The Icon’s Closet: 5 Items You Need from Steve McQueen

The Icon’s Closet: 5 Items You Need from Steve McQueen
Five items you need from the King of Timeless Cool.
The Icon's Closet: 5 Items You Need From Steve McQueen

He wasn’t called the “King of Cool” for nothing. Steve McQueen has influenced five decades of menswear with his rugged yet refined sartorial insouciance that emphasized comfort and versatility rather than the tailored elegance of older generations.

Steve McQueen’s adaptable sense of style means looking equally at home relaxing seaside with a glass of wine or behind the wheel of a ’68 Mustang hurtling through the streets of San Francisco.

From The Great Escape and The Cincinnati Kid to Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair, McQueen’s cinematic career chronicles his permanent impact on men’s style, as do illustrated volumes from moments in his life like William Claxton: Steve McQueen. McQueen’s influence has even reached to 007 as Daniel Craig’s James Bond sported the McQueen-approved ensemble of dark knit shawl collar cardigan, khaki chinos, and desert boots in Quantum of Solace.

McQueen was the kind of guy who knew what he liked to wear and wore it often with certain items making frequent appearances both in his life and his movies. Keeping these five McQueen wardrobe staples in your closet is an instant elevation of your style game.

navy shawl collar cardigan

Navy Shawl Collar Cardigan

Previously a staple of earnest but square TV dads like Ward Cleaver, Danny Thomas, and Perry Como, Steve McQueen took the bulky ribbed knit cardigan sweater and redefined it as a practical, comfortable, and fashionable layer. It proves its versatility by looking just as good with a tie as it does with a simple white t-shirt, as McQueen often wore it.

The King of Cool, a self-described “unofficial McQueen lifestyle site,” includes a replica of McQueen’s original cardigan designed to match the exact features of the one he wore in Claxton’s photographs. Dockers has a budget option ringing up under $50.  Abercrombie & Fitch, of all places, has a great one for $78.

Of course, a well-made cardigan is a worthy investment for its durability and versatility.

harrington jacket

Harrington Jackets

McQueen was a big fan of the original Harrington jacket – the Baracuta G9 – both on and off screen. He wore his navy and stone-colored Harringtons casually over a t-shirt or dressed up with an open-collar shirt and v-neck sweater.

You can pick up an authentic Baracuta G9 like McQueen wore for $390 or check out these Primer-approved alternatives like the $169 Orvis in navy or tan.

Round Tortoise Sunglasses

McQueen preferred tortoise-framed round sunglasses by Persol just because they looked so damn good.

If this $12 pair of A.J. Morgan Castros had been around in the ‘60s, you can be sure that even a millionaire like Thomas Crown would have sported these shades when romancing Faye Dunaway. See Primer’s full feature on them here.

Steel Dive Watch

Steve McQueen’s favored timepiece was just as versatile, durable, and classy as his wardrobe. Though he owned and wore several watches, McQueen is most frequently associated with a classic stainless Rolex Submariner, which gleamed from his wrist whether he was in a three-piece suit or a t-shirt.

Mcqueen Dive watch

Of course, Rolexes carry a steep price tag so you can sub out the Sub with the Primer-approved Invicta Pro Diver with its reliable automatic movement and sturdy steel construction that make it a steal at less than $100.

Brown Desert Boots

McQueen rarely ventured onto screen without a pair of brown suede desert boots. Even as relatively unknown actor “Steven McQueen” in 1958’s The Blob to a global star a decade later starring in Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair, McQueen rocked a pair of Hutton Original Playboy crepe-soled desert boots.

Renewed interest in desert boots means a wide array available from various manufacturers, including this affordable and durable Primer-approved pair from Clarks. Check out our full write-up on Clarks original desert boot, and its rubber-soled brother the Bushacre 2.

What’s your favorite Steve McQueen look?

Nick Guzan is a public relations consultant and writer living in Pittsburgh. He blogs about men's style in movies and TV at BAMFStyle.com. His interests include old movies, muscle cars, maritime disasters, fast food, and single malt Scotch.

