Monday, 15 March 2010

Don't Step On His Brown Suede Boots

The sweatshirt from The Great Escape and the jacket from Bullitt are among the most iconic, but Steve McQueen's most consistent item of clothing was his brown suede boots.

California Coast (1964) from the book Steve McQueen: Photographs by William Claxton

You can see McQueen in brown suede boots in numerous photographs. Note the dark top and light trouser combination in the images above, as well as the incredible cardigan. Steve McQueen Style will warm to both themes later.

You see McQueen in brown suede boots on film, too.

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Note again that dark top and light trouser combination (above).

The Blob (1958)

The brown suede was there, although his overall sense of style was less defined back in the days of The Blob.

Papillon (1973)

He even appears, later in his career, to sneak a pair onto Devil's Island.

The most famous instance of Steve with that type of boot, however, is Bullitt.

Steve McQueen in his role as Police Lieutenant Frank Bullitt (1968) from the book Unforgettable Steve McQueen, edited by Henri Suzeau

McQueen was known to wear loafers by the Italian company Tod's. He advertised them. What's more, some of the Bullitt posters talk about "Italian shoes".

Bullitt posters

This has led people to speculate the boots in Bullitt are Tod's. However, apparently they're by English company Sanders & Sanders. [Update: apparently they're by English company Hutton! See Interim Post #2.]

Bullitt (1968)

What's more, Sanders still makes the model. They're difficult to get hold of in the UK, though. Many of the best English manufacturers concentrate on export - especially to Japan - rather than the domestic market, so you might fair better elsewhere. The Manchester and online menswear shop Oi Polloi, at the time of writing, sells the navy version for £135. Barley Harvest Season, a Japanese shop, currently sells a couple of small sizes of brown for ¥36,750/£270. Good luck.

Sanders & Sanders playboy lo chukka boot

The finest English footwear tends to come from Northamptonshire. Sanders & Sanders is no exception, and neither is George Cox, which makes a chukka similar enough that some believe it's the actual Bullitt boot. Camden's British Boot Company sells them for £130 (click for the online shop and search "george cox chukka").

George Cox brown suede chukka

Tod's ankle boot is an attractive alternative. Try their Bond Street boutique if you're interested.

Tod's ankle boot

Popularity has pushed up the price of the humble yet classic Clarks desert boot. £69 is cheap compared to Tod's, though, and it's an appealing option regardless.

Clarks suede desert boot (colour is "cola")

The Daniel Craig incarnation of James Bond is influenced a good deal by Sean Connery, but more so by Steve McQueen.

Quantum Of Solace (2008)

Note again the dark top and light trouser combination, as well as the incredible cardigan. Craig's boots are by Church, another manufacturer from Northamptonshire.

Church Ryder III

They're Church's Ryder III model, from the country collection, £300 and an excellent choice.

Chukka. Desert boot. What is the difference between desert boots and chukkas? Desert boots are supposedly looser at the ankle and have a crepe sole. However, as you can see from the suggestions, here in reality the terms are essentially interchangeable.

The moral anyway, in case you missed it, is wear a pair of suede desert or chukka boots in a mid or dark brown.

Next week: Walk A Mile In His Boots


  1. Nice piece, but a lot of the above simply isn't true. Tod's did not exist whilst Steve McQueen was alive (it's brand from the 1980s launched by Italian firm Diego Della Valle) and the boots he wore in the 60s/70s were Huttons Original Playboys. Hutton invented the style and method of manufacture in the 1930s. They were made in England but hugely popular in the USA and Scandinavia. The company went bust in the 70s, but the Original Playboys name was licensed first by a Swedish company and then by a Danish one which still exists today. During the 80s and 90s their shoes were made by White and Co of Earls Barton for export only to Scandinavia due to legal problems with the Playboy name but were sold in the USA and elsewhere as 'Players'. Sanders and Sanders did not make 'official' playboys and have only been making their version of these shoes/chukkas for a few years. The originals (and the Original Playboys brand now made in Spain) use the goodyear welt construction process and a special method to bond the crepe soles to the uppers. The Sanders are not goodyear welted and the soles are cemented on to the uppers. The Sanders are great shoes, well made in the UK at a great price, but they were not worn by Steve McQueen, I'm afraid.

