Style Files: Steve McQueen
"There he was, about 5'7", skinny, but on nights out in Munich, if he walked into the bar, the women - whoomph - would be around him."
So Tom Adams described one of the coolest-looking men who ever lived - Steve McQueen.
The pair met filming the classic movie The Great Escape. McQueen's reputation as a womaniser comes as no surprise, but when I first saw this quote the thing that struck me was the first half of it. Steve McQueen was 5'7" I am aware 5'7" is not astoundingly short, I am fairly well qualified on the subject since I stand at 5'5" myself.
But considering McQueen's constant status as a style icon, I had assumed he was taller. His image as a "man's man" (I really hate that phrase) does not really depend on his stature, Tom Cruise has shown us that, but it is not that often that an enduring style icon stands relatively small and skinny.
This is an issue which is of particular interest to me since I find dressing well, as a relatively short and slight guy, quite tough.
Finding things that fit and tapping into current trends can be tough. You don't naturally fit into off-the-peg clothes, but tailoring can be pricey and some things just look odd on the shorter man. It is also not easy fining style icons; what taller chaps wear may not suit and the less lofty style icons of the world can have a rather unique look which is difficult to replicate - if you're considering dressing like Bruno Mars, don't.
But surely there must be a few tips we can nab from Steve McQueen. Surely.
Well there are. The first is very simple: Pick your look.
You know who Steve McQueen is and you know what he looks like. Leather biker jackets, jeans, boots, Harringtons, Persols - it is all simple and all part of the one look.
There is a lot to be said for finding a basic look which works and sticking strictly with it. But this does not mean it has to be one look at all times. Indeed I am a big advocate of having a couple. McQueen is a perfect example; whether in leather jacket and jeans on a bike, or a chunky knit, chinos and sneakers, he is still Steve McQueen. The latter part of that is attitude. Pick clothes which make you confident.
Block colours are also a key part of McQueen's success and they are a gift to those of us who are not as physically imposing. The iconic Great Escape look is blues and browns in block. Bullitt was brown and blue. The Magnificent Seven was pink...and blue. Keep it simple.
Finally, know what works. McQueen had his khakis for The Great Escape tailored to a style which suited him, rather than conforming to the military rules, and they would not have cut the sleeves off their jumper. But that worked for McQueen. He wore an anachronistic jacket in The Cincinnati Kid and reportedly carefully picked out his own suit pieces for The Thomas Crowne Affair - which remains my favourite of his style outings.
So find your look, have your staples and keep it simple. But there is, of course, one more thing to consider: what ever you do, don't try to be Steve McQueen.
For a more authoritative look at McQueen's style check out The Rake.