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.


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

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.


  1. Steve McQueen definitely knew how to rock the mens cardigans

  2. Also one of the greatest photo bombs ever (check out the cigar).

  3. me thinks the average Joe is going to look more like Fred MacMurray the family man in that garb than a flat track racing fence jumping escapee on a Triumph....don't underestimate Steve's je ne sais quoi

  4. It's easier to look cool in one of these than a lot of the other stuff. A Triumph T-shirt can make you look like nothing more than an advert for Triumph, and a sad one if you don't have the motorbike to match. The Great Escape cut-off sweatshirt is a tricky look to get away with too. The Bullitt turtleneck and jacket combo is probably the trickiest, though. I'll go through all this when I get a chance, you lucky things.

  5. Barbour has a pretty nice shawl cardigan up that very closely resembles what Steve's got on in the William Claxton photo up there. Comes in four colours, is made of lambswool, and is pretty reasonably priced for a nice shawl cardigan. It's called a Clifton Chunky Shawl Cardigan, and you can get it from

  6. I gotta say that the Tom Ford cardigan kicks butt! I tried it on in the store and it looked amazing. The others on this site look good too.

  7. I gotta say that the Tom Ford cardigan kicks butt! I tried it on in the store and it looked amazing. The others on this site look good too.

  8. Great collection of cardigans with cool colors! This winter add a cool color cardigans in your wardrobe to look more stylish!

  9. Emma, Emma, Emma. Your post seems such an ill-advised and insincere move, yet still I forgive you.