Cooling Things Down: The Steve McQueen Lookbook


Yesterday at Ivy Style headquarters the phone did not stop not ringing, a sign that the cool people, who of course were too cool to bother complaining, were not pleased with the prospect of an entire month (save for Gatsby coverage) devoted to squares. So in the interest of never pleasing all the people all of the time, we’re doing a cool post. And you know who the go-to guy is for that.

GQ has a 91-slide Steve McQueen “lookbook” of candids and movie stills. That means in some of the slides he’s wearing cowboy duds, but it’s an interesting look at the man’s life (such as his jazz collection) and work, the style he exuded no matter what he wore, and how he aged, which, not surprising, was pretty damn well. These kind of rugged handsome types always seem to look their best on the back nine of life. Sorry, squares.

Here are some of our favorites around Ivy Style HQ. You can see the full slideshow here. — CC





35 Comments on "Cooling Things Down: The Steve McQueen Lookbook"

  1. leisureclass | May 2, 2013 at 9:30 am |

    A nice gesture, but I’m sorta sick of internet McQueen worship.

    During that era Newman and Lemmon were both cooler and more talented.

  2. fred astaire | May 2, 2013 at 10:12 am |

    Agree with above. SM, to me, was over rated and besides that he smacked around his wife.

    Much prefer Lemmon or Newman.

  3. Jeff Jarmuth | May 2, 2013 at 10:49 am |

    Couldn’t care less about his personal life. McQueen’s nonchalant style is worth re-documenting from time to time. Nobody pulls off a herringbone sack coat quite like SM.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you Christian. Enough already of the nerds. I really like the look in the second picture you posted also. It’s from an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode from 1960 entitled “Man From The South”. It’s in black and white but it looks like a white or light colored OCBD, black v neck sweater, dark charcoal trousers and his trademark brown Playboy boots. Also starring Peter Lorrie and McQueen’s wife at the time, Neille.(who doesn’t look bad either) Full episode here

  5. As a 17 year old, I remember seeing him in “The Thomas Crown Affair” and becoming obsessed with the lavender silk tie he wore. I’d never seen one that color before and made it my mission to find one. No easy task in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1968.

  6. All in all, and “Bullitt” & “The Magnificent Seven” aside, my preference is for Ali MacGraw.

  7. America loves an anti-hero on screen, McQueen was one in real life as well.

  8. I much liked the post on Jack Lemmon, who had great unaffected Ivy Style. To me Steve McQueen seemed to try too hard. One can hail from the great Hoosier state of Indiana, and still be authentic at least in sartorial matters: James Dean, Mishikinakwa aka Little Turtle, Bill Blass, and Halston especially; John Poindexter, Earl Butz, Dan Quayle, and Jimmy Hoffa not so much. And McQueen falls into that long line of American men who must remind us that they are manly men: Ernest Hemingway and John Wayne have passed on; Mel Gibson and Robert Bly remain. After all, today one can purchase Steve McQueen “lifestyle” items to ape the “master”: a collection of Barbour jackets, a pair of Persol sunglasses, a Heuer watch, a couple of Rolexes, and various cars and motorcycles. I’ve seen the male hipster crowd in the Brentwood, Venice Beach, and Silver Lake neighborhoods of Los Angeles sporting such S.M.-approved accoutrements the better to express their Id. None needs to do so if he can play the piano in front of Bobby Short.

  9. I have to heartily agree with leisureclass, fred Astaire and Bebe: Paul Newman enjoyed a higher Cool Coefficient than McQueen. Paul was never caught trying to be cool, which of course is the antithesis of cool.

    McQueen certainly possessed an above-average degree of cool, but he unfortunately had occasion to try and be cool beyond his innate threshold. His acting in Le Mans reveals this quite clearly.

    That said, he did seem to have a way with clothing and accessories; his only real blunder I can recall is the selection of blue lenses for his Persol sunglasses in The Thomas Crown Affair.

    To paraphrase Lieutenant Harry Callahan in Sudden Impact; nobody, I mean nobody looks cool in blue sunglasses.

  10. My all time favorite actor!

  11. Bebe
    Different men different styles. Lemmon was Ivy League, Boston, Phillips Academy, Harvard. Today you can purchase his lifestyle items at J. Press or Brooks.

