When The King Of Cool Found The King Of Kings

No matter how cool and detached you are, with an aura of earthly immediacy and cynical skepticism, you can’t run from the question “What does it all mean?” And when you grow up in Western Civilization, you might find yourself in old age doing things that you never imagined. Such as taking up golf. Or Christianity.

Some of you will remember the article I wrote this summer on Dr. Jordan Peterson. Since then I’ve continued to listen to countless hours of his lectures on, among other things, what he likes to call the psychology of religion.

I even had a revelatory experience on my recent trip to Newport. I was wading in the cold waters at the beach, as I had the day before. But whereas the first day I’d plunged in spontaneously, with my shorts, belt and everything, this day I felt less inspired. It wasn’t spontaneous, and the whole town had come out to surf, and I couldn’t find myself a board. With no board, I was bored.

Then, as I looked out to the horizon and concentrated more deeply on the ocean’s rhythms, I was able to tap into a higher consciousness, where our mythologies and religions and longing for transcendence lie. I made up a challenge, and said, “OK Poseidon, let’s see what you got,” and began diving into the crashing waves and swimming into the next one. Suddenly my human, physical actions had meaning. I was challenging the gods, and in doing so, finding the god within. I thought of the movies we see of warriors we see in films who invoke Zeus or Odin before battle, to inspire them to transcend their trembling, earthly shells. I could see how the invocation of god gives meaning where there was none, and inspires action where there had been lassitude.

Next week a documentary film will be showing at select theaters around the country, that charts the little-known journey by Steve McQueen to Christianity. It’s called “Steve Mcqueen, American Icon: The Untold True Story Of The Spiritual Quest Of A Hollywood Legend.”

And here are a few reminders on the immortal style of McQueen, who, whether dressed up or down, looked perfectly at ease in his mortal coil. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

36 Comments on "When The King Of Cool Found The King Of Kings"

  1. Thanks, Christian. I had no idea that he was a Christ follower. Man, among my earliest memories of my childhood are watching “Dead or Alive” with my dad.

  2. Call me a heretic but that black v-neck sweater looks great with that tweed jacket.

  3. GS, it was actually blue (and not a pleasing shade), though it should have been black. But his jacket is a winner, even if it did have short side vents. Those shoulders are the Ivy Holy Grail.

  4. Mitate, what film is that picture from? Those shoulders look slightly roped to me, not that that’s a bad thing.

  5. It looks like he specifically bought his sport coats with a view to wearing them with sweaters. He likely sized up to accommodate a nice woolly thing underneath.

  6. Charlottesville | October 13, 2017 at 2:06 pm |

    Thanks, Christian. I had never heard of (or suspected) that the king of cool, had been drawn to Christianity. He certainly looks great in the photos you selected. He was an interesting mix of rugged and tough, with a relaxed elegance that is surprising. I think he had a pretty rough early life, and he died far too young, but I’m glad to hear of his faith.

  7. One of my earliest memories is Steve McQueen on the motorcycle, Capt. Virgil Hilts, trying to get through that barbed wire in The Great Escape. Crushed when he didn’t make it through, a kid on the couch in his pajamas. But he was defiant when he was put back in the cooler. Never give up, never give in. Glad he found God before he died.

  8. MacMcConnell | October 13, 2017 at 4:30 pm |

    McQueen’s “The Great Escape” motorcycles are Triumphs painted to look like BMWs. Triumphs were his preference as were Brando’s, Dylan’s, Eastwood’s.

    We also know McQueen was a big fan of Barbour. 😉


  9. Charlottesville. Like to correspond with you sometime. JoelVau – in Colo. now but life-long Virginia joelvau@hotmail.com

  10. Bringing brothers together!

  11. When you’ve been diagnosed with terminal cancer a ‘spiritual quest’ no doubt seems a rational response. Flipping through channels just the other day I was surprised to spot a ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ rerun. Many decades have passed since I last saw the program (wasn’t around for the original run) yet I immediately remembered and recognized the protagonist’s trademark sawed-off rifle in lieu of six-shooter. I frankly forgot, though, that Steve McQueen was the star in that.

  12. Mr. McConnell

    Steve Mc Queen wore and preferred Bestaff jackets over Barbour jackets.


  13. GS, that’s from “Bullitt”. But to paraphrase Horatio Nelson, I see no rope.

  14. GS, please ignore what I just said and please forgive me. You’re absolutely right about the sweater being black and the jacket roped; you said v-neck sweater! But I, with my Bullitt obsession, only ever think of him wearing roll necks, so was referring to the image with blue roll neck and unroped jacket.

  15. My earliest memory of McQueen is ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’, but my favorite performance is ‘Love with the Proper Stranger’ (1963) with Natalie Wood.

  16. Jeffrey Shawn Haber | October 14, 2017 at 9:23 am |

    Steve McQueen was truly the “Consul of Cool”. My Dad, the late Jerry Haber loved watching Steve McQueen’s classic 1968 film “Bullitt” and I would join in to see great action-packed entertainment and a first class actor who radiated style to the maximum. Dad also enjoyed watching Robert Vaughn in “Bullitt” and admired Vaughn’s overcoat worn in that film-which he commented on countless times. For classic knockout entertainment- Steve McQueen is unbeatable in “Bullitt”. My compliments to Mr. Chensvold for this wonderful article on a true Hollywood legend.

  17. Shoulders are roped. Too bad. Not that he cared one bit.

  18. I’ll be purchasing a vintage Triumph Thruxton in January. I’ll be needing every ounce of the Good Lord’s grace once it arrives.

