As soon as I saw the schedule for the 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival last Fall, there was one movie I knew for certain I would see and cover for its essential cinema style--1968's The Thomas Crown Affair. Everything about the production--Norman Jewison's direction, Hal Ashby's editing, Haskell Wexler's cinematography, and Robert Boyle's art direction--is beyond stylish. But of course it is the costume design that interests me most. This is a movie I have grown fonder of over the years, especially as I have come to know, appreciate, and respect Men's Style even more. And one of the reasons for this is the great Steve McQueen.
Steve McQueen appeals to both men and women...in our fantasies, men want to be him and women want to be with him. Much has to do with his strong sense of style, which arguably hit its peak in 1968. Released within mere months of one another, The Thomas Crown Affair and Bullitt both exploded in theaters that year and sealed the deal on Steve the style icon. As Thomas Crown, Steve made anything and everything he wore look good. For the first time in his career, he worked the more formal side of the fashion spectrum in tuxedos and custom-made three-piece suits. On the casual side, Jewison drew out Steve's personal style by allowing him to do his own stunts--playing golf and polo, flying a glider, and driving a dune buggy at breakneck speed along the beach. These athletic moments and their accompanying style would evolve even further in Bullitt.
The role of Thomas Crown was a big change for McQueen in more ways than just the costumes. He was mostly used to playing cowboys, and here he would need to portray someone from an old Boston family who attended Dartmouth and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. With a real life background closer to Boys Town, you can see Steve reminding himself of his character's intellectual superiority by playing with the Phi Beta Kappa key throughout the film. Even the seduction in the movie had an intellectual component...loving the cat and mouse challenge of Faye Dunaway's character Vicki Anderson during their courtship and ultimately losing to her in a game of chess. "Chess and sex," Jewison enthused at the film festival, "and Steve ended up 'exposing his queen.'" This game was followed by perhaps the most famous of the creatively cut moments in the movie...a passionate kiss that was edited from three full days of filming.
I knew from the beginning that covering Thomas Crown would be an enormous undertaking. There's just so much style here. Costumes are credited to Theadora van Runkle, but she was largely restricted to the women's wardrobe alone. These are some seriously controversial costumes, too. Though van Runkle is celebrated for Faye's iconic look in the Style Essential Bonnie and Clyde, many consider her Thomas Crown costumes a "distraction" to the movie. This is, in fact, the very word that multiple film festival attendees chose to explain why it took them so long to appreciate Steve's style. I have to say, I felt much the same way. Faye's costumes are very of the moment...they're on trend for the late 1960s, but seem a bit dated now especially when her accessories are often white tights with white shoes. But what I've tried to do here is narrow those featured to my favorite looks since there's still a lot to love, whether it's her clothes, hair, or makeup.
Even so, it is really Steve's style that I celebrate here. Perhaps most significant are the suits--three-piece masterpieces from Saville Row legend Douglas Hayward. A "working class lad" who found he had talent in a business usually reserved for the upper crust, Hayward wanted to make sure that great style was egalitarian. Most important, he believed, was that "you've got to make [men] feel good before you can make them look good." As a result, in addition to outfitting Steve both on and offscreen, he was tailor to the hottest stars of the 1960s--Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, and James Coburn as well as his close inner circle of friends like Michael Caine, Terrence Stamp, and James Bond himself Roger Moore. Hayward dressed many over the years, including at least 50 Academy Award winners. And because he was the gold standard, even great designers--icons like Ralph Lauren--went to him for their suits before creating ones of their own. Michael Kors and Tom Ford are just two other menswear designers who have taken their lead from Hayward. Interestingly, Thomas Crown's credit for Steve's "wardrobe consultant" only includes Ron Postal--best known for Don Adams' costumes in the Get Smart television series--without mention of the fact that he was outfitted by a tailoring legend.
The Thomas Crown Affair is for all the men in my life who think there isn't variety in the way they can dress. Between Doug Hayward's incredible cut and color choices in suiting and Steve McQueen instinctively choosing classic casual attire, there are an awful lot of lessons to learn from this movie. There are also incredible classic cars and locations that add to the overall style quotient. Though there are even more moments of style in the film than the ones I share here, I think I've narrowed it down to the best. Enjoy.
