Friday, 18 November 2011

Steve McQueen: The Actor And His Films

Steve McQueen: The Actor And His Films

The ever-greater number of McQueen books in the world just makes it easier to overlook the invaluable. Steve McQueen: The Actor And His Films adds weight to the expression lavishly illustrated and brings more to the party besides.

The book gives more space to say, The Sand Pebbles than Never Love A Stranger, as you'd expect, but it devotes a full chapter to each of McQueen's films: twenty-eight in chronological order from Somebody Up There Likes Me to The Hunter. It's a practical arrangement that lets you make your way easily through the man's life as well as his work. Yes, the book includes On Any Sunday. It's TV but it makes sense for Wanted: Dead Or Alive to have a chapter as well, and it does. Other chapters give an overview of his life and deal with further television appearances, his legacy and more. (Yes, Dixie Dynamite gets a mention.)

The Actor And His Films has more than a thousand photographs. More than a thousand rare, candid and promotional stills, vintage international posters and memorabilia. It also has more text than is usual for these lavishly illustrated affairs.

Each chapter gives film details such as cast, crew, release date and location. A summary follows and an "analysis of a key scene" ends the chapter. What's between the summary and scene analysis takes up most space, though. Here's where you'll learn about any deleted sequences and such, but moreover where you'll find the real-life backstory, and it's studded with previously unpublished nuggets.

You've probably concluded this is a big book. Let me tell you: it's about 500 pages, a seriously heavy fucker and thicker physically than David Beckham is mentally.

The authors hold sound credentials beyond extensive collections of McQueen memorabilia. Andrew Antoniades worked on Steve McQueen: The Life And Legend Of A Hollywood Icon, a book by Marshall Terrill, McQueen's best biographer. Mike Siegel is a film historian and director of Poetry & Passion, a documentary on Sam Peckinpah. The Actor And His Films is the work of natural fans rather than contrived academics, yet you get even-handed insight, a raw and fair evaluation of the man and his films.

The publisher, Dalton Watson, has been around for more than 40 years. The heart of the business is motor-related titles, but the company is responsible for a couple of other books directly relevant to us: composite biography Steve McQueen: A Tribute To The King Of Cool, compiled by Marshall Terrill, and Barbara's photo memoir The Last Mile.

Rare photographs, of course, mean rare perspectives on style. My intention was to make a shortlist of images, and then pick one from it to put in this post in addition to the cover. It was a long shortlist. I had rare colour photographs of McQueen in his jeans and Wrangler shirt from the set of Baby, The Rain Must Fall. McQueen in Louisiana for Nevada Smith, in a brown shawl collar cardigan. I had pictures with Playboy boots, I had one Bullitt shot in particular. I had more. However, my all-in-one printer refuses to do anything, even scan, until I satisfy it with an ink cartridge, so I'm afraid copyright law will remain intact.

You can buy from the Dalton Watson website (they deliver from the US and the UK), which is where you'll also find sample pages and further information including a book launch on 29 November, 1830-2030, at the McQueen bar in glittering London's Shoreditch. The book is £39/$69 from the publisher, but it's just available on Amazon and the price is currently £28. If you're in the US, your Amazon currently has it for $42. The release date says 15 December, but it seems in stock now.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Roll-neck

Steve McQueen and Jacqueline Bisset on the set of Bullitt

Americans are likely to call them turtlenecks. A mock turtleneck is different: that's where the collar is high enough to cover the neck but not fold. Roll-necks are the same thing as polo necks. Say polo in relation to tops, though, and the possibility only increases that an image of what people used to call a tennis shirt comes to mind, since Lacoste first marketed his and Ralph Lauren subsequently did his bit.

Roll-necks have long been synonymous with sailors, which entirely befits ex-Marine McQueen. Ideas of the classic roll-neck jumper tend to centre on World War II, when the government issued Royal Navy deck sweaters, more commonly known as submariner sweaters. This is often the kind of thing people mean when they think of an RAF sweater. Motorcyclists in the 1950s and 1960s wore surplus deck jumpers in winter under their leather or wax jackets (Barbour or Belstaff, naturally). The motorbike association suits our man as much as the naval, of course.

Steve McQueen wore a roll-neck most famously in Bullitt. It's something other than a submariner sweater. Despite the claim of Grand Prix Legends, it's something other than a French Navy roll-neck too. The book The Ivy Look, by Graham Marsh and JP Gaul, says it's made of cashmere.

Hollywood And The Ivy Look

I have another Graham Marsh and JP Gaul book to recommend, by the way. Hollywood And The Ivy Look, also by Tony Nourmand, is due for release in the first week of November by Reel Art Press (RAP), which publishes deluxe art entertainment books. (Gaul's name is left off the cover, although RAP's website credits the text to he and Marsh.) Nourmand is the author of many film books. He's also co-owner of the internationally acclaimed Reel Poster Gallery in London - which deals with original vintage film posters - as well as editor for, and co-founder of, RAP. The blurb Nourmand sent me calls Hollywood And The Ivy Look "a pictorial celebration of the look and attitude of 'Ivy'". It deals with the Hollywood embrace of Ivy style, as the title suggests, and features previously unpublished photographs of McQueen. You can currently order the book from RAP at a pre-launch price of £35. It's £45 otherwise.