  • Zac Silk

    Proud to say I’ve got 4/5. When the winter comes around I’m usually in a shawl collar cardigan, either grey or navy and brown desert boots. I’ll top it off with either a navy or black Harrington. I normally wear a dive watch year round as it goes with so many outfits.

    Slighty sad that the Castro Rounds are not available in the U.K. I may just save up for a pair of polarised Persol’s instead.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/82d45c45a89985883e9a755b0d708a4444a15de13ceff549763912fc05903c97.png

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e7e0ab9a44208b452617a4ef88c40d9694428c6e8077512e6968b585dc9a8957.png
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4a84c4b86a60c9b5e026b3a926ce6c527b1af95575bad90ea8606d305ce8c827.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/77e4d53e37617411c36fcbe04e36b2541a99e4063544982cc9c1548fedf858e6.jpg

    • Deke

      I love the Persols, but I definitely recommend trying them on before buying. I was seriously considering buying some, but when I finally found a store that carried them and tried them on, they did just not work for my face.Sticking to the ubiquitous Wayfarers for now.

      • Zac Silk

        I’m also wearing Wayfarer’s this summer just the classic Ray Ban’s. Are you going for classic black or tortoise shell?

    • jbird669

      Nice! I have similar shades and someday want to get the Harrington jacket.

      • Zac Silk

        It’s definitely worth it the Harrington. If you’re feeling a bit iffy on the style you could try one from ASOS?

        • jbird669

          I’ve got no issues with the Harrington, it’s just a cost factor. Need to save my pennies.

          • Zac Silk

            Ahh I see, it’s definitely worth the investment. Best of luck for when you get one.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      YES!!! Nice!

    • https://allowlive.com/floyd-mayweather-vs-conor-mcgregor-live-stream/ showtime sports fight 2017

      From The Great Escape and The Cincinnati Kid to Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair, McQueen’s cinematic career chronicles his permanent impact on men’s style, as do illustrated volumes from moments in his life like William Claxton: Steve McQueen. McQueen’s influence has even reached to 007 as Daniel Craig’s James Bond sported the McQueen-approved ensemble of dark knit shawl collar cardigan, khaki chinos, and desert boots in Quantum of Solace.

  • Zac Silk

    Just on the desert boots, Mango has a similar option to the Playboy chukka. I ended up getting them in the sale. So they may be discontinued. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/18f4a0d09192c352cf3df6928195e4031f4b207e7b0df4e4c0cd87c46e84b3bd.jpg

  • browneagle44 ロベルト

    I desperately need to replace my Clarks desert boots that wore out last year, but otherwise I’ve got my own spin on all of these.

    “Your own spin? That’s blasphemy!”
    Yeah, but

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/78db59ca59df79e7d38025aca2fc3d709d147d15579ea61a4ba1124991dd1cef.jpg

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      haha! 😂

  • Brandon Atkins

    The point of style is to be a personal expression of who you are. It’s one thing to see something worn and like the style. It’s another to buy things only because someone “cool” wore them. The framing of this article seems insecure, at best. Much any article on the theme of “what every guy needs,” seems that way to me.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Hmm interesting! Definitely didn’t mean it that way. Just a fun way to talk about some essentials.

  • Joseph Padilla

    Folks, I gotta wonder: What’s the difference between that traditional Harrington McQueen has and the jacket Beckham wears from 0:23 to 1:08 over here in this video? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYjwXjwvAv0&index=78&list=LLocDyh5uyX_vzll-Ip_-zXg

    Personally, though: My preference leans more towards Beckham’s version. Very modern and closer to a “shacket” silhouette I am currently a fan of these days. And from what I gather, this jacket is similar to a “mechanic jacket” those sk8er bois back in the day had with Dickies.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      I think you’re right, that’s more of a mechanics jacket, the difference being less blousy and no elastic on the bottom.