How we meet Thomas Crown...
at the office in a blue gray glen plaid three-piece suit, light blue silk shirt, cornflower blue tie, and pocket square
His gorgeous masculine office, which also includes a giant globe along with the other tasteful details
Playing with his Phi Beta Kappa key while orchestrating the robbery
Some of the incredible editing and split screen storytelling at both the beginning and end of the robbery
Following the getaway of the 1967 Ford Country Squire station wagon while
looking through the front window of Thomas' Rolls Royce
Picking up the cash at the Cambridge cemetery
and looking cool in blue-tinted Persol sunglasses
Driving the Rolls Royce home to his posh pad in Beacon Hill
and seeing the personalized license plate TC 100
Home at last
Celebrating success with a cocktail and a cigar in his living room
Calling to celebrate with dinner at Joseph's with his hot girlfriend as well
Multiple trips to Switzerland to deposit the cash
Looking super smart in another suit while doing a little banking
Back at Logan Airport, Detective Eddy Malone (Paul Burke) and bank insurance agent Jaimie McDonald (Gordon Pincent)
call in the big guns to solve the bank crime...Vicki Anderson (Faye Dunaway)
I love Faye's entrance and sublime cats eye tortoise shell sunglasses,
but not necessarily her opening outfit even though it was very of the moment
Golfing at the Belmont Country Club
Vicki's first visit to Eddy and wearing a white skirt suit and eggplant blouse
with a big braided updo
Steve in his element doing something cool and athletic...
this time flying a glider
Supermodel girlfriend in a suede suit and her convertible Cadillac waiting for his landing
This is naturally much of McQueen style...Persols, navy windbreaker, khakis, and saddle suede desert boots
Paul Burke looking very stylish for a detective
alongside Faye in a safari-inspired skirt suit (with a polkadot blouse) that was very en vogue
After much investigation, Vicki thinks she's finally found her man
More split screen storytelling for the polo match
Vicki has another stylish vehicle of the movie--the first of only 10 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spyders,
a model that Steve later bought for himself after falling in love during filming
Sporty Steve looking incredible while playing polo
At an auction, Thomas spies the same Ferrari from the polo match
and looks for the girl inside
Deep charcoal wool three-piece suit with pale striped shirt, gray silk tie, and pocket square
for the St. James Ballroom on Beacon Hill
Vicki telling Thomas he's her man
Though not crazy about the outfit, I do love Faye's hair and makeup here
Hard for a man to go wrong with black suit and solid red tie (and coordinated pocket square, of course)
Orange is a dominant color for Thomas' casual clothes, such as this big thick bathrobe
Any of Faye's costumes that are too literally late 1960s are not my favorites, such as the nautical suit with white tights and shoes (above)
but I do like others such as her pale pink dress paired with pretty hair and makeup
We see Thomas in suits of glen plaid, charcoal, black, and now brown
as he discusses liquidating his assets in a three-piece with yellow shirting
But for date night with Vicki, Thomas chooses a gray gabardine
with a lilac striped shirt and lavender silk tie
Face off between detective and criminal...
working man and rich man...
and both who want Vicki
Vicki's date night consists of a side button coat with mock neck and bell sleeves
and a backless chiffon cocktail dress with a cameo attached
Let the games begin
During the chess game, Vicki successfully uses tactics to distract Thomas
Filming lasted three days for this one kiss
Another McQueen moment in the movie...
driving a dune buggy (with license plate TC 300) at breakneck speed on the beach
A gorgeous early morning in Boston with Thomas in a tuxedo
I love how the real McQueen comes out while he's trying to be Thomas reading the Wall Street Journal
As Thomas shows Vicki her own squeeze and stakeout on him,
the mustard gold accessories--silk tie and pocket square--make this suit sing
Back at the beach...a gorgeous look on Faye with classic white jeans and big blonde hair
Orange once again appears in casual costumes for Steve...this time in shirting
While in the steam room, Vicki tries to convince Thomas to take a deal with police
Vicki's done too good a job in convicting Thomas, so he must figure out a plan
Classic fisherman's sweater, light blue denim, and baseball cap (and cigar) at the beach
Thomas breaks it to Vicki that he's planning another bank robbery
Both blondes look incredible in their fishermen sweaters the night before the second robbery
Staking out the Cambridge cemetery for the new money drop
Love Faye's voluminous ponytail paired with lined eyes and pale lips...
a look that's classic and still popular today
Vicki finds a Western Union delivery boy in the drivers seat of the Rolls rather than Thomas
Or does he?