Where was I? Somewhere other than here, but a comment on this blog recently pointed me towards the Bullitt DVD commentary. That was the second prompt I'd had to listen to it. I finally did.

"Most of his clothes were in fact from Dougie Hayward," director Peter Yates says, as McQueen puts on his roll-neck. "He loved English clothes."

I'll talk about Hayward, and McQueen's love of English clothes, in another post. The only thing I have to say here in relation to that comment is Doug Hayward was a great, and greatly expensive, tailor. If he supplied the roll-neck, it's easy to see how it'd be a decent chunk of cashmere goat. If you know of an equivalent, get in touch.

Perhaps Ballantyne Cashmere supplied the roll-neck. It's a high-end company that began in Scotland in 1921. It's been Italian-owned since 2004. Steve McQueen wore Ballantyne, and Daniel Craig, our favourite modern-day McQueen, wears it.

Neil Starr of North Sea Clothing in the Submariner sweater in navy.
One cool, as they say, dude. Photograph from Concrete Editions

It's rare enough to see a roll-neck in an office and, when you do, odds are it's a fine black material. A thick blue wool roll-neck is one man along from that, and that's why Steve McQueen Style recommends a submariner sweater. Yes, the Bullitt roll-neck is more refined than a submariner. However, on the other hand it's certainly more than some flimsy number. It's best, in this case, to err on the side of chunky.

Neil Starr is a collector and trader of vintage clothes, musical instruments and other items. He supplies designers, and he deals especially with military and motorcycle clothes and accessories. Neil Starr has two ropy websites where you'll find a selection of vintage Barbour and Belstaff motorcycle clothes. They appear to be identical:


Mr Starr also runs North Sea Clothing, a project to produce a small selection of clothes and accessories made to meticulous specifications. It's successful enough that demand tends to outstrip supply. The website is almost as ropy as the other two, but here you'll find the ultimate version of the deck jumper. It's £125. It's a tenner less from a men's style website called The Mandon Store, though.

Mr Starr deviated from his vintage roll-neck template only on the couple of points where it was too eccentric for anything like modern tastes. He took the arms beyond the original mid-forearm finish. The body was especially long, conversely, so he shortened that.

The North Sea Clothing Submariner sweater is made in Nottinghamshire from English wool: poor quality subs are susceptible to shrinking and bobbling (or pilling). It's made in the same heavy five-gauge knit as the original, which supports the tough, warm, resistant-to-rain aspect. (The more gauge, or tension, to a yarn, the thinner the garment. John Smedley clothes, for instance, are fine: the company's Pembroke roll-neck is extra-fine 30 gauge.)

The unwashed ecru North Sea Clothing sweaters come with quite a lanolin smell. What is lanolin? A wax found naturally on sheep's wool that helps make it resistant to the weather. Lanolin also helps give wool the authentic smell of sheep. The less brave of you interested in ecru should be able to wash the bulk of it away easily enough.

The closest alternative I see to the North Sea Clothing sub is by designer Nigel Cabourn, who takes inspiration from vintage work, military and exploration clothes. The navy 4 Way Roll Neck is based on that worn in 1953 by Tom Bourdillon, part of the same expedition when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people known to reach the summit of Mount Everest. You can wear it back to front and, as Tom did, inside out, hence name. It's made in Scotland from Shetland wool. It's five gauge as with the North Sea Clothing jumper. £199 from Oi Polloi. (The first size on the Oi Polloi website says 48". That's a mistake, but the website provides further size information: 48 is a small, a 40" chest.)

I must say I've discounted a host of others I've seen, but let me know if you can come up with another suitable deck jumper.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Bullitt Boots

Common People Elliot

A brief, unexpected return.

Common People is a new company, about which Steve McQueen Style knows next to nothing. It makes shoes. It makes a brown suede boot in the playboy style called the Elliot.



Where this Common People boot is known at all, it's more as the Steve McQueen than the Elliot. It looks like the closest version of the Bullitt boot available, closer than the Sanders playboy. The Common People boot is softer than the Sanders & Sanders, the crepe sole thinner.

Common People Elliot boots are well over £100 ordinarily. Birmingham and online clothes shop Autograph sells a few sizes for £60 with postage. (They're going fast.)