    Having been raised in a devoutly Protestant home which included attending said schools from 3rd grade through college, I often wonder if my soteriological underpinnings will hold fast through old age. Such vexation on ones intellect to consider such matters.

  19. Isaiah Trofimenko | October 14, 2017 at 6:08 pm |

    That dinner jacket looks great. Notice the lapels. Also, amazing cummerbund. Any idea where to buy such a soft silk cummerbund that creates such natural creases?

  20. I thought the movie “Papillon” showed some of his best acting skills. “Tom Horn” very underated movie. God Blessed Steve McQueen no doubt!

  21. MacMcConnell | October 15, 2017 at 12:09 pm |

    H. Korn
    McQueen had an extensive collection of motorcycles, also of moto jackets. I believe the image I posted shows McQueen wearing a Barbour International as I believe all the USA STD International team wore. Note Belstaffs usually have shoulder and elbow pads.

  22. MacMcConnell | October 15, 2017 at 12:13 pm |

    Good choice of bike. I to have a Triumph Thruxton in my collection, but not vintage. Motorcycles are so much cheaper than psychiatrists. 😉

  23. Motorcycle as integration of shadow/wild man = good.

    Motorcycle as avoidance tool for work, family and self problems = bad.

  24. CC

    Motorcycles are ALWAYS dangerous to the riders. In my 60 plus years on this earth, I have never met a motorcyclist who did not eventually severely hurt himself or kill himself while riding. My barber recently died after an accident while riding a Harley motorcycle. Just my opinion based on my life experiences.

  25. MacMcConnell | October 16, 2017 at 12:31 pm |

    H. Korn
    Totally agree with you. Most acquaintances that have died while riding were in one of three categories, chemically impaired or newly into motorcycling or victims of inattentive auto drivers.

    The sad truth of the chemically impaired is that they only kill themselves. Four hundred pound bikes lose in collisions with autos.

    For newbies the problem is purchasing too much bike in relation to experience. Nothing says stupid like an eighteen year old or anyone buying a bike that will go 150 MPH plus for their first bike or even a large Harley in the city. It’s always wise to ride a slow bike well than a fast bike badly.

    Lastly, inattentive drivers are a danger to all regardless of how we commute. Insurance companies consider motorcyclist the best drivers of autos, because of our defensive driving skills and the fact that we are paranoid SOBs. 😉

    Yes, motorcyclist have a 25% higher chance of getting killed than auto motorist when considering vehicle miles traveled.

  26. MacMcConnell | October 16, 2017 at 12:33 pm |

    Same goes for golf, hunting, fishing, alcohol, etc. or strippers. 😉

  27. MacMcConnell

    My barber had 30 years of experience driving motorcycles. He was cutoff on the road by an elderly man making a lane change. He was forced off the road, hit a rut in the shoulder, went up in the air, and broke his neck when he hit the pavement. He was a very nice man. He left behind a wife and two children.

    A young lawyer that I knew, decided to get himself a used motorcycle and learn to drive it. He took it for a spin in December on some side streets in Chicago after having a few drinks. He hit a patch of ice, went up in the air, and he was impaled on a tree on his way down. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. His death was an unfortunate end to a promising young legal career.

    These anecdotes prove your point. I hope you stay safe on your bike. Bye the Bye —- Any man that wears ivy clothing, sports a handlebar mustache, and drives a triumph bike, is most certainly an insurgent.

  28. MacMcConnell | October 16, 2017 at 2:09 pm |

    H. Korn
    I always endeavor to keep the shiny side up. In my neck of the woods British Iron and Vespas were always Ivy. By the way I trimmed my handle bars, now sporting a 70s porn star look. 😉 God Bless.

  29. Well, Mr Korn, thanks for the note of encouragement. I’ll be sure to think of you each time I fasten my helmet.

  30. MacMcConnell | October 17, 2017 at 1:25 pm |

    In high school the Colonel seemed to always tell me “not to kill myself” on my way out the door to go riding. He loved trials bikes, but thought street bikes were insane. Finally I asked him if every time he left the house in a flight suit I said, ” don’t kill yourself” would he feel jinxed? “not to kill myself” became “good luck”. 😉

  31. WFBJr: cheers on your impending purchase! I, myself, am a life-long rider, currently enjoying a temperamental (aren’t they all) Italian machine that my father left me in his will. That will soon be handed down to my nephew, and I’ll be back in the market. For all the dangers mentioned above, as well as a few others, my better-half merely tolerates my two-wheeled, motorized hobby. (although she did seem to enjoy an early date involving a two-up ride through La Jolla and Torrey Pines, which led to my buying her a 50cc Vespa for our 10th anniversary).

    In any event, the *only* bike I’ve ever seen elicit an actual spark in here eye was the Bonneville Thruxton. I’ll look forward to your in-depth review!

    My original intent here was to comment that, somewhere in CC’s original post is a not-too-hidden baptism allegory. I haven’t yet sketched out a full response to it, though…

  32. Fascinating! Hadn’t occurred to me. Though I was certainly aware of connecting with Mother Nature.

  33. Charlottesville | October 18, 2017 at 2:13 pm |

    Joel — I enjoyed our e-mail exchange. Thanks, Christian, for the introduction.

  34. Cuff Shooter | August 30, 2018 at 4:25 am |

    McQueen’s estate also included two fully operational machine guns, I remember reading.

  35. elder prep | May 18, 2019 at 8:11 pm |

    What is the car he is/was driving in the first two photos?

  36. OldSchool59 | July 21, 2019 at 1:22 am |

    Jaguar XK SS. You can see it at the Peterson in LA

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