Though many know my influences for dressing up--hello, costume designers Edith Head, Helen Rose, and Jean Louis, among others--I don't speak nearly as much about those who inspire my casual side. For that, I turn to the American cinema style of the 1960s and 1970s where many, such as Robert Redford, really modeled the look of California casual cool. Few did it better than Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw...a ridiculously hot couple who also were--and still are--style icons in their own right.
Nearly everyone knows the story. After the success of 1970's Love Story, director Sam Peckinpah hired Ali to do The Getaway with Steve McQueen. At the time, both stars were married--Ali to Paramount Studios mogul Robert Evans and Steve to longtime love Neile Adams. But both of the marriages were becoming strained, and the film's remote shooting location in Texas only made that worse. Much worse. When Steve met Ali, their intense natural chemistry was explosive. Their volatile relationship onscreen in The Getaway--one that swung from making love to fighting to making love again--had interesting parallels to their offscreen relationship. Steve and Ali began an affair that resulted in their own marriage not long after. As much as the story of their relationship titillates, what's always fascinated me most about both stars is their innate and individual sense of style.
Steve is the kind of man every woman wants to be with...and every man wants to be. I don't know anyone who doesn't get positively giddy at the mere mention of Steve McQueen. There's no question that he was genetically gifted, but his timeless appeal comes from the great authenticity of his style. As any great style should, it reflected the way he lived his life. Many know of his near endless struggles growing up, and being so impoverished meant his wardrobe was limited to the most basic of pieces. Steve would credit years spent in the Marines for teaching him to develop a physical and mental discipline that had been lacking in his troubled (to say the least) childhood. Many garments in his wardrobe show the influence of the military, especially in his coats and jackets. And later, while he was studying to become an actor, he discovered a passion for auto and motorcycle racing. He used any winnings to pay the bills, but more importantly he genuinely found what he wanted to do and to be. "Racing is life," Steve once famously said. "Everything before and after is just waiting." He was well respected on the racing circuit and treated as a professional. It was so much a part of his life that much of Steve's style stems from the racing he did more and more and more...even and especially when he became a success. All the incredible classic cars and motorcycles he collected and then raced became just as synonymous with his style as the garments he wore while doing it. It all came together and evolved into that masculine minimalism he had down pat...looking just as hot and put together in denim and a t-shirt as he did in Saville Row suiting. Perhaps more so.
Ali's style, on the other hand, came from a very different place. Her background includes a family filled with artists--lightyears away from Steve and his unsettled life hopping from home to home and struggling as an actor. Not surprisingly, Ali started her career in fashion...first at Harper's Bazaar where she served as a photographer's assistant before becoming assistant to style icon and Editor-in-Chief Diana Vreeland. Apparently, this wasn't the most pleasant experience...she suffered years in a situation that sounds not too distant from the one that made us laugh (and cringe) in The Devil Wears Prada. As a result, Ali left for Vogue magazine to be a stylist and then model before going into film. With only her second picture--Love Story--she achieved iconic style status in Elizabeth Haffenden's oft emulated East Coast preppy costumes. Offscreen, Ali's style has always included many of those classic pieces and is what continues to help her look so ageless.
But Ali has another side to her...an extremely bohemian look that clearly comes from the artistic side of her upbringing. It was she who introduced what fashion now calls Boho Chic to the world. Think flowing dresses, long necklaces and scarves, knit hats and head wraps, and details pinned in her long slightly wavy hair. Today's fashionistas like Rachel Zoe and Nicole Richie as well as Katie Holmes, Angie Harmon, and Jordana Brewster (and just about every girl in LA) all owe so much of their looks to Ali MacGraw's 1970s style. Even in the wintery preppy landscape of Love Story, Ali managed to work her own knit cap into the film from her closet. It ended up being an enormous hit with the public and copied time after time in department stores.
Both stars appeared on major magazine covers for their style--Steve in a tux (circa The Thomas Crown Affair) on the cover of Harper's Bazaar and Ali in her bohemian chic on the cover of Time. And both stars continue to influence fashion today...I've mentioned some of Ali's above and of course Steve is an ongoing style inspiration for men. Collections from designers such as Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren regularly refer to McQueen, largely because his style is just as appealing and accessible to the average guy as those who try to be on trend. While at LA's Market Week with my own luxury casual retail line Time & Silence, I put together my favorite inspirational images of the on and offscreen style of this seriously sexy couple. As you'll see, it doesn't get much hotter than this.
Though Steve was genetically gifted, he also reportedly worked out 2 hours a day...
discipline he got during his days in the Marines
An early proponent of yoga, Ali was (and still is) also very into physical fitness
and made every swimsuit she wore look incredible
Steve and Ali had an instant attraction to one another...
it's chemistry you can feel even in still images
Ray Summers, costume designer for The Getaway,
outfitted Ali in earthtone Halston-esque pieces such as belted blouses, jackets, and coats
On the Texas set of The Getaway
Steve could do tuxedos with the best of them--see The Thomas Crown Affair or his cover of Harper's Bazaar (above)--
but less was more for the man who was most comfortable in just a pair of jeans
In basics from t-shirts to sweaters, Steve shows how to do it right
Steve loved racing cars and had many from Ferraris to Porsches...
here he wears an ivory Harrington jacket (likely from Barracuda) while in his prized Jaguar
Inspired by the military, the flight jacket is a classic piece for men and one Steve wore often
Motorcycles were another passion of Steve's and his included everything from dirt bikes to Triumphs...
here he rides around in his black leather jacket and matching black denim
Nobody did denim on denim better than Steve McQueen
Ali MacGraw style on the cover of Time magazine after 1970's hit Love Story
Like Steve, Ali also stuck to classic basics like crewneck t-shirts
and sweaters throughout her life
Ali's offscreen style was very bohemian with flowing dresses, necklaces and scarves,
and head and hair adornments
Beginnings of Boho Chic in Hollywood on Ali, Dyan Cannon, and Natalie Wood
For more on Steve's racing style, be sure to check out a favorite men's style blog The Selvage Yard