*

If I can be bothered and have the time, by the way, I might renovate Steve McQueen Style. I want to make things ultimately easier to find, and I want to take away some of the anger and madness. This in turn might anger the regular reader (note singular) at least in the short term, but I've warned you. Yes, you.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Think Of It As Goodbye Rather Than Farewell


"I have so much to tell you if ever I get the time," I said a few posts ago. Well, I don't know if I'll ever get time. I've already had a few mails asking where I am, which is lovely, but I'm afraid that I need to fill the foreseeable future with other work. Paid work. If you're hugely interested in this blog, I suppose you might want to check once a month or something for the off-chance of activity.

Perhaps somebody else should do a Steve McQueen style blog, perhaps a slightly more normal blogger than me. I mean by that somebody who'd shun the search label "Michael Jackson's Dead Body". It'd be good to see something other than the cynical effort I found through Google recently, though.

I thought little of and about style in terms of clothes before this site. I began it as a way to focus such thoughts. The world of clothes still seems ridiculous as ever. Stylish pockets exist, though, filled with worthwhile content. Clothes are fundamental, after all. They're thoughtful or unthinking as you make them.

I have an incredible idea for a documentary film on that fundamental clothes fibre, cotton, actually. Cotton has long been at the centre of things. It's long been fuel for cruelties. It was fuel for the industrial revolution, of course, for British Empire. It was fuel for the economic growth of the United States of America through slavery and slavery's half-hearted disguise, sharecropping. The unaffected tend to find it easy to accept the cruelties that go hand in hand with development. My documentary will be more about the future than the past, though, when the development is collapse.

Cotton is an excellent example of global patterns. I even have a title for the documentary. Cotton: The Apocalyptic Crop. Nice rhyme. My documentary will show how cotton prices have recently risen because of greed (speculative buying), climate change (floods) and the relentless development of, er, developing markets (China). It'll then look at how, when the speculative bubble bursts, we'll be left with the natural rise caused by unnatural weather and upwards of seven billion people.

My documentary will have an interview with the founder of the clothes label A.P.C., Jean Touitou. Google his name, cotton and China. He's the idiotic alternative to idiotic fashion. He was a Trotskyite, you know, etc. He blames China for the rise of cotton prices.* Speculators stockpile cotton to push up prices, and yes they hide much of it in China. Banks like Barclays buy it in collaboration with Chinese speculators, though.

The bubble that led to the Great Depression at least led in turn to laws that controlled speculative buying. Banks like Barclays got government collaborators to dump these laws, though. This has led to an economy in recession, unable to take yet another big bubble. We've only pushed governments to make noises about the reintroduction of laws to protect us. The unnatural price of cotton shows us how free these crooks are to manipulate the market.

Icons Of Men's Style

Wow. Where was I? OK, style in terms of clothes. My interest is still here. It's with Steve McQueen, and with broader classic and antique styles. A new book that catalogues menswear classics is Icons Of Men's Style by Josh Sims. It's the best book of its kind I've seen. It of course includes our man. I've stuck it in the Amazon Steve McQueen Style shops. (See the top right of this blog. Note also the current reasonable UK price of the William Claxton 25th anniversary special edition book.)

Quantum Of Solace

OK, a loose end or two. Small point, but I meant to draw attention some time ago to a comment left on Steve Wears The Trousers. I said in the post that Daniel Craig wore Levi's 306 Sta-Prest for Quantum Of Solace. This is true. He wore similar in the film as well, though. The commenter points out that the trousers in the image I used are the similar.

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Monochrome Canvas Ox M

The closest equivalents I've seen to the gym shoes that appear in the Dominis shots are by Converse. I believe Patrick Segui (Riveted) said they were Converse ages ago, now I think about it. The online shoe shop Sarenza sells the best white Converse shoes in the UK (£55). You can get white elsewhere in the UK, but they'll probably differ (note the unpainted lace holes of the pair that Sarenza sells). I know that I once described Converse as "strips of torture to me", but these are tickety-boo.

Japan, as usual, sells the best, most accurate reproduction Converse. This goes for Sperry Top-Sider too, incidentally, at least if your feet are size nine (UK) or smaller. This rules out my clown props.

I do love Japanese reproductions (Joe McCoy and The Real McCoy's, Buzz Rickson and Sugar Cane). They look initially like perfectly preserved museum pieces, though. They need plenty of natural wear before they look their best. This is where a small collection of clothes helps and this, a uniform of a few choice items, is what I advocate (I admit my collector's instinct can make me imperfect in this area).

Now is as good an opportunity as any to slide into a bit of disgruntled consumer advice. The first tip is to regard Eastman Leather, the European home of Buzz Rickson, with a healthy suspicion. I ordered a sweater, the last size they had, but it was too small. The price had included delivery, but Eastman Leather refunded me minus postage. Eastmen Leather reckoned the cost of the short, light domestic journey at £12. God knows the charge for, say, a heavy leather jacket.

My other advice is to treat your fellow eBayers with the utmost respect. Certainly do what you can to ensure people deal honestly with you, but break eBay's rules if there's a benefit. That business obviously gets more than its bit. Its services are abysmal. Use alternatives, do everything you can to screw it.

