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.


  1. I read that bit about 50 words!

  2. Craig ain't wearing Levi's 306 sta-prest in this scene. He's wearing white one 306 in another (check the photo: ). These two trouses/pants are quite simmilar, but don't identical.

  3. Thanks for this, anon. It'll be a few weeks before I mention it in a post, but I will.

  4. Craig is wearing Levi's 306 Sta Prests in that picture in the colour "Sandpit" the other picture from Quantum of Solace shows exactly the same trousers (306 Staprests) in the colour "Silver Birch" - which is effectively an off white.

  5. What do you think of the new Dockers Alphas?

  6. This post makes me want to wear chinos. But where to buy chinos anyway?

  7. H and M do great chinos at the moment. You can get beige slim fits ones that look pretty much like McQueen's strides in the Great Escape

  8. does any one have any idea of how to order McQueen pants from Toys McCoy? They don't have an english version of the site. Can anyone help? Thanks

  9. Chinos are fucking goddamn ugly! DO NOT WEAR CHINOS.. unless you wan to look like a lazy fuck