    1. can u be more specific about who and were in Spain one can get the so called original playboys. I bought my first pair, (lo cut in saddle coloured grained leather) in 1970 in NYC. The shoe store named LefCourt, located on Madison Ave and 47St.(no longer in business). I know they were English but am not sure of the name. I went back and bought four other style of playboys from LefCourt before I got my first pair of what I've always called "Bullitt Boys" from Churchs on Madison Ave and 48 St. That was in 1971. I never spent more than $50.00 a pair back than. Today thanks to you I found Sanders but the price is more than I can pay. I been making do with G B X and R J Colt and they are a far cry from the English shoes I got back in the day. Thanks for the info and learning there are young guys today who see true class as well as cool in what Steve McQueen brought to American culture.

  2. Damn. The world of Steve McQueen clothing is rife with myths. Especially with me perpetuating them! (I should note and name sources.) I'll put up another post when I can with updates based on your info. Thanks so much.

  3. A modern classic design Clarks Lillian from Clarks is, This nicely fashioned leather clog has contour footbed for added comfort. Using advanced fit technology, Bacco Bucci builds premium comfort into every shoe. Clarks England

  4. Nicely put Weejun. Like McQueen..theres only one Playboy original.

    The Bronx

  5. Wow, how do you know so much about this? I just knew I liked his boots in Bullitt.

    Great observation about Daniel Craig's Bond persona.

  6. Well, not sure if you know about a company called GBX? Make a great inexpensive product:

    $55 to $60 CANNOT be beat. And they're comfortable.

  7. From what I have heard, the GBX version are not the best of build quality. Not a bad cheap fix if you're not looking for durability, but if you want a shoe to last mor than a summer, better to pay for the Sanders.

  8. Hi there,
    Well done on a most interesting blog.
    Do you think you could provide info on those beige corduroy trousers McQueen wears in many of the Claxton and Dominis shots?

  9. Drakes of London are selling a cardigan based on the one McQueen wears in the Claxton pictures above.

  10. Agree with the comments above: the Sanders chukkas are not the originals as seen in Bullitt, but come closest with their quality build, their styling and that authentic crepe sole. The George Cox boots have imitation crepe - their soles are made out of composite rubber which resembles crepe but ain't. The Sanders chukkas can be purchased directly from Sander's website for £145 - but this style is now known as the Hi-Top and here's the link:

  11. See "Interim Post #2" (August 2010) for further information.

  12. that's shoes are my favorite shoes

  13. this is really very best blog i really like it

  14. I Love Those Shoes Collection. :)

  15. I think the great thing about Steve McQueens style is that you dont really need the exact brand. His style is easily adaptable in almost any time with similar styles.

  16. That's the kind of stuff! Thank you.

  17. I'm in my mid 40's in the New York area. I knew very little about Steve McQueen or his style until coming across this blog and then googling afterwards. I was looking for information on the chukka boots of my youth when I stumble here and I am impressed. I remember growing up a close family friend had a part in the Thomas Crowne affair and always spoke highly of mr McQueen. Through the information here I now own a baracuta g9 and two pairs of chukkas, one knock around pair of cheap GBX playboys (that I love) and a pair of Church Ryder iii's. Im not trying to emulate Steve McQueen and even if I never could pull it off, I just really like those classic's and the Church Ryders and the baracuta are quality. My job requires me to carry a firearm so who knows maybe I will switch to a bullitt style shoulder holster. Thanks for your labor of love this blog is really informative!

  18. I'm flattered by this, thanks. I'd say you have the right spirit about this Steve McQueen style thing too. The only people who really seem to get it wrong and take it too seriously are those who hate the idea of anybody with an interest in Steve McQueen style, in fact. Anyway, thanks again.

  19. Sorry to piss on everyone's back and forth about Steve McQueen's shoes but ... any South African over 55 will tell you that various styles of those shoes were commonplace back in SA - made in SA from about a 15th of the price to 10th of the price. Some believed that they were an off-shoot from the British soldiers circa WWII - except that their origin was the Hottentot (Khoi) from South Africa - long before WWII. Did I hear that they are being sold on this side of the ocean for $300.00!!! Today (2011) - back in South Africa the more dressy Veldskoens go for about $40.00 and the more traditional style for about $20-$25.00 ...