OK that's it, as I say, for the foreseeable future. Get in touch if you'd like to hire my copywriting, copy-editing or proofreading talents (do you work for eBay, A.P.C. or Barclays?), if you'd like to turn this blog into a "cult classic" book or, especially, if you'd like to produce Cotton: The Apocalyptic Crop.

*Jean Touitou's protests against apparently legitimate targets consistently reveal his spoilt outlook. He says in the same interview that "the very famous Chanel bag 2.55 - which I really love, my grandmother had one and my mother had one - is all over the place. I can't look at them anymore." Here's one possible response to that predicament: "Chanel should be the preserve of families of wealth and taste like that of Jean Touitou." Here's another possible response to that predicament: "Fuck Jean Touitou's mother and his grandmother. If it affronts his empty sense of superiority, I'd rather see those ugly handbags everywhere."

Monday, 23 May 2011

Newton Street Vintage

Newton Street Vintage jacket

Etsy is a worldwide online market established 2005 with a physical office in Brooklyn, in New York, in the United States of America. It's a better eBay for handmade and vintage items.

Newton Street Vintage is an Etsy shop established late last year. Zach, the owner, lives in Cambridge, in Massachusetts, in the United States of America, a style aficionado in the right place.

I've mentioned how Steve McQueen style overlaps with Ivy style. I've moaned about how difficult it is to get hold of natural Ivy-style jackets and how antique is the way to go. Well, Newton Street Vintage is an impeccable source of relevant jackets and other Ivy items.

Zach's interest in clothes began with vintage denim and worked from there to other antique bits. Newton Street Vintage is refreshingly accessible, and Zach's systematic approach to his interest brings an authority that appeals to expert and novice. He told me something about his love of detail:
When I was a kid, I loved fighter planes and would buy actual manuals to learn the parts of planes. Same thing happened when I got into tailoring. Why Ivy? I grew up on the East Coast and my dad, who was in his 20s in the early 1960s, wore Brooks Brothers, so it was always just kind of around. I didn't learn that it was called Ivy until later. So just by needing to know what I specifically wanted, I learned about terms like lapped seam or gorge.

I'm also learning to tailor. I've made shirts, working on my first trousers now, and I've had success designing my own suits. I didn't sew them, I used a manufacturer, but I designed and sourced the raw materials.
The Cincinnati Kid

The jacket that McQueen wears in Bullitt is an unusual combination of Ivy and English styles. Ivy, as I've said, is traditionally a centre back vent rather than one to each side. However, a traditional Ivy style jacket, even without a ticket pocket and elbow patches, still gets you closer to the actual Bullitt jacket than, say, the one from Grand Prix Legends and The King Of Cool. You get closer to Steve McQueen style even if the colour is, say, grey. (See above picture of Steve in The Cincinnati Kid with pretty lady Ann-Margret.) The difference, as I've noted, is structure.

McQueen, Shoreditch

One more thing and on a different note: McQueen is a themed bar, lounge and restaurant in glittering London's Shoreditch area. The menu takes inspiration from the Midwest, which means steaks and burgers, of course, but there's also lobster and other seafood and - popular in McQueen's birthplace of Indiana - Cajun. Sounds tasty to me, but my overall default position on things like this is, obviously, cantankerous. The chesterfields, warm light and polished wood help create the kind of setting in which McQueen was often photographed, though, and reports suggest the place blends the easily spoilt mixture of McQueen theme and Hoxton hipster well. I'll find out soon.

One more, er, one more thing, again on a different note: if you buy through the Amazon Steve McQueen Style shops (link at top right), the prices and conditions are the same as if you buy from Amazon in general but you support this site. Likewise, you support this site if you click the Google advertisement (bottom right).

Monday, 16 May 2011

Steve McQueen Style Ladies: January Jones

January Jones as Betty

January Jones was in Mad Men, and I once mentioned Mad Men as an aside in a post. That'll do.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Modculture

I again have to say most Steve McQueen Style suggestions are just that: suggestions. Remember he wore something other than Sanders playboys, for example, but they're close (Tricker's Mud Guard boots look more like it, actually, which is something for another post). Modculture is, as the name suggests, a website for the old mod subculture. A thread on its style forum recently peeked at one of the Steve McQueen Style specials from last summer, where I say "Orlebar Brown is a company that's made shorts only since 2007" (I have further shorts suggestions for a new summer special, by the way). The thread concluded Steve McQueen wore Orlebar Brown.

My post mentioned Daniel Craig, something this blog does often, because he arguably has Steve McQueen style. The Modculture thread pointed out that Daniel Craig's shorts look different to Steve McQueen's shorts, which is clear as long as you have sight. My blog uses Daniel Craig as a light way to extend suggestions, as a popular present-day version of Steve McQueen style. Daniel Craig has Steve McQueen style. His shorts look different to Steve McQueen's shorts. You know, the previous two sentences can accord.

