Steve McQueen is a household name. He is known worldwide, by a number of reputations that, even for the perceptions of those not old enough to remember his on-screen and off-screen antics, precede him. The stuff of legend, the man encapsulated the rebellious American persona that has many times been imitated, but never equalled. ‘Too weird to live, too rare to die’, to contort Hunter S’s gonzo diatribe of a departing attorney. He was epitomic of the culture; he lived fast, and indeed, died young; through a haze of substance and alcohol abuse, the high life, incredible woman and unending reckless abandon. And, of course, one doesn’t grow to be a global superstar in such a way without inadvertently becoming ‘The King of Cool’. He was a style icon, whatever he wore instantly became a cultural phenomenon and a staple of the attitude. This then, is how he defined cool with his clothes.
Many think of McQueen’s style before the man himself; certainly the younger advocates – how often does one think of a jacket, or a pair of aviators when someone says Steve McQueen? More so than perhaps any other actor. There was a fine line that, on the one hand, with knife-edge tailored, millimetre-slim-cut suits, khaki trousers and lightly shaded unbuttoned shirts, highlighted the pristine glamour of his status, and the way he carried it with an unremitting nonchalance; that could only be perfectly echoed by the rough and rugged, overtly virile sporting jackets and outfits that he wore often as a direct result of his passion for motorbikes and cars.
If it was messy, McQueen would wear it; having something that would allow him to get stuck in working on a vehicle without having to worry about the state of his clothing, but ensuring he remained confident that it would still look great no matter how dirty it got, was the ultimate aim.
Jeans and polo shirts, the dressed down look, also played a significant role in his evident style; right down to the fact that a pair of distinctly blue jeans and a tight, white t-shirt will instantly conjure images of McQueen, especially when coupled with one of his trademark jackets. To take such a simple, oft-worn combo that is still very much a fashionable dress down option today, and put your name next to it is a perfect example of the resonating influence he had on all generations he came into contact with, including the purely narrative and media driven existence that he inhabits today.
The mud-splattered jackets that feature heavily in his black and white photos straight from the verges of Berlin have been replicated in the commemorative collections available today, and to a truly striking degree. These jackets are the essence of the aforementioned rough and ready style, highlighting the decorative effect, their aesthetic is quite inimitable.
Indeed, even Steve’s beloved Harrington jacket has been closely and lovingly re-rendered in a modern collection, and delivers that chic, one-of-a-kind style in a manner that avoids the residual, and very authentic looking mud effects of the other jackets. Perfect evening-wear fodder, perhaps.
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The Rolex Explorer II, one of the most prestigious watches by the most esteemed watch maker, was appended with his name on release, dubbed the McQueen Rolex, the bright orange hand and ivory dial batons made it distinctive and one of the most sought after watches ever.
It is without a doubt that Steve McQueen is one of the most style-centric icons of our time, despite being from a different generation (to some of us) altogether. The unique methods by which he tackled life, with the speed and ferocity of a charging bull, made women want him, and men want to be him. To quote Mr Thompson again ‘…one of God’s own prototypes. A high powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production’. It was this one-of-a-kind nature that made him utterly unforgettable, his mark on history indelible.
This article was written by Rob Vicars on behalf of The Highlands Store. For the latest in Steve McQueen’s incredible, inimitable clothing collection, look to The Highlands.