    Just because McQueen’s estate and manufacturers have incentives to cash in on his legacy is no reflection on him. Did he wear ivy well, with a personal style? Did he actually wear Barbour, G-9s, A-2s, race Triumphs, etc., etc.. ?

  12. J Kraus
    Enjoy occasionally checking out the autos on your blog. The”blue lense” comment by Clint Eastwood was an inside joke, McQueen had originally been offered the original “Dirty Harry” lead and turned it down. I’m speculating, but they were probably personal acquaintances through their motorcycle connections.

  13. MAC; thanks for visiting! Check back in a few days; I am currently working on an off-topic post you might enjoy.

  14. The lede pic of McQueen with the black/brown herringbone tweed jacket, black shetland Shaggy Dog looking sweater partially hiding the white probably oxford button-down shirt and his modest groomed blonde hair makes him look like every top tier Theta Delt or Beta jock I knew who played for Bob Blackman or Red Rolfe at Dartmouth back in the fifties. Perfect.

  15. M Arthur | May 2, 2013 at 8:33 pm |

    Jake Holman -Sand Pebbles

  16. Cranky Yankee | May 3, 2013 at 11:08 am |

    McQueen and Natalie Wood were great in ‘Love with the Proper Stranger’.

  17. Unless I’m mistaken, McQueen died at age 50. That’s really sad. He didn’t get a chance to get old. Paul Newman, on the other hand, died in his eighties. I recall when the movie “The Verdict” came out, the media flooded the fact that he was sixty. Paul Newman was the only man I can recall my mother commented on about being handsome, except for my Dad.

  18. Wriggles: Your comment reminds me of an event from the mid-1990s. Before I took up a life of leisure, I worked in the entertainment industry where celebrities were a normal part of the landscape. Nevertheless, I will always remember the day Paul Newman arrived at the firm where I was ensconced.

    When word spread that Mr. Newman was in the parking lot, virtually every female in the building (from fresh-out-of-school to near-retirement) abandoned their offices and cubicles and dashed to the window hoping to glimpse the (by then around 70 years old) man. I never witnessed similar behaviour before or after.

  19. Jeff Jarmuth | May 3, 2013 at 1:58 pm |

    @ J Kraus. I bet you would have seen similar behavior if your firm represented Cary Grant….

  20. Unfortunately McQueen and Newman lived long enough to make “The Towering Inferno”.

  21. @MAC They were both in another bomb when they were young also- “Somebody Up There Likes Me”

  22. George
    Yes, the first time McQueen was in a movie. Newman played the lead, Rocky Graziano. It’s actually a decent B movie. McQueen’s first lead was “The Blob”, which had pretty good production values for the time, I mean I’m talkin late 50s. Think I spend too much time watching Netflix and TCM?

  23. M Arthur | May 3, 2013 at 8:27 pm |

    MAC, I’m LOL, Towering Inferno! The lengths a man will go to make a buck!

  24. MAC,
    The point I’ll concede you is that Messrs. Lemmon and McQueen were different men. The decline of Brooks has been chronicled ad nauseam herein (and Press is not far behind), so I doubt that anything Jack Lemmon wore is available…or would even be merchandised like items from McQueen’s closet. Perhaps many years hence we will delight in the fine wardrobe of the latest Gatsby movie- the Henley jacket I saw there recently did not even have the stripes aligned. Yet, for myself I don’t take clothing cues from Hollywood actors since they’re merely celebrated entertainers.

    Which is my point. Steve McQueen had a studied acting performance that lost something with its obviousness. I recall my parents and their friends watching “The Great Escape” on video, and raving at the awesomeness of the motorcycle jump et al. I thought it was rather a silly movie built solely around Mr. McQueen, and one which could hardly hold its own against, say, “The Guns of Navarone.” Looking at Mr. McQueen in any part of his kit, I see someone who knew the cinematic effect of his clothes- and chose to wear that Barbour jacket for its perceived fame, and not because it was best for the job at hand. As I kid, I went with my father many times to Riverside Raceway where on different occasions I espied both McQueen and Newman in their fire suits- it was Newman whose driving impressed me, but it seemed more guys crowded around McQueen. Still, when one becomes a parody (John Wayne comes to mind again- “Duke” collector pistols for CCW as used in “Ride Him, Cowboy”?), perhaps it is time to ring down the curtain.