I'll try a new approach. You'd be weird if you put Steve McQueen's shorts on Michael Jackson's dead body. What's more, Michael Jackson's dead body would fail to achieve Steve McQueen style. You, Michael Jackson's dead body and Steve McQueen style are three different things. Now let's turn this delicate point up to 11: Steve McQueen and Steve McQueen style are two different things.

McQueen wore what suited him. One way to get close to his style is to wear what suits you. Obviously, I have to draw the line somewhere. A skullcap suits some people, but it'd definitely be weird for this blog to suggest one. Remember, though, it'd be weirdest of all to put Steve McQueen's shorts on Michael Jackson's dead body.

OK, let me get rid of semantics, logic exercises and the surreal:

1. It's wrong to conclude from my summer special on swim shorts that Steve McQueen wore Orlebar Brown, because I say in the post "Orlebar Brown is a company that's made shorts only since 2007". Steve McQueen died in 1980. That's 27 years before Orlebar Brown made shorts. This means it's impossible Steve McQueen wore Orlebar Brown shorts.

2. The post on swim shorts mentioned Daniel Craig's shorts for two reasons. One reason the post mentioned them is many people think Daniel Craig's style is a bit like Steve McQueen's style. The other reason the post mentioned them is they're famous. This is a slight blog about a slight world. It's obvious Daniel Craig's shorts look different to Steve McQueen's shorts. It's strange to think anybody has them confused.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Steve McQueen Style Ladies: Sienna Miller

Sienna Miller as Tammy by Daniel Smith (Sony Pictures Classics)

We're back in tenuous territory. Daniel Craig is a bit like Steve McQueen and was in Layer Cake with Sienna Miller, there you go.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Lofgren

I'm busy but need to interrupt this Steve McQueen Style ladies thing. I have so much to tell you if ever I get the time. Yeah, we've only brushed the surface. I'm yet to mention Baracuta and Barbour (and Belstaff)! I'm yet to mention sweatshirts, leather jackets and, well, I'm too busy to exclaim all day!

I've killed enough people in frustration at being unable to identify McQueen's gym shoes, too. The John Dominis book helped me see the answer. It stared me in the face all along, silly answer. It mocked me, hence massacre. Let's keep positive, though, because the main thing is I'm finally certain of the shoe's name. (Well, I'm all but certain. Perhaps be mindful of the smallest possibility of a return to random slaughter.) I'll post on it when I can.

Plenty to look forward to then. I know people want me to mention stuff like Steve's Shooter sunglasses, and I want to mention stuff like his N-3B.

Lofgren blue chambray scallop work shirt

A chambray shirt, pea coat and watch cap are three popular bits of gear that turn up in The Sand Pebbles. I intend to talk about all this in time. The magnificent Lofgren shirt (above) insists I say something about chambrays now, though. I mean, just look at it. I've briefly mentioned the Japanese shop Speedway and its American owner John Lofgren. Well, Lofgren has his own clothes brand.

Chambray shirts have had a resurgence in popularity for some years. I'll list well-liked choices in a dedicated post. That list will of course include the above shirt. It's docker and railroad rather than naval, with all the appropriate lovely details: chinstrap, vents, twisty stitch pattern (scalloped yoke as grown-ups say). The Speedway website, Rakuten and eBay addresses:

Speedway
Speedway Rakuten shop
Speedway eBay shop

Monday, 11 April 2011

Steve McQueen Style Ladies: Eva Green

Eva Green as Vesper Lynd

We're into the tenuous territory I warned about at the start of this mini-project, so you'll just have to put up with Eva Green.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Steve McQueen Style Ladies: Ratna Assan

On the set of Papillon (1973) 
from the book McQueen (Taschen), edited by Paul Duncan

Ratna Assan as Zoraima. She's topless, but it's OK because it's the 1970s and she looks like a native. (Note: if you're racist, look irony up in the dictionary.)

I'm busy and, in time-honoured tradition, this has nothing to do with Steve McQueen but it's on my mind: it's come to my attention "Banksy" has recently blessed California with his satirical vision. Thing is, it's all a mistake and he's about as much of an artist and activist as "Bono". If you see any "work" by the glamorously anonymous Robin Gunningham, please, do something subversive and graffiti over it.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Wait

Still a few weeks of Steve McQueen Style ladies to go. I then want to talk about the Etsy shop Newton Street Vintage, which is so good it's the first thing to give me a should I keep quiet about this? dilemma. It's lucky for you then that Steve McQueen Style is run by somebody who knows only how to spread the word (Newton Street Vintage, conversely, is run by a genuine expert).

I'll also want to talk about Speedway, a Japanese shop. It's owned by an American, John Lofgren, which makes communication particularly easy. Here's the Speedway website, Rakuten and eBay addresses:


You'll find, among many stylish items, the beautiful Toys McCoy reproduction of McQueen's chinos in The Great Escape. The shop and the country's delivery network are operational. Email Speedway at shopatspeedway@hotmail.com for the latest information.

