Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Ivy Blah

Somebody's been in touch and given me the idea to name a forum or two that might be of interest to Steve McQueen style fans. I'll refrain from comment and let you find out what they're like, but feel free at the end of this post to give suggestions and to comment yourself. Here's three of the best, far as I can see:

Film Noir Buff Forums
Style Forum
The Fedora Lounge

OK, here we go. It's impossible to talk about Steve McQueen without mentioning Ivy League style. The Ivy League is the collective name of eight prestigious universities on the USA's East Coast that have plenty of ivy on their buildings. It also signifies a style of men's clothes, popular across the USA in the mid-20th century and epitomised on the campuses of these universities. It was the sort of thing Steve McQueen wore. I invoked the look a couple of posts ago when I put the word natural quite close to the word shoulders. Unpadded shoulders are representative of an Ivy sports coat. The term three-two roll signifies the style as well.

Brooks Brothers was synonymous with this type of clothing. People knew the shop particularly for suits, but its most popular item was the "oxford cloth button-down" (OCBD) dress shirt. Plenty of presidents wore Brooks Brothers clothes. John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, George Bush senior, Bill Clinton. Barack Obama wears Brooks Brothers. The Fitzgerald collection is based on JFK suits. Kennedy can still cause fucking mayhem in Ivy circles, not least because the absolutely out of control philandering bastard-hero sometimes wore jackets with only two buttons. We all aspire to that level of rebellion, but it's a wonder somebody didn't beat Oswald to it.

Persol 714 Steve McQueen limited edition
with double arrow on temple arm

Kennedy was another Persol fan, by the way, and while I think about it: I got the photo of the supposedly limited edition 714s a couple of posts ago from the Persol website. I noticed after, it's a normal pair of 714s with (probably Photoshopped) blue lenses. The limited version is supposed to have the double arrow on the temple arm. I think they've fixed the image at least, but a few people have a few things to say about the actual sunglasses. Persol's attempt to replicate the McQueen version* is half-hearted, and the folding system is botched to the point where it's easy to damage the glasses. Thanks in particular to the comment left earlier.

Don Draper: Madman

OK, back to Brooks Brothers. Stars like Andy Warhol and, well, let's just say everybody from Jimmy Stewart to Jack Kerouac wore their stuff too. TV drama Mad Men is beautiful in many ways including aesthetically, and those aesthetics are Ivy. I mean it has smoky jazzy Ivy style draped across every modernist chair. Brooks Brothers supplied the grey flannel suits.

Here, after all that, is the anticlimactic information I have to impart in terms of Steve McQueen style jackets: the current Brooks Brothers sports coats are a way from our beloved Bullitt version.

The Ivy Look

The Ivy Look: An Illustrated Pocket Guide is a recent book, and the authors' names are Graham Marsh and JP Gaul. If you have an interest in this style, I recommend it. The blurb on the back calls it "a pictorial celebration of the clothing and accessories that dominated the American male dress code from 1955 to 1965".

J.Press brown herringbone
Pressclusive sports coat

J.Press is a bit like Brooks Brothers. The Ivy Look refers to it as "the other original Ivy retailer". J.Press currently sells a sports coat, in its "Pressclusive" (hmm) range, which gets closer in ways to the Bullitt ideal than the jacket I recommended last post. It certainly looks fucking amazing in its own right. You lose on the pockets and elbow patches, and conventional Ivy is a centre back vent rather than one to each side. It's a brown herringbone "sack", though, which means it hangs loose, has the important unstructured tailoring, the soft shoulders (remember to fasten only the middle button!). [Update: old rather than new J.Press is unstructured!]

J.Press delivers to the UK. The jacket is usually $595/£380, but a 25% off sale makes it $447/£285. I don't know if that's just for around Thanksgiving or what. (Thanksgiving is an important harvest festival in the USA. I don't know how much it's celebrated around this, but they get the fourth Thursday in November and the next day off work every year, like we get Christmas and Boxing Day I think. I've just looked it up and they don't tend to get Easter or Boxing Day as bank holidays, so no need for jealousy.)

Some Ivy fans say they prefer J.Press to Brooks Brothers, that J.Press clothes are of better quality. Some prefer J.Press because Brooks Brothers are too popular, though. The next time you feel the need to defend your interest in stylish clothes from allegations of inherent superficiality, why not take solace in the what I have is better because I have it and you don't line of argument? Jesus Christ. Anyway, others say that both Brooks Brothers and J.Press stuff is poor quality. They say things aren't what they used to be. Well, that phrase is certainly as banal as ever. Thing is, people with a good deal more expertise than me have said it and, in this regard at least, I happen to put my trust in them. If they're right, the only way to get hold of the good stuff is on places like eBay. [Update: they're right! See Steve McQueen Style Ladies: Neile.]