  20. Hey, thanks. I've googled Veldskoens and they look like a great alternative to Clarks desert boots (that should probably read Clarks look like a great alternative to Veldskoens as they came first!). I'll post on this when I can as a suggestion for a further bit of footwear, anyway. Cheers again.

  21. Mark McNairy makes some wonderful chukka boots with interesting twists such as colourful soles. They are actually made by Sanders and Sanders I think in Northampton in the UK but that normally means high cost and high quality!

  22. I noticed a web site called "the king of cool" is selling replicas of the shawl collared cardigan.

  23. Made in super soft-to-touch breathable fake-suede microfiber. Utilitarian, practical and stylish. Insole is padded for foot comfort and perforated for moisture absorption/transmission in hot climates. Rugged, double thread stitch-down sole construction. Beautifully finished with corduroy rear and tongue lining and Clarks Shoes Sale reinforced heel lining. It comes in sand, brown and black.

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  26. I found this site while I was google searching for British mod styles. I recently found a pair of McQueen style boots made in the UK by Delicious Junction. They're 89.00 Pounds & come in four colors Black, dark brown, tan & stone, they're called the 'Bullitt' collection. Very comfortable & well made.

  27. ijust recently bougth a pair of crepe sole circa 1960s 70s on ebay, the sole was hard as rock but I heated the sole with a blower and like magic the sole turn soft as new,the cost was about 90 pounds including shipping,i haded posted on facebook in AMADOR MERCED RIVERA (page)after heated the sole turn like the old playboys; the manufacturer is TIMPSON Fine Shoes made in UK SIZE 8. I THINK I FIND THE REAL DEAL ,You guys better see them in my facebook page or send me a message in box. in the 70s I haded 2 pair, lo cut yellow and black and the chukkas brown,there said inside original playboy made in England with the british flagg as logo. today I have 4 pairs.RJCOLT,COX,ROUNDERS AND TIMPSON.Those shoes are the most versatile with any clothes including suits, im from Puerto rico but I lived in NYC IN THE 70S,in my 20s I have 64 years and I still wearing that style of shoes,congratulatios guys for your comment about these magnificent shoes,sincerely yours Amador.P.S.i like this page

  28. Delicious Junction crepe soled chukka's now going for £60 on ebay in the UK (also available in brown):

  29. Great info,i have the book by william claxton and the pics of steves chukka boots are identical what sanders are selling nowadays.

    They may not be mqueens actual boots but ill still buy them,their around £170 and can be found in john rushtens shoes store in londons wimpole street near oxford street.
    Sanders are probably the best english shoe makers of today,a company still owned by the sanders family,like many other they are still handmade using machinery from 100 years ago!
    True class.

    Churchs are a top english shoes,although i dont like the idea that prada now own them,but thats the way they have boosted themselves worldwide. But to me,an origional authentic brand like that shouldnt be mass marketed i think it looses that something special about itself,its name becomes mainstream.

    For that reason ive stuck with sanders for the oast few years,and i know all about wearing brogues,as a queens guard in london city i march everyday in my sanders brogues.
    I bought a pair of breamor highland sanders brogues from a retured major in the british army,who bought them in 1992.that makes them 24 years old and still in daily use,and that 24 years of marching!

    I still handpolish them to a mirror shine everyday,you cannot beat true british quality for shoes,the best in the world

    If anybody wants to see pics let me know i can email them or see the pic on my instagram page

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  31. Sanders Chukka Boots are Wonderful . I have had a Black Leather pair for 10 years .

  32. I'm looking for pair of British Walker Playboy slip-ons, circa 1960s. They were black, large wraparound crepe sole. They had an elastic patch on each side at ankle height. Smooth leather (very simple styling. They are still available. I had a chat session months ago with the BW people, and they actually sent me a link. and lo and behold it was them! Of course i lost the link, and forgot the Style name (these things happen with 'old age'). Just had a chat with the BW people, and now they cannot help. Can you?

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