More on Newton Street Vintage and Speedway to come then. I also want to have a word about, I dunno, other chinos, my latest favourite magazine Men's File, an acceptance of love for RRL, sunglasses again, playboy boots yet again, motor stuff. Well, you'll just have to wait.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Steve McQueen Style Ladies: Natalie Wood

Steve with Natalie Wood (1963) from the book McQueen by John Dominis

Natalie Wood by Allan Grant for Life 1960 year end issue


Natalie Wood by Ralph Crane from Life.com

Life magazine has evolved into the largest collection of professional photography on the internet, a joint venture with the agency Getty Images. That's where, along with loads of other choice shots, you'll find these two Ralph Crane examples.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Steve McQueen Style Ladies: Neile

Odds and ends:

1. Alastair from Albam has put me right about the Spitalfields branch. It opened at the end of September 2009.

2. The excellent John Dominis book I mentioned in the previous post, although German, is available from the UK. See Amazon Steve McQueen Style at the top right of the blog. If you want the Claxton book of photographs, while we're here, the price in the US is much better than the UK (Amazon US delivers internationally, and the link is in the top right too).

3. The shoulders of the "Frank Bullitt jacket" from Grand Prix Legends and The King Of Cool are unnatural. The companies most associated with Ivy hardly adhere to the style today, though. The shoulders of the J.Press sports coat I recommended are softer than the "Frank Bullitt jacket". That J.Press sports coat is certainly structured, though, in comparison with a vintage J.Press sack. Andy's Trad Forum helped me to understand the modern state of Ivy jackets. Many of the links on this blog take you to sites as ugly as they are useful, and Ask Andy Forums follows the tradition.

4. I have yet more I should've said about Sanders playboys. They're sturdy things but soften beautifully over time. They do differ from the average McQueen boot, though. The ones in Bullitt, for instance, look even softer. The Sanders sole is thicker, too.

OK, I'm afraid that for a time I have more important things to do than Steve McQueen Style. I've come up with the idea of short posts (after this one, obviously) and pretty ladies while I'm busy. Short posts are better in most ways, anyway. Yeah, pretty ladies branch beyond the "How to dress like Steve McQueen" strapline but that's hardly a first for the blog. It'll probably get thousands of extra hits for a fraction of the effort.

I'll feature ladies who've been romantically and/or professionally involved with McQueen. I'll even feature a couple that've been comparably involved with comparable Daniel Craig. Most tenuously of all, because I mentioned the programme in connection with Ivy style, I'll include a couple of Mad Men women.

First up, Neile.

Steve and Neile in the driveway
of their house on Solar Drive
(Hollywood Hills, 1962) from the book
Steve McQueen: Photographs
by William Claxton

Saturday, 29 January 2011

John Dominis

On his way to
the studio's
fitness room (1963)
from the book
McQueen 
by John Dominis

I got a book called McQueen by John Dominis a couple of days ago. It's German and the title page reads, Steve McQueen: Fotografien von John Dominis. I don't mean to blow minds with linguistic intuition, but I think the middle bit is something like "photographs by" in translation*.

The date on the Amazon page says December 2010, and the book also has the year 2010. Amazon Germany says 13 April 2009. I've only recently noticed it at any rate.

I've mentioned John Dominis in other posts. He took pictures of McQueen for Life, the popular photojournalism magazine, and the book is a collection of images from that time. The bits of text you get are, as you'd expect, in German. It's improbably cosmopolitan of me, but I know somebody from Germany. I'll take the book to the pub when we meet next week and ask for a couple of pints of translation.

Plenty of people helped enshrine Steve McQueen. William Claxton and John Dominis are the most prominent names, though, far as photography goes. Claxton's book covers 1962-1964. Dominis photographed him at rest and play in 1963. The overlap makes that year a particularly good one for Steve McQueen images.

The formula for celebrity photography was less refined in the 1960s. The system was in place, the paparazzi and other standard promotional shots, but photojournalists had more freedom. William Claxton met McQueen when Life sent him to photograph Natalie Wood at work on Love With The Proper Stranger. The co-star initially waved away the camera. Claxton talked to Steve about the art of photography, though, and they became comfortable in each other's company. William Claxton thought photography "jazz for the eye". Perhaps that's how he described it to the actor. Steve was a fan of jazz, and Claxton had made his name with portraits of jazz musicians.

John Dominis had enlisted in the United States Air Force in his early 20s, and he'd returned to military scenes as a Life photojournalist. Perhaps this helped when the magazine sent him to cover ex-serviceman Steve. They'd both raced cars. That certainly helped. Whatever the reasons, he enjoyed the same freedom as Claxton to document McQueen's life.

