the time, as single rear vents were more typical on American business suits.

Crown’s jacket has flapped hip pockets and a welted breast pocket, which Crown accentuates with a silver and black paisley silk pocket square, puffing through the top of the pocket. Typically, non-white pocket squares are the same color of the tie, but Crown is both an atypical person and an atypical dresser, so his pocket square would be a reflection of his nonconforming personality rather than strict adherence to sartorial tradition.

Just imagine how nice it would be if you could still smoke a cigar in your office. People rave about modern technological advances, but there are a few places where we have culturally backpedaled.

Just imagine how nice it would be if you could still smoke a cigar in your office. People rave about modern technological advances, but there are a few places where we have culturally backpedaled.

The cuffs close with 2 buttons on each wrist, which marks the only major difference between the style of this suit and the Glen Plaid suit as the earlier suit had 1-button fishtail-style cuffs.

The vest (or waistcoat) of Crown’s suit is distinctively cut straight across the bottom, an on-and-off trend that enjoyed its last hurrah in the mid-to-late 1960s. It was also notably seen on a gray flannel three-piece suit worn by Sean Connery in the Thunderball pre-credits sequence.

Crown’s vest is single-breasted with five buttons down the front and open hip pockets.

This style of waistcoat was a very trendy style in the mid-to-late 1960s.

This style of waistcoat was a very trendy style in the mid-to-late 1960s.

The trousers are technically flat front due to the lack of pleats, but they have noticeable darts about two inches forward of the side pockets. Darted-front trousers are typically the domain of high-end or bespoke suits and allow the trousers to fit more comfortably over the hips. The trousers have standard open side pockets rather than the frogmouth pockets of the Glen Plaid suit trousers.

Crown’s trousers also have plain-hemmed bottoms with a short break over his shoes, a pair of a dark cordovan leather cap-toe balmorals worn with dark gray socks. The socks match the suit enough to continue the leg line down into his shoes.

If you would ever question wearing an outfit like McQueen's, consider which of these two guys was the one going home with Faye Dunaway at the end of the night.

If you would ever question wearing an outfit like McQueen’s, consider which of these two guys was the one going home with Faye Dunaway at the end of the night and let that influence your sartorial decision.

While Crown may ignore some sartorial conventions for artistic or nonconformist purposes, wearing contrasting socks would look garish rather than unique. Thus, his adherence to this convention is a wise choice.

In another move that would send Don Draper into an absolute tizzy, Crown wears a lilac striped shirt. Soft pink isn’t a color traditionally associated with aggressive business executives – or most men in general – but McQueen pairs it with the serious gray suit to keep his outfit grounded while still being eye-catching.

The neutral gray suit nicely complements the more vibrant pink in the shirt and tie.

The neutral gray suit nicely complements the more vibrant pink in the shirt and tie.

McQueen further hurls sartorial insults at Draper by perfectly matching a mauve silk necktie with his shirt. While not a conservative look by any means, Crown’s understated color draws the eye and avoids the garishness of an all-pink suit.

(Sorry, Gatsby.)

The shirt has French cuffs, which Crown fastens with the same round mother-of-pearl cuff links worn in the opening sequence. The front of the shirt appears to be placket-less, indicating a more luxurious French-inspired style.

McQueen strokes his bishop.

McQueen strokes his bishop.

Although he opted for a gold Patek Philippe pocket watch in the opening sequence, Crown wears a wristwatch with this suit. McQueen alternates between two wristwatches in the film, both worn on his right wrist. In more casual scenes, he wears a gold Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox, but with his suits he opts for a gold Cartier Tank Americane on a thin black leather strap. In this case, we are naturally seeing the latter.

The best shot of McQueen's Cartier watch is from the very end of the film. Since it's the only time we only see this dark blue suit and pink shirt, I figured I'd include the shot here rather than to give the brief outfit its own post.

The best shot of McQueen’s Cartier watch is from the very end of the film. Since it’s the only time we only see this dark blue suit and pink shirt, I figured I’d include the shot here rather than to give the brief outfit its own post, thus killing two birds with one stone.

Crown picks up Vicki with an overcoat slung under his arm that is a shade darker than the gray suit. We don’t see him wear the coat, but it appears to be single-breasted with notch lapels and a deep burgundy lining. The slightly visible label may be London Fog, but someone with sharper eyes than I have would need to make the final call on that.

Crown easily wins Vicki's affections, to the amusement (left) and dismay (center) of his fellow men.

Crown easily wins Vicki’s affections, to the amusement (left) and dismay (center) of his fellow men.

The suit is briefly seen later in the film when Crown is out on a date with another woman, wearing a more conservative shirt-and-tie combination. For this date, he wears a white shirt with a gold pin through the tab collar and a dark red silk necktie.

Note the little bit of red in this pocket square, tying together the red from the tie.

Note the little bit of red in this pocket square, tying together the red from the tie.

Go Big or Go Home

Impress your date by being a real man, beating her in chess, sipping brandy, and smoking fine cigars. Keep it up and you two will be doing a lot more than just playing chess all night.

According to director Norman Jewison in an interview in Sight and Sound magazine…

There was one paragraph in the script which said they sat down to play chess. I’d worked with the author, and it was his first film. And I think the phrase he used was “chess with sex.” And since it was the only physical contact of the two characters, I became involved with the scene and felt that it should – well, I wanted to film the longest kiss in screen history. I thought this one physical thing should tell everything about that aspect of their relationship, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore. So we ended up spending three days shooting a kiss. I must say it was a marvelous inspiration from the cameraman. [Haskell] Wexler and I devised all sorts of things to keep the scene going and build it cinematically.

How to Get the Look

Crown effectively adds color to what would otherwise be considered a conservative business suit, making it appropriate for both the office and an after hours date.

If I could, I'd help you get your own Faye Dunaway, too. Right now, all we can expect is the suit.

If I could, I’d help you get your own Faye Dunaway, too. Right now, all we can expect is the suit.

  • Dark gray gabardine three-piece suit, consisting of:
    • Single-breasted coat with notch lapels, 2-button front, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, long double rear vents, and 2-button cuffs
    • Single-breasted waistcoat with 5-button front, open hip pockets, straight-cut bottom
    • Darted-front trousers with side pockets, plain-hemmed bottoms, and short break
  • Soft lilac striped button-down dress shirt with moderately-spread collars and double/French cuffs
  • Mauve silk necktie
  • Dark cordovan leather cap-toe balmorals
  • Dark gray dress socks
  • Cartier Tank Americane wristwatch with a gold case, white face, and thin black leather strap
  • Large round mother-of-pearl cuff links
  • Silver and black paisley pocket square, worn puffed in the jacket breast pocket
  • Dark gray single-breasted overcoat with notch lapels and burgundy lining

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the movie.

6 comments

  1. Pingback: Nucky Thompson’s Glen Plaid Easter Suit | BAMF Style
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  3. Pingback: Steve McQueen’s Brown 3-Piece Suit as Thomas Crown | BAMF Style
  4. Le Chiffre

    Such a great combination. The grey suit sometimes looks a bit navy in some scenes (when he plays chess and when he is in his business meeting), maybe there is a hint of blue in the wool used. I like this suit a lot. Perfectly neutral and outstated, yet not boring. A question : did you manage to see what kind of a cloth it is, exactly ? Serge ? Pick-and-pick ? Worsted flannel ? Thanks a lot !

    Like

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