It's easy to over think all this, though. Exclusivity is more important than quality, as real style-obsessed fans will tell you. The true Ivy devotees, for instance, have plumped to dress exactly like Julius Caesar for the next two weeks. Only they can say what's truly Ivy, after all. They'll wear replica sandals and a linen tunica for a fortnight, after which, depending on votes, they'll either dress as the Duke of Windsor on his 1937 European tour (this currently gets two votes) or the tambourinist from The Seekers (this has the other vote).

*A Hollywood optician called Dennis Roberts, whose clients also included Elvis, fitted the blue lenses to the "light Havana" colour (code 96) Persol 714 frames Steve wore in The Thomas Crown Affair. God is in the details and, while I'm at it, the earliest attribution of the phrase "God is in the details" is modernist architect van der Rohe.

PS This is quite a postscript for a frivolous style blog, I know, but I have to qualify my Mad Men admiration. Protagonist Don Draper, in episode six of the first series, works on a campaign for the Israeli tourist board. He flicks through Holocaust images.

Don: I can see why they want the guns.

I'm ashamed to say that, for a moment, I fear Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has just used one set of atrocities to excuse another. (Others wrote the episode, but Weiner has discussed his direct involvement with that scene in interview.)

Don meets beautiful Rachel Menken later the same episode. He discusses the group he met from the tourist board.

Don: Well, those people at the meeting were definitely Zionists.
Rachel: Zion just means Israel.

Oh right, OK. Rachel and the group from the Israeli tourist board then become as one:

Rachel: I don't know, a country for "those people" as you call us, well - it seems very important.

Ayn Rand was a novelist, an advocate of self-interest, a critic of altruism. Atlas Shrugged is one of her best-known novels, in which the world's most successful people get cheesed off with the rest of us cramping their style. They up sticks until society all but collapses without them and we see the error of our ways.

People wonder why Mad Men references Rand. I read somewhere on the internet that Matthew Weiner is an Obama advocate, but I can't find anything to substantiate it. Is it possible to support both Obama and Ayn Rand? Brad Pitt is apparently a fan of both, which seems plausible. Obama was cool in the run-up for office at least, and as for Ayn Rand, well, Hollywood stars are prime candidates for a philosophy that flatters the spoilt inner child: "I always knew it was OK to be selfish! It's just like Atlas Shrugged - the world ceases to spin without me!" If Brad Pitt disappears, we can replace him with a poster.

If Matthew Weiner were an Ayn Rand follower, he'd naturally think of himself in terms as the titan, the superman behind Mad Men. He famously fired one writer soon after she helped win them an Emmy, and you can read stuff about that. I'm not a conspiracy theorist. Neil Armstrong went to the fucking moon. You can read about Weiner's behaviour towards the programme's writers and about the credits they receive. I get the impression that a Wikileak of the production would provide enough material for an award-winning television drama, but Mad Men itself is enough for now. It's a great programme. Much greater than the efforts of Matthew Weiner or any one person.

Now, how do I relate this back to Steve McQueen? My interest is healthily superficial. I care about his cardigans rather than his politics.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Updates Blah

Sorry for the broken promises and weirdly long intervals between posts. Steve McQueen Style is a lovely little world. It's just that taken as a whole, as you'd expect from the laws of the universe, everything else occupies more space.

Thanks for the comments. Do continue to reply to posts regardless of their age. I'll get round to crash helmets and the other things people want me to mention. It's just a question of when. One other thing: if you have a shirty disposition, so to speak, I can put up with it as long as you actually have something to say.

A word on style forums (not fora). They occasionally remind me of the time I saw two drunks shout about whose jumper was the best colour. The man with the dark brown said it was his and the man with the camel jumper said his was best. That was a shit argument. The worst bit was when it became apparent, from drunken mumbles between the shouts, the man in the dark brown jumper actually preferred the camel one and only argued otherwise because he knew his beer belly would look even worse in it. Everything was OK then, though, because my friend came out of the toilet and we went somewhere else. Forums are great if you want to get involved in pointless interaction but they also have, and are better for, engaging experts and a wealth of information.

OK, "news". Bad first: things are even more expensive. The average price, for instance, of Red Wing 3141 is now £160.

 Red Wing 8113

One comment posted on this blog, while we're here, remarks that Red Wing 8113s (Iron Ranger boot in the hawthorne colour) have something of The Great Escape.

Good news! L.L.Bean is a US shop that's been about since 1912. It's a favourite with Ivy fans (more on the nebulous notion of "Ivy" later). L.L.Bean Signature is an offshoot. It's a cack-handed attempt to grope young people, but it has a sale in which you'll find my beloved Sperry Top-Sider 75th Anniversary CVO. $45, or about £30. Beware, as usual, of import duties from the US. Delivery to the UK is reasonable, though. It's from $20, which is under £13. Thanks to whoever left that comment (Mr Bean?).