McQueen made the occasional gesture to reject attention, as when he waved away Bill Claxton's camera. The Dominis book helps us understand just how keen Steve was for photographers to document his life, though. (We learn how keen he was for people to see him in the gym when we compare the William Claxton book with the Dominis, where he strikes similar poses.)

McQueen knew a Life cover article had practical benefits as, say, John F. Kennedy knew beautiful photographs of the family on holiday had political benefits. It's just that the intensity with which Steve McQueen played lead in The Ideal Male Life went beyond the practical. This blog, Free & Easy, all of us: we're obviously a funny lot. McQueen impresses us as the perfect representation of men's style in the headiest days of the US. A message of the John Dominis collection, though, is that's what McQueen went out of his way to do.

The book's cover design is lazy. I suppose the moral is judge the content, as ever. The other thing to note is the currently reasonable price of the Dominis book in comparison with the Claxton one.

*I've had to translate the photograph caption too.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Steve's Tops: Cardigans

Steve McQueen from the book
Steve McQueen: Photographs 
by William Claxton

Many designers have pored over this photograph and thought, "Now that is a cardigan. Oh, and that is Steve's cock." Come back when you can read paragraphs again if this is the first time you've seen the picture.

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

You can open a cardigan at the front, fact fans. It's more versatile than a jumper. It's simply a preferable layer.

The Cincinnati Kid

A shawl design adds comfort. A collar button increases temperature control. The shawl collar cardigan with collar button is a vicious combination. It offers an impressive number of graduations between done up and undone. Steve McQueen understood the aesthetic and practical value of it all.

Bullitt

Blue, brown, double-breasted. Steve's worn a few cardigans in his time. What general rules does Steve McQueen Style draw? They should be simple. They should be free from logos and have a collar button.

Drakes cashmere cardigan
in charcoal grey

Drakes of London, founded 1977, exports 95% of its goods and primarily makes men's scarves, ties and handkerchiefs. It also sells the deluxe daddy of the Steve McQueen cardigan. It's four-ply ribbed cashmere knitted in the Scottish Borders. Yeah, the buttons are leather. "Think Steve McQueen photographed by William Claxton," the website says. "Ignore the cock," Steve McQueen Style says. £700. You can have a camel-hair version for half that.

Albam winter Irwin
cardigan in charcoal

Albam online began 2006. The first shop opened the next year in Soho, the second the year after in Spitalfields. Islington gained one last year. Albam sells casual men's clothes in classic styles. It's simple stuff made well, which is an honest miracle.

Two big influences are Paul Newman and the other one from The Towering Inferno. It sells out quickly, but spring and winter a McQueen-influenced cardigan appears. (They implement some revisions each time. Compared to previous versions, for instance, the most recent has lost tan elbow patches.) It's a heavy wool fucker, made in England by the Stevenage Knitting Co. Ltd. I read on the internet they knitted the actual classic McQueen cardigan and use the same pattern for Albam. If Steve McQueen Style has learned anything, it's whack information is everywhere. I say they make it from wool, they actually knit it from his hair.

The size system is funny. The cardigan and most Albam stuff goes from zero to four: zero is an extra-small, one a small, two a medium, three large, four extra-large. The Irwin is £189. Looks, feels, is well-crafted. I should obviously do something other with my time than think about which of my cardigans I like most, but it's the Albam.

Heritage Research Campus
cardigan

Heritage Research makes clothes from classic practical designs. The company began in 2008. It followed in the footsteps of others when it concentrated on export to Japan, but owners Russ and Dan have sold here since last year. One day, mark my words, you'll be able to get all the best British stuff in Britain.

The Campus cardigan is seriously smooth and another heavy fucker. Based on a 1930s Ivy cardigan, it's woven on hand looms in the Scottish Borders from three-ply merino wool. Yeah, the buttons are leather. I've decided this is my favourite along with the Albam, actually. (If you wonder whether cardigans push me foul of my rule to own a sane number of clothes, I have a respectful half-dozen so get off my knitted back.)

Here's the cruel bit. It's sold out everywhere. I do try to ensure my primary recommendations are available, but the beauty of the Campus makes it a special case. It was £195. I dunno, look out on eBay or something.

White Of Hawick Lord
cardigan in green

White Of Hawick has made knitwear since 1968. The Lord cardigan is 100% double lambswool. It's the best value here, if several accounts are right, and possibly the closest to a McQueen in design terms. It's just the website provides a poor vision (see above). I dunno. Imagine the charcoal version at its best, go to the Scottish Borders or buy one. £95. If I owned one, I reckon it'd be my joint favourite.

Lands' End Shorewood
cardigan in dark grey heather

Lands' End (the website threatens the apostrophe is "a tale in itself") is a US company with a UK wing. It's primarily a mail order and online shop. It sold sailboat equipment when it began in 1963. Now the business covers clothes and all sorts. Sears, a huge US chain of department stores (founded 1886), bought it a few years ago.

