Steve McQueen (3) (20) copy 2_crop copy

© Photograph Judith Jamison/Barry Feinstein Photography, Inc.

A new book shows that Steve McQueen could wear an undarted sack jacket and more than live up to his title as king of cool. Based on candids and stills from the movie “Bullitt” taken by friend Barry Feinstein, “Unseen McQueen” is due out next week from Reel Art Press.

The book includes a foreword by “The Ivy Look” co-author Graham Marsh, who writes, “McQueen wore probably the most influential set of Ivy threads in movie history.”

He should have qualified that by adding “in the eyes of England.”

Marsh, who lives in London and works at Reel Art, admits that McQueen’s sportcoat, with its dual vents and ticket pocket, is “an Ivy hybrid.” Now some of you fuddy-duddies, reactionaries and retro-eccentrics would say, “I’m aware there are Ivy-esque jackets out there, but in my mind they’re simply incorrect; call them Ivy failures.”

But things are different in England, and, if the forum “Talk Ivy” is to be trusted, largely due to his wardrobe in  “Bullitt,” McQueen is held up as one of the Ivy apostles, alongside retailer John Simons and the guy in the Stanley Blacker for Cecil Gee ad (more on that in an upcoming post). McQueen’s non-kosher jacket is lionized as the apex of cinematic Ivy threads for a couple of reasons: it’s from the past, not the present, and it’s worn by an “everyman” (movie stars qualify as “everyman,” or at least their characters do), not a white-shoe lawyer who went to Yale. (Marsh also refers to McQueen as “our man,” a curious habit English Ivy fans have when talking about American actors of the past.)

The jacket went up for auction earlier this year and fetched $720,000.

As for the rest of McQueen’s “Bullitt” costume, here’s Marsh’s description:

Under the jacket is a navy blue cashmere turtleneck sweater. At the bottom of the narrow, plain front trousers are a pair of the brown suede Playboy chukka boots that are still sought after today. Over the total outfit is a tan, fly front raglan sleeved single-breasted raincoat. Oh yes, and for those off-duty moments he wore that iconic, brown, shawl-collared cardigan.

However, what really makes these classic Ivy clothes work is the McQueen swagger — for which, unfortunately there are no guide books. That, plus he knew there is no substitute for digging the clothes you wear.

In addition to providing an intimate look at McQueen’s “Bullitt” wardrobe, “Unseen McQueen” depicts the actor working and hanging out on the set, taking time off to race cars, and generally living up to his moniker as the king of cool.


© Photograph Judith Jamison/Barry Feinstein Photography, Inc.

Steve McQueen (2) (8) copy

© Photograph Judith Jamison/Barry Feinstein Photography, Inc.

One more thing: leafing through “Unseen McQueen” reminded me I have something in common with the king of cool besides just a taste for turtlenecks and hybrid-Ivy jackets.

We’ve both worked with Jacqueline Bissett. — CC