OK, countries. Some people, sometimes with good reason, like to know where clothes are made. I've mentioned that Sanders, George Cox and Church put their footwear together in England, Red Wing in the US.

Clarks suede desert boot (colour is "sand")

I prefer things made as close to home as possible, but Clarks desert boots (£79) are made in Vietnam. Some people say these Clarks are uncomfortable, hard to break in, too narrow (even the Clarks website says they're narrow). I find them the easiest thing to wear on the ends of my legs from the moment I buy them. I often go up a size with other shoes to compensate for my wide feet. Clarks desert boots fit perfectly in my true size 10. People sometimes put the boot into these Clarks, so to speak, and when they do, along with whatever other reason they seem to have, often they mention Vietnam.

Sperry Top-Siders and Keds are made in China. A company called Luxottica owns Persol and Ray-Ban, meanwhile, and the story is those brands were better before Luxottica owned them, which I'm sure is right. Companies can make things worse anywhere, though. Ray-Bans are made in China and Italy. Persols are handmade in Italy.

The 1947 501s I mention in this blog are made in the US, but your other Levi's are likely to come from Turkey, Poland, Mexico, Columbia. You should try to ensure it's made ethically and well, of course, but globalisation is the way of the world. I've intimated in other posts that Steve McQueen style is a tricky thing to achieve. I've also said Steve's clothes would look good first and historically accurate to the period in which his films were set second, and that's the attitude from which to draw Steve McQueen style lessons. His denim was made in the USA but, today, the cut of a pair made elsewhere might somehow imbue it with more Steve McQueenness.

Let me say it again for amazing effect: Steve McQueen style is a tricky thing to achieve. It raises arguments. Steve McQueen obviously, on the one hand, thought a good deal about the details of his clothing. He didn't, on the other, spend unhealthy amounts of time on the internet trying to dress like Steve McQueen. If there's one lesson you should take from this blog, it's be yourself and don't worry about the details.

OK, that's not right. The lesson you should take from this blog is the thing about clothes that look good rather than accurate. That'll do.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


I'll post properly soon, I promise. "Steve Wears The Trousers." I was going to do T-shirts after that, but I'll probably do a winter special or at least jump ahead to cardigans.

It's this before anything, though.

Grand Prix Legends describes itself as the "leading vendor" of motor sport merchandise. They sell related books, DVDs, caps, T-shirts, leathers, helmets, even die-cast models of racing cars and bikes.

Grand Prix Legends has a range of merchandise that relates to Steve McQueen, but it goes beyond stuff that overlaps with racing. What's more, they've launched a sister site that just sells the Steve McQueen stuff. The King Of Cool has the strapline, "The unofficial McQueen lifestyle site". That's an horrific word, lifestyle. Some of the stuff they sell gives me the proper heebie-jeebies, too. How about a "Frank Bullitt holster rollneck"? Yes please, with an actual print of a fucking gun and holster on it. I know I get angry, but I fucking swear that I often take a breath, say "not my thing" and look the other way.

Bullitt (1968)

One thing sane people do, as we all know, is spend a good portion of their spare time on eBay searching for a brown tweed jacket a bit like the one in Bullitt. I'm a usual sort of size and still I have no luck.

J.Crew harvest herringbone Ludlow sports coat

I see, beyond eBay, a "harvest herringbone Ludlow sportcoat". It's on the J.Crew website. J.Crew is a lovely US shop, but they don't deliver to the UK (it sells for $275/£175).

Frank Bullitt jacket

Grand Prix Legends and The King Of Cool sell a "Frank Bullitt jacket" for £200. They've limited production to two runs of 250. It's a brown jacket, herringbone tweed from a Scottish mill. It has notched lapels, double vents, a three button front. It also has a two-button cuff, three pocket flaps and a top pocket. Yeah, it has elbow patches. It's close, in short, to the Bullitt shooting jacket. [Update: I was overexcited and failed to explain how it's close except in the important area of structure!]

The boss of Grand Prix Legends hooked up with a tailor. Together they watched Bullitt on Blu-Ray and studied close-up photographs of the jacket from the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA. The blurb on The King Of Cool website says the result is as close as you'll find to the one in Bullitt, and it's true. [Update: it's true except for the important area of structure! See Ivy Blah, Corrections And Clarifications, Steve McQueen Style Ladies: Neile, Newton Street Vintage.]

Both websites size the jacket S/M/L/XL/XXL/3XL. S is a 38, M a 40, L a 42 ... The label on my M Frank Bullitt jacket actually reads, 40R. That's my usual size, but I'm on the slim and small end of it. The jacket fits perfectly.

