Steve McQueen’s Chalkstripe Suit as Thomas Crown

Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). Note that he dresses his wrist with his Cartier Tank Cintrée rather than the Patek Philippe pocket watch he wears for the actual scene.

Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). Note that he dresses his wrist with his Cartier Tank Cintrée rather than the Patek Philippe pocket watch he wears for the actual scene.

Vitals

Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown, millionaire criminal mastermind

Switzerland, June 1968

Film: The Thomas Crown Affair
Release Date: June 19, 1968
Director: Norman Jewison
Costume Designer: Alan Levine
Tailor: Douglas Hayward

Background

I recently had the pleasure to join Pete Brooker and Matt Spaiser (of Bond Suits) on their excellent podcast From Tailors with Love for an entertaining and informative discussion of Steve McQueen’s suits and style in The Thomas Crown Affair. If you’re not already a subscriber, you can follow the fun via iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher, and check out highlights from yours truly’s appearance on the latest episode here.

What’d He Wear?

In all the excitement about talking Tommy Crown with Pete and Matt, I wanted to check in on the one remaining suit from the King of Cool’s on-screen wardrobe that hadn’t yet been featured on BAMF Style.

As opposed to those we discussed on the podcast, Crown’s chalkstripe suit could be argued as one of the character’s more conventional suits in terms of both suiting and styling. Given this, it makes sense that the suit has such little actual screen time, especially when compared to how much it featured in the film’s promotional photography. The context is also significant, as Crown dons this suit when venturing outside “his world” in Boston, relying on it to signify his status while in Switzerland managing the latest ill-gotten additions to his vast wealth.

Tailored by Douglas Hayward, Crown’s business suit is constructed from a dark navy worsted flannel patterned with a medium-spaced white chalkstripe, defined by Alan Flusser in his seminal Dressing the Man as “a stripe of ropelike effect similar to the mark made with a tailor’s chalk,” more substantial than the stripe commonly known as pinstripe. Though I believe this scene in The Thomas Crown Affair is technically set during springtime due to the early June setting, navy chalkstripe worsted suiting is suggested by Flusser to be an ideal fall fabric with this heavier flannel cousin optimal for winter dressing.

On screen, Crown wears this suit with a pale ecru shirt detailed with semi-spread collar and double (French) cuffs, though he wears a similarly detailed shirt in sky blue for the promotional artwork which coordinates with the navy shade in the dark suit. He also wears a dark navy woven silk tie.

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR

Unlike many well-dressed movie characters who stick to a suit template of sorts, Crown enjoys variety in his tailoring, sticking only to the criteria that his suits have three pieces including single-breasted jackets. Beyond that, we see a range of details whether that’s the number of vents or cuff buttons on suit jackets, the structure of his waistcoats, and even whether his trousers have a flat front or are fitted with darts (though we never see him in pleats.)

This suit jacket has notch lapels which just narrowly fit seven stripes across at the widest point, where the lapel meets the collar. The lapels break well above the two-button stance. The wide shoulders give Crown the appearance of power, roped at the sleeveheads and finished at each cuff with two non-functioning buttons, and the back has a single vent in keeping with the American business suit tradition. In addition to the straight flapped hip pockets, the jacket has a welted breast pocket that Crown dresses with a dark navy polka-dotted silk pocket square.

The suit’s matching five-button waistcoat lacks the unique hallmarks of Crown’s other suits as it is single-breasted (as opposed to the double-breasted waistcoat of his navy suit), has a traditional notched bottom (unlike the straight-cut waistcoats of his plaid and solid gray suits), and isn’t rigged with lapels like that of his brown suit. Perhaps to make up for this lack of deficiency in distinctive detailing, Crown again carries his gold Patek Philippe pocket watch, worn with a “double Albert” chain across his waistcoat with his Phi Beta Kappa fraternity fob.

Steve McQueen poses with his character's luxurious Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow coupe to promote The Thomas Crown Affair.

Steve McQueen poses with his character’s luxurious Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow coupe to promote The Thomas Crown Affair.

Crown’s flat front suit trousers are almost certainly fitted with side adjusters on each side of the waistband, cut straight through the legs to the plain-hemmed bottoms. He appears to also be wearing the same distinctive shoes from the opening sequence, the black calf derbies detailed with perforated medallion “wingtip” toes then a long, sleek vamp back to the single row of black lacing high on the instep.

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR

Crown carries a navy gabardine raincoat that he may have been wearing when outside.

Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

How to Get the Look

Thomas Crown leaves his distinctive details and bolder colors at home for a brief business trip to Switzerland, dressing in the traditional business kit of a conservative chalk-striped flannel three-piece suit… though he allows for some personal details like that polka-dot pocket square, the Patek Phillippe pocket watch, and his unique semi-brogue shoes.

  • Dark navy chalkstripe flannel three-piece tailored suit:
    • Single-breasted 2-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, single vent, and 2-button cuffs
    • Single-breasted 5-button waistcoat with notched botom
    • Flat front trousers with side adjusters, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Pale ecru cotton shirt with semi-spread collar, plain front, and double/French cuffs
    • Mother-of-pearl cuff links
  • Navy woven silk tie
  • Black calf leather semi-brogue wingtip derby shoes with single-row lacing
  • Dark navy dress socks
  • Patek Philippe gold vintage hunter-case pocket watch on thick gold “double Albert” chain with Phi Beta Kappa key fob
  • Navy polka-dot silk pocket square

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie, and subscribe to From Tailors With Love! You’ll get to hear me, Pete, and Matt discuss menswear, movies, McQueen, and more in the latest episode.

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