Lands' End has a whiff of Ivy, a substitute L.L.Bean ambience. Get too sniffy and you'll miss the Shorewood cardigan among other prizes. The UK site has medium and large. 50% merino wool, 25% cotton, 25% nylon. £69. Remember to google for discount codes.

Casino Royale

Daniel Craig wears shawl collar cardigans (in and out of the Bond role).

Quantum Of Solace
He wore a black one in Quantum Of Solace. They were £800 or something when Tom Ford had them for sale. They're McQueen style, I suppose, but where's the collar button? OK Fordy, if you have a deadstock* piece you want to give me for free, I'll take it off your hands. That's only because I'm a fellow Christopher Isherwood fan, mind. It's been three days since I asked Onozato to send me his trousers, on the subject of freebies, but nothing.

Get in touch if you know of a cardigan that follows the Steve McQueen Style rules. It'll have to be special to compete with this lot. That said, it has an advantage if it's available.

*What does deadstock mean? Old stock in new condition. I'm surprised actually, Fordy, I thought you'd know that. (Another term for deadstock is NOS: new old stock. ILA: idiots love acronyms.

PS I mentioned, three posts ago, a theme behind the Heritage Research collection updates. Visit their website and read the journal entry dated 18 January 2011 for elaboration.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Steve Wears The Trousers

The Great Escape

The trousers this post will deal with come of course from the "uniform" of Captain Virgil Hilts.

Khaki. Chino. What is the difference between chinos and khakis? You can read all sorts of things about military origins, how chinos are smarter and khaki is just a colour. That last point in particular betrays a lack of understanding on how the English language works. The word fabric has turned up in dictionaries next to the word khaki for some time. Chino and khaki, as with desert boot and chukka, are often used interchangeably. They are, in essence, therefore interchangeable.

Bills Khakis M1

Bills Khakis, established 1990, makes decent chino trousers. They're based on US World War II articles, apparently. The problem, and every vintage style fan from here to Japan (and that includes the editor of Free & Easy) recognises it as such, is US WWII chinos are fucking massive. Bills M1s are $115/£75 excluding blah. They also sell a "trim" version, the M3, which is unflattering in a way that's all its own.

Buzz Rickson USAAF
(United States Army Air Forces) chino

Other companies closely replicate US WWII chino specifications, including Buzz Rickson, and naturally they have the same billowy problem. McQueen's chinos in The Great Escape are clearly different to what you'd expect from a film set during WWII. If you want to look more like "The Cooler King", you'll need something slimmer. That said, avoid the other extreme. Stop at skinny.

We learn in the book My Rugged 211 that Free & Easy magazine editor Minoru Onozato owns 1940s US Coast Guard chino trousers. They apparently have more of a McQueen "silhouette". You look about my size, Minoru, so when you've tired of them please send to me.

The 1980s was a bad decade. Steve died at the right time in that regard. Levi Strauss & Co. began to sell khakis in 1986, though, under the name Dockers. People can be a bit sniffy about Dockers. Perhaps they used to be poorly made. Perhaps they still are in the US. Regardless, the European versions are decent.

The kind of Dockers most likely to receive approval is the K-1 series. Let me save you the possibility of an exchange filled with wonder and confusion: if you meet an American and they talk about pants, they mean trousers. OK, the Dockers US website describes K-1s as based "on a vintage military pant". Whatever, the cut is more modern than your average pair of WWII chinos. It's still too generous, though.

Dockers D-1
(colour is "British khaki")

The D-1 is slim-fit, and you can get them from Buy Jeans for £50. Dockers continually launches new-special-limited versions of its trousers but, seriously, you can ignore most of that. The only others to consider, also available from Buy Jeans at £58 and £63 respectively, are the D-Zero and the San Francisco. Both have more of a taper than D-1, and D-Zero is extra slim-fit. Shorten them if they're longer than perfectly close, whatever trouser you choose.

Toys McCoy TMP8602

Predictably, Japan makes the most accurate versions of McQueen's inaccurate chinos. Toys McCoy TMP8602 are ¥18,900/£145 excluding blah.

The Thomas Crown Affair

The trousers in The Thomas Crown Affair are of a similar colour to those in The Great Escape.

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

He often wore similar elsewhere.

Quantum Of Solace

The McQueen-inspired trousers Daniel Craig wears in Quantum Of Solace are, according to Bond fans, Levi's 306 Sta-Prest. Levi's first sold Sta-Prest, wrinkle-resistant trousers, in the 1960s. They're out of production for the Western market at least.

I'll return for suits (The Thomas Crown Affair) and sweatpants (seriously) another time. Please forward alternative suggestions for suitable chinos, or if you have information on any Steve McQueen trouser (cotton, wool, whatever).

Style posts should be about 50 words a time. Nobody reads all this.

PS "Silhouette" in the sort of context used in this post means the shape the clothes give you. I suppose you speak Fashion and knew that already, clever clogs.