The other two labels sewn into this jacket give me the heebie-jeebies. The inside left has a Lieutenant Frank Bullitt name tag. It's small and subtle, but you know how I feel about these things. You get quite a big patch on the inside right with a picture and The King Of Cool on it. God. Help. Me.

Instant update! My girlfriend has introduced me to an intuitive little tool called a "stitch unpicker". Rather than try to tear off the shitty patch, I used this simple thing to get rid of it safely. It only took a few minutes. It left one long dangly bit of thread, which my girlfriend said was probably knotted in the lining (she's the thinker), so I cut that bit. The stitch imprint left behind from the procedure is neat and minimal.

"Steve Wears The Trousers" next time, definitely. If you have suggestions of jacket alternatives meanwhile, if you think the shoulders on this one should be more natural, if you have anything to say for yourself in fact, post a comment.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Steve McQueen's Jeans (Part Two)

News and updates first:

1. I should've mentioned last post that the Sanders website has the playboy boot in dark brown where Oi Polloi has them in the more accurate "snuff" colour. Oi Polloi has almost sold out again but anyway, an advantage of the direct Sanders & Sanders route is they stock half sizes. What's more, dark colours wear well and it's better if at least some of your McQueen clothing choices aren't cock-on.

Persol 714 Steve McQueen limited edition

2. Persol has launched limited edition Steve McQueen 714 sunglasses. They feature the elaborate original version of the folding components and, just the sort of thing to put me off, his signature etched on the case and the inside of the arm. Giarre is an Italian website, by the way, that offers polarized Persol 714s at £155 (includes postage). One other large Ray-Ban Aviator I should've recommended last time I rattled on about them, while we're back on the subject of sunglasses, is the model with the light blue lenses (colour code 001/3F).

Dior Eau Sauvage

3. Steve McQueen's estate has OK'd the release of a Steve McQueen cologne. 100ml for €190/£165. French fashion house Christian Dior launched Eau Sauvage eau de toilette in 1966. I heard he wore that. You can get 50ml for £42 from House Of Fraser.

An aside: have you seen Steven R. McQueen? He's the man's grandson. (Steve's son Chad is the dad.) He's in a piranha movie and some vampire TV series. It's a strange thing to see. He has the look of the generic modern young American actor with a few of those original genes running through him.

OK, enough of genes and on with...

Two more things about vintage style jeans:

1. It's always the last place you look. I recommended a pair of dry 1950s Lee Japan 101 reproductions, if you can get them. Well, our local Lee website sells that ideal: 1952 101Z (it doesn't say 1952 but I checked with them). €200/£170 although I've seen the odd size cheaper elsewhere. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Steve McQueen never paid £215 for his Levi's 501s. It's obvious that the 1947 reproductions I mention in part one are grotesquely overpriced. The cost increase in less than a year has approached 100% thanks to those old capitalistic partners greed and demand. Bad news. Cotton prices and taxes are on the increase.

So now, at last, is the main part of the show ...

Steve McQueen wore Levi's and Lee but, of the two, Levi's makes the best modern mass-produced jean. Experience tells me that European mainstream Levi's are of a higher standard than US, although I'm yet to try the newer style US shrink-to-fit 501s.

Levi's in essence has three contemporary cuts with Steve McQueen style: 501, 511 and 514. Get them in the darkest blue and cleanest finish you can find and wear into them.

Levi's 501 ("Onewash" finish, code 0101)

Levi's 501 are, as the Americans like to say, regular fit. Buy Jeans is a cheap and cheerful website that sells these for £45.

Levi's 511 ("S. Diamond" finish, code 0455)

Levi's 511 are slim-fit with a tapered leg. The "S. Diamond" finish has a great feel (they're 2% elastane, and the "S" stands for "stretch"). You can get them from Buy Jeans for £55.

Levi's 514 ("Tumbled Rigid" finish, code 4010)

Levi's doesn't sell 514 in the UK. They're slim with a straight leg, a combination that gives almost a bootcut effect. Perhaps this is why they don't sell here. Except for a western, in this tiny regard they're different to what you'd usually expect from slim-fit Steve McQueen. (The compound slim-fit is hardly recent, by the way. I have a 1950s Levi's advert that sells, for $2.63, slim-fit jeans.) You can get this finish through eBay for about £35 including postage and packing.

Edwin ED-77

Many Japanese denim lovers choose Edwin over Levi's. ED-77 is a modern premium jean, low-rise and slim-fit. Oi Polloi sells them for £95.

Daniel Craig wearing 7 For All Mankind

It's time for Steve McQueen Style's Daniel Craig heritage section. He wears 7 For All Mankind, a relatively recent LA brand, in Quantum Of Solace. The finish is "Mercer". The exact type he wears is unavailable now, but the current "Slimmy" comes close and still suits our slim-fit purposes. They're $174/£115 plus the costs of international dealing.

