Steve McQueen’s Glen Plaid 3-Piece as Thomas Crown

Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown in 1968's The Thomas Crown Affair.

Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown in 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair.

Last Friday would have been Steve McQueen’s 83rd birthday. To celebrate Steve and honor an early request from a BAMFStyle follower…

Vitals

Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown, millionaire criminal mastermind

Boston, June 1968

Background

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.

mcqueen suit

Thomas Crown at work and at play.

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 typical height of 5’10”. 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 pocketwatch, 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.

watch

This has a lot more class to it than pulling out your iPhone during a meeting just to check the time.

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 large spread collars and double/French cuffs, fastened together with large round mother-of-pearl cufflinks.

shirt and links

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.

Persol

Custom-tinted sunglasses are a nice way of saying to the world, “I specifically chose my manner of avoiding eye contact.”

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.

full suit

If Aaron Sorkin had his way, this walk-and-talk scene would have lasted for half the film.

For the final touch, Crown dons a pair of drab blue teal leather gloves when handling his ill-gotten gains in the cemetery.

gloves

For that extra BAMF touch, have a set of gloves on hand for dirty money transactions.

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.

Many guys prefer to store beer in their bar fridge, but Steve McQueen takes it up a notch and has a fully-prepared dry martini waiting for him.

Many guys prefer to store beer in their bar fridge, but Steve McQueen takes it up a notch and has a fully-prepared dry martini waiting for him.

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.

tc68a-crop1

  • medium gray Glen Plaid single-breasted 2-button suit coat with long double vents, 1-button fishtail cuffs, breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, and blue silk lining
  • medium gray Glen Plaid waistcoat with a 5-button front, open hip pockets, straight cut across the bottom, and blue silk lining
  • medium gray Glen Plaid flat front trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms and frogmouth side pockets
  • light blue silk button-down dress shirt with large spread collars and double/French cuffs
  • French blue silk necktie, tied in a dimpled half Windsor knot
  • black leather plain-toe loafers
  • black dress socks
  • gold Patek Philippe pocketwatch, worn on a thick gold chain (with a Phi Beta Kappa key fob) in his left vest pocket
  • large round mother-of-pearl cufflinks
  • blue-tinted Persol 714 folding sunglasses with tortoiseshell frames
  • dove gray silk handkerchief, worn in the jacket breast pocket
  • drab blue teal leather gloves

Do Yourself A Favor And…

Buy the movie.

Footnotes

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.

14 comments

  1. Jim

    Steve McQueen is so sharp in this movie. My wife and I love both versions of Thomas Crown. They are two totally different movies.

    • luckystrike721

      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!

  2. Max

    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).

    • luckystrike721

      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?

      • Max

        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.

  3. Max

    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.

    • luckystrike721

      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…

      • Max

        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.

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