    Of course (thanks kindly, Dr. Freud), our judgments of value are just attempts to support our illusions with arguments!

  25. Bebe
    First, as a movie buff I love Lemmon, McQueen and Newmann, they bring different personal styles. They had different backgrounds, upper, lower and middle class. Two studied acting at Ivy League schools, one studied in NY, paid for with motorcycle race winnings. All close in age.

    “Guns of Navarone” and “The Great Escape”, both good movies and one is base on history, Stalag Luft III. The famous Bud Ekins made the motorcycle jump, he has probably performed in more movies than the three mentioned above combined. Ekins was McQueen’s best friend, being from California Bebe, you might have heard of the Johnson Motor Company in the valley, he owned it. In Triumph’s heyday JMC sold more bikes than any dealership in the world, to James Dean, Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty, etc. Which brings me to Barbour. The photos of McQueen were taken while competing in the International Six Day Trials in Europe on the USA Team. The team organised by McQueen and Ekins brought home gold three years in a row. FYI, Barbour has been traditional motorcycle wear since before WWI, for all I know T. E. Lawrence died in a Barbour, probably not, Barbour would use that in advertising. 😉

    McQueen and Newman auto racing, both had success, both didn’t even start seriously till they were in their 40s, a little late. Newman invested more money in it longer, sponsoring and owning teams.

    Unfortunately, most of our iconic photos of interesting people from the past are in black and white. For all we know they had suck taste in colors.

    I can’t remember if it was Freud or my uncle Sammy, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.

  26. Running out of material, are we?

  27. Josh Randall | May 5, 2013 at 3:51 am |

    Yet you just can’t stay away, can you?

  28. @Josh Randall

    No, I can’t, because I keep hoping that I’ll find something that doesn’t deal with jazz, “cool” movie stars, etc.

  29. MAC,
    Since I have little interest in their products, I was not aware that Barbour had any association with motorcycling. I rather thought the jackets never ventured beyond the horse paddock…or certain neighborhoods of West L.A. Thanks kindly for that tidbit- I shall savor the moment when I can proffer the gem to my neighbor, the grande dame, whom I mentioned in connection with a prior post of CC’s on quilted jackets. She will occasionally sally forth so garbed, yet I can imagine her consternation and ill-ease upon hearing that her favored jacket once graced the shoulders of riders of lesser status than Tommy Hitchcock and Princess Anne.

    Had to ask my dad about Johnson Motors, which he quickly recalled with a couple of personal anecdotes. I actually like the last pix of the Irish sweater-clad McQueen sitting in the dune buggy on the beach. Reminds of me an older neighbor we knew who took his ride down to Baja in the winter for unrestricted sand driving. He never would have worn a ballcap or smoked a panatella, but he did have a slew of heavy sweaters from Galway (or maybe it was just the same one) and usually had a palm straw lifeguard hat strapped on his head.

  30. Gotta pay homage to John Simmons for popularising this look in London. Ivy Shop in Richmond was the main mod shop we used back in the 60’s.

  31. Etymologue | May 6, 2013 at 2:25 am |


    Hard for us Yanks to understand how “ivy” and “mod” can be used synonymously.

  32. Whatever about his personal life SM had style

  33. McQueen was a dick. I’m tired of the vapid worship of his “style”.

  34. He looks like an Episcopal vestryman.

    Add sunglasses and a cigarette to any scene and it immediately becomes “cool.” Automatic.

  35. RaleighPrep | August 18, 2022 at 5:26 pm |

    There’s a reason why so many blogs and sites are dedicated to Steve McQueen and his style: he looked damn cool in whatever he wore. The guy had good taste in clothes and wore them extremely well. Tired of the SM worship? Don’t read blogs or blogposts devoted to SM’s innate coolness. I’m tired of commenters arguing about who’s was/is authentically “Ivy,” based on their academic CV—the same types insisting “We’re the ONLY ones!” And that you’re only Trad/Ivy if you went to Andover and Yale. (*Yawn*)

Comments are closed.