Next time: Steve Wears The Trousers

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Steve McQueen's Jeans (Part One)

People, especially advocates of cockney rhyming slang, think of Steve McQueen as synonymous with jeans (those cheeky chaps say "Steve's", which is short for "Steve McQueen's", which is rhyming slang for "jeans"). He wears them in only a few of his movies, though. He has blue denim beneath his chaps in the odd western scene. It's one item of Steve McQueen clothing, in fact, that's sometimes less than perfectly pitched and, to paraphrase the man himself, the difference between cool and uncool is in the details. Lee 101Z should be slim-fit with a great finish, but the ones in Junior Bonner are merely tight and those in The Hunter too light.

The Hunter (1980)

Jeans are the only item of clothing with more of a mythology than Steve McQueen. Given all this, the next couple of posts will present an overview of denim and point out bits of general interest, as well as try to find where it crosses paths with Steve McQueen's sense of style.

Levi's red selvedge

Manufacturers used to weave denim on narrow shuttle looms, which created self-finished edges called selvedge. (Self-finished edge ... self-edge ... selvedge.) It made for lasting jeans. The inside selvedge created a distinctive effect to which mills usually added coloured lines unique to each jean company (which for Levi's were usually red). The edges of modern mass-produced denim are cut on projectile looms, but the last few years have seen an increase in denim made the old way.

On location, in the backwoods of Columbus, Texas, for Baby, The Rain Must Fall (1963) from the book Steve McQueen: Photographs by William Claxton

Many people wear turn-ups nowadays, not least to show off the selvedge and chain-stitched hem (we'll get to that). Steve McQueen usually wore denim that erred on the side of short, and when he did have a turn-up it was narrow.

Dry 1947 Levi's 501 reproduction

Levi's recreates the definitive jean, the 1947 version of the 501, in all its selvedge glory. They're made in the USA on shuttle looms, and the best are unwashed, also known as raw or dry, which is as dark blue as dark blue denim gets. Oi Polloi sells them for £215.

Unless it's preshrunk or sanforized, which is a process to lessen shrinkage, denim will reduce in size noticeably in the wash. The size of jeans made with shuttle looms can be erratic, but the rule for unsanforized denim like those 1947 501s is to buy one up from usual. Any indigo denim will also fade in the wash. It's difficult to say which method provides the best compromise to shrink-to-fit your jeans and preserve the colour. You can turn them inside out and soak them in a cold bath, or you can get into them and have a cool bath or shower. Denim loses indigo by transfer as well. Until that first soak or you've worn them for a while, be careful with white T-shirts and the like.

It'll take a few goes to shrink unsanforized denim to its full extent. You can use various methods to avoid unwanted shrinkage and loss of colour. Rather than put them in the machine, hang them up to air when they smell. Put them in a plastic bag in the freezer for the night. Take them to the dry-cleaners. You could write a book on the procedures people have to look after their denim. It'd be a boring book, though.

Sugar Cane 1947, unwashed

People swear by Japanese denim. Sugar Cane has made jeans for years, and it produces incredible selvedge 1947 501 replicas. The Levi's version of the 1947 501 is more Steve McQueen, though. It's slimmer and the back pockets are smaller. It looks more modern.

Sugar Cane 1947, unwashed with broken arcuate double stitching and red tab

Until Levi's made it stop, you could get Sugar Cane 1947 with cool broken arcuate double stitching on the back pockets. Some also had a red tab that read "CANE'S" just like "LEVI'S". If you are interested in Sugar Cane 1947, you can buy them from American Classics in glittering London's Covent Garden, which also stocks the unwashed Levi's version of the 1947 501 along with all manner of excellent clothing.

Many premium jeans are sold at fixed length. Take into account shrinkage if you want to shorten them, and take them to a specialist if you want to preserve a chain-stitched hem. Chain stitching is ornamental embroidery, with which manufacturers used to hem jeans. (The hems of modern mass-produced jeans are lock stitched, which is more effective.) The jeans shop Son Of A Stag, on glittering London's Brick Lane, has four American vintage Union Special machines (three in the shop, one in the warehouse) with which to provide a chain-stitch service.

 Dry 1967 Levi's 505 reproduction

The dry selvedge 1967 Levi's 505 represents Steve McQueen's time more than the 1947 501. They're zip-fly, preshrunk (so you can go for your normal size) and slightly slimmer. Oi Polloi does them for £140.

