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
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.
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.
Round Tortoise Sunglasses
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.
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.