Dry 1952 Lee Japan 101z reproduction by Edwin

Most of the best Lee jeans are made by Lee Japan. Most of the best Lee Japan jeans, in turn, are actually made by Edwin, a Japanese company established 1947 and renowned for its quality. The classic Lee is the 101 (a Z on the end means zip-fly, a B button-fly). Consider a pair of dry 1950s Lee Japan 101 reproductions if you can get them in your size (they're sanforized). You can go one better, in terms of quality, than Lee Japan jeans made by Edwin. Another Japanese brand, The Real McCoy's, specialises in high-end replicas of classic American clothing and is licensed to reproduce Lee jeans.

The problem with all this besides cost, of course, is obtainability. Go to shops like Son Of A Stag. Try to get lucky online with Google, eBay and Rakuten, Japan's vast shopping website.

Lee 101Z reproduction of Steve McQueen's jeans in The Hunter by Toys McCoy

Toys McCoy (now at least a separate business to The Real McCoy's) produced a replica of the Lee 101Z from The Hunter. Except they put the fucking name Steve McQueen on the Lee patch.

Toys McCoy Steve McQueen 930

Toys McCoy makes another pair of relevant premium jeans. Criticism again centres on the patch, which has the word Toys on it and a picture of Steve McQueen and the name Steve McQueen in even bigger fucking letters.

All these lot numbers and variations are dizzying, I know, but one last recommendation. The 1966 Lee 101Z reproduction represents Steve McQueen's time as the 1967 Levi's 505 does. The 101Z is the classic slim-fit McQueen jean, though. If you can get hold of the 1966 version then you should (it actually has more of a connection with The Beatles, but that's another story).

Part two of this post will concentrate on modern jeans that in their own way can get you as close to Steve McQueen's cool as the vintage styles.

Next time: will be shorter.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Summer Special: Swim Shorts

The fashion industry tells us to concentrate on autumn. We should ignore that as we would any random shout from a group of subnormals. It's more difficult to ignore the actual change of the seasons, traditional crap weather and apocalyptic climate change but, regardless of everything, it's still fucking summer. Here, therefore, is the second part of the summer special. It's a short look at shorts.

Intimate moment with his wife Neile at home in Hollywood Hills (1963) from the book Unforgettable Steve McQueen, edited by Henri Suzeau

The above photograph is by John Dominis, originally for Life. Steve seems to wear a similar navy pair of shorts in The Thomas Crown Affair.

Orlebar Brown Setter in navy

Orlebar Brown is a company that's made shorts only since 2007, but the Setter is based on a 1950s design. You might want something a little more substantial further from home or water, otherwise they're perfect. Colours of note aside from navy include sand and, if you're more into the Daniel Craig version of Steve McQueen, sky. They're £120. If you hand over your email for offers and news they'll take off 10%.

I leave you with Daniel Craig in those shorts.

Daniel Craig wearing La Perla 

OK ladies etc. La Perla is an Italian company that's made nightwear and swimwear since the 1950s. Daniel Craig wore La Perla GrigioPerla Lodato in Casino Royale.

Next time: Steve McQueen's Jeans

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Summer Special: Persol

This late two-parter will concentrate on the essence of summer style: sunglasses and shorts.

Sunglasses first.

Wearing Persol 714

Steve McQueen wore Persol sunglasses, most famously the 714 model in The Thomas Crown Affair. Persol is an Italian company that's made sunglasses since 1917. The 714 model, which folds, is similar to the 649, which McQueen also wore.

Persol 649 

The 649 was developed in the 1950s to protect tram drivers from dust.

Steve wore tortoiseshell brown Persol frames ("light Havana" is code 96, classic "Havana" code 24). He had blue lenses for The Thomas Crown Affair, which you can buy from Oi Polloi and elsewhere, although he also wore brown (the crystal polar - polarized - brown code is 57). You can buy 24/57 714s from this Persol 714 website for £200, and from shops like Selfridges.

Persol 2244

Daniel Craig was less typically influenced by McQueen when he wore Persol 2244 and 2720 in the James Bond movie Casino Royale.

Tom Ford 108

Tom Ford was Daniel Craig's tailor for Quantum Of Solace, and Daniel Craig wore Tom Ford 108 sunglasses.

Ray-Ban Aviator large metal 3025 (silver frame, silver mirror lens: code W3277)

People moan that Persol 649 and 714 are too big, but the 649 comes in four sizes, the 714 in two. The lenses of the 54mm 714 are about the same size and shape as those of the large Ray-Ban Aviator, whose thin metal frame makes a cool alternative. Aviators cost about £95, and if you buy from an opticians like David Clulow they'll adjust the frame for you. (Brown is another obvious colour for our purposes. The code is 014/51.)

I leave you with one of Daniel Craig's more emphatic McQueen looks.

Daniel Craig wearing Persol 714

Interim Post #2

Slow, vague news:

1. I thought I'd read yet another story or two where a fashion house rubs Steve McQueen's name into their clothes in the hope of a transfer of cool, but a quick google reveals nothing now. Ah well.

2. The British Film Institute is nearly at the end of "Hollywood Nonconformist", a Steve McQueen season. Four films still to go, though, and that includes An Enemy Of The People.

3. Sanders has an online shop.

Film Noir Buff is a men's style website, and TheWeejun is a contributor to its forum. He attempts to right two myths that my post Don't Step On His Brown Suede Boots helps perpetuate:

1. I reported that Steve McQueen advertised Tod's boots. It can't have been Tod's. That brand began in the 1980s.

2. I reported that Steve McQueen wore Sanders & Sanders playboy boots. He did wear playboy boots, but they weren't by Sanders. A company called Hutton pioneered the style, and this apparently is the make McQueen wore. Hutton is now out of business, although a company licenses the name Original Playboy and makes boots in Spain for export to Scandinavia (legal issues with the fuckbook enterprise of the same name have imposed geographical restrictions).

Still, the recent, similar and well-made English Sanders are arguably the playboy boot to buy, not least because of availability. The price from Oi Polloi (which states "as worn by Steve McQueen") has gone up to £145, but they now sell brown. You can get them for the same price from the Sanders website (which avoids the term "playboy").

 GBX 13080

One popular version of the playboy style that I've missed is by GBX. It sells for a bargain $55, whatever that is in real money.

Anyway, in other news, I bought those Sperry Top-Sider canvas shoes via MyUS, which I'd threatened to do in the previous post. (Even the ones in the wrong colour have disappeared from the Oi Polloi website.) The forwarding of the package almost doubled the overall cost, but it turned up quickly. I went with my usual size, and everything is tickety-boo.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Interim Post

Good news! I all but vowed to go on a murder spree in protest at the lack of certainty with which we're able to identify Steve McQueen plimsolls. Fair enough, I'm sure you'll agree, but I can now at least take a break from the killing. Patrick Segui, from the excellent Riveted blog, has provided information on The Thomas Crown Affair's canvas guest stars. The brand, apparently, is Sperry Top-Sider. It's been about for 75 years and US Navy standard issue for 71 of those, so a natural choice for the ex-Marine. It was also, as with Keds, owned by United States Rubber at one time, a company that goes back to 1892. (A business called Stride Rite now owns both Sperry Top-Sider and Keds. Stride Rite also markets footwear for horrid Tommy Hilfiger, but there you go.)

Sperry Top-Sider 75th Anniversary CVO in navy

Sperry Top-Sider has issued vintage pumps to coincide with its 75th anniversary. Patrick says those McQueen sports in The Thomas Crown Affair have missed out on the celebrations. Nevertheless, the navy Sperry Top-Sider 75th Anniversary CVO looks close.

Oi Polloi sells a "clay" colour for £65 and warns that it's "quite a narrow" fit, which is a worry but who knows? Clarks says its desert boots are narrow, and I'm fine with my normal size. Converse, conversely, are strips of torture to me. (I've only recently bought Keds, by the way, and I must say they hurt! Usual enough at first, I suppose. Let's hope they improve over time, unlike the Converse I've endured.)

Bad news! The Sperry Top-Sider website sells navy 75th Anniversary CVO for $75 (about £50) but only delivers to the US. Companies such as MyUS provide a solution. They give you a US address to use, and they forward your packages. It all means, of course, additional effort as well as cost for those of us in the UK, but I might well go through with it. I'll let you know what happens if so.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Wonder Of Shoes

The intention behind this post is to tie up the loose laces (oh dear) of Steve's footwear. Anyway, a bit of news first: part of Tommy Hilfiger's autumn collection will take inspiration from Steve McQueen. Oh dear.

Anyway, the boot. You can go miles in suede or rough-out leather boots. They're comfortable enough for you to be able, and want, to wear them much of the time. Winter might well prompt a rethink to a more waterproof leather, however. (Note also that summer showers will make at least your lighter-coloured suede boots look worn in a funny rather than cool way unless you apply protector.)

Red Wing 875

Red Wing makes footwear that accords with Steve's cool. They're hip of late but have manufactured work boots in the US for over a century. Steve favoured the 877 when he was motorcycle racing. The more manageable version is the classic 875. Make sure they're the right, ridiculously named "oro-iginal" colour.

Red Wing 3141

The 3141 leather chukka is a smaller dark brown bit of footwear. It's a sturdy alternative to the Bullitt-type suede boot.

McQueen horsing around in the fitness room (1963) from the book Unforgettable Steve McQueen, edited by Henri Suzeau

Now back to more summery stuff. Anybody sane would kill to know exactly what kind of white lace canvas shoes Steve wore in the Life photo I put up last post. They're probably the same as the shoes in the above photo. No matter how many people we mercilessly murder, though, I doubt we'll know any of these things for certain. Californian company SeaVees invokes McQueen in its blurb and seems to make a decent enough shoe for $120. Who knows if Steve McQueen ever even heard of SeaVees though? Puma's 917 connection is just as slight. It's a shoe apparently inspired by the Porsche that Steve McQueen drives in Le Mans.

Keds Champion

Steve's plimsolls are something other than Keds Champion, too, but they're an excellent alternative. They're hip of late but the brand has been about since 1916. The huge online fashion shop ASOS sells them for £40. Go for your usual size and you can exchange them for free if they fit badly. ASOS also sells a nifty slip-on pair of Keds for the same price.

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Steve fleetingly sports these navy canvas shoes in The Thomas Crown Affair. I just found a pair of navy Keds Champion on eBay (again £40).

Wearing Adidas on the set of Le Mans (1971)

McQueen did wear more substantial trainers (above). Adidas was founded by a guy named Adolf by the way and yes, he was a Nazi. Just like his brother, the founder of Puma.

The Hunter (1980)

I've heard that the trainers Steve wears in The Hunter are by Japanese vintage brand Onitsuka Tiger, their classic Mexico 66 model. They look about as good as post-plimsoll trainers can, but the stripes are different to those on Steve's shoes. I've heard some people say that McQueen was at his most stylish for The Hunter, but they're wrong. I'll return to this point in another post.

Right, that gives footwear the boot. Steve of course wore all sorts of other things on the end of his legs. Brown boots and canvas shoes are about the essence of Steve McQueen style, though.

It was mostly sunny here for a couple of weeks, but that's gone now. If it returns, I might be in the mood for a summer special next time.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Walk A Mile In His Boots

OK, this blog will have to be occasional rather than weekly.

We've missed three things:

1. Life has put up a set of largely unfamiliar Steve McQueen photos (see image below).

Steve McQueen (1963) by John Dominis for Life

2. Clarks has again put up the price of its desert boots (mostly £75 now).

3. It was the man's 80th birthday on 24 March.

We've successfully established that Steve had a bit of a thing for brown desert boots. One of his more recognisable footwear choices is, of course, the boot in The Great Escape.

The Great Escape (1963)

Steve tended to wear clothes that looked good rather than clothes that were historically accurate to the period in which his films were set. (Clothes that look good rather than accurate. Another lesson from the Book Of Steve. Amen.) Those trousers in The Great Escape, for instance, are suspiciously slim-fit. The boots, though, are US military World War II boots. They're known as M-43 Type III boots.

They're sometimes confused with US Marine Corps (USMC) boots, also known as boondockers. (The US occupied The Philippines in the late 19th century. Marines took the word bondoc, which means mountain, and turned it into boondocks. The boondocks meant the mountains, the jungle, anywhere remote. They began to call their GI - government issue - boots boondockers in WWII.) They look similar, and Steve was a Marine, but he wore M-43 Type III boots in The Great Escape rather than boondockers.

They're rough out (or roughout), which means they're non-shine. (Rough-out leather is the flesh side of skin. It differs from suede, which is thinner.)

Toys McCoy Great Escape boots

Japan, as so often, makes the definitive version. Toys McCoy is a Japanese brand that deals in high-end figurines and classic clothes. It's produced a Steve McQueen range that includes a pair of reproduction boots. Good stuff, but you probably won't be able to find them, or at least find them in your size, or at least want to pay for them (¥72,450/£500).

The War Lover (1962)

The American sounding Buzz Rickson company - named after McQueen's character in The War Lover - also makes a great version of these service shoes.

Buzz Rickson's 1943 US Army Type III service shoes

What's more, they're cheaper ($485/£315) and it's easier to get hold of a pair (through US online shop History Preservation).

US Army WWII rough-out boots from Epic Militaria

Put something like "US Army WW2 Rough Out Boots" through Google or eBay and you should be able to get something decent. (You might want to vary searchterms, like "M-1943", "M43", "M1943".) I just found a great pair for £65 from a site called Epic Militaria.

Red Wing 3143

Less military but similar options include Red Wing's sand suede chukka available from, among other places, East London online boutique The Three Threads (£139). More on Red Wing next post.

Orvis rough-out desert boots

Orvis is the oldest mail-order company in the US. They've colonised the UK and online, and they make a practical rough-out desert boot (£85).

Clarks suede desert boot (colour is "wolf")

The good old suede Clarks desert boot in their "wolf" colour (£75) provides a lighter, slightly smarter option (the light colour guarantees they'll look nicely worn soon enough, though).

OK, the moral, in case you missed it, is wear a pair of suede or rough-out leather boots (combat, work, desert or chukka) in a tan or light brown.

Next time: The Wonder Of Shoes