The flicks
The Thomas Crown Affair: A Study in Power Suiting
By Charlie Thomas
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Sometimes a film is so well-styled it becomes better known for the clothes than it does the storyline. Indeed, you’ve probably seen film stills from The Thomas Crown Affair of Steve McQueen wearing sharp three-piece suits with his trademark watch chain more times than you care to admit. To say his character’s wardrobe in this film is iconic is an understatement.

But then a quick glance at the credits will reveal why. London tailoring mastermind Douglas ‘Dougie’ Hayward was behind much of the film’s wardrobe, making McQueen’s bespoke suits with his signature ‘60s flair. He was, after all, responsible for the tailoring in other films including 1966’s Alfie, Get Carter, The Italian Job and For Your Eyes Only. Many of the foremost actors of the 1960s made a point of working with Dougie; Michael Caine and Roger Moore used to sit in his Mount Street showroom for hours, drinking Scotch and swapping stories. By all accounts, Hayward’s quaint little shop was a microcosm of cool befitting the ‘Swinging Sixties’.

If Hayward was the master maker then McQueen was the master wearer. Indeed, if you’re ever unsure how to wear your clothes with confidence, simply study how the man moves as Thomas Crown, the millionaire bank robber from this 1968 film. He doesn’t walk so much as prowl, his steely charm oozing through the way he leans, his laconic gestures and the icy blue lens of his Persol sunglasses.

But back to the suits. They would, for the most part, be a bit extravagant on virtually anyone else – an elaborate display of wealth. His most famous look, the plaid grey three-piece, was worn with a Patek Philippe pocket watch and a carefully thought out pocket square, after all. But McQueen’s stoic cool and rugged masculinity ensure his suits never stray into ‘OTT’ territory. And regardless, his shirt and tie choices keep things from getting out of hand.

In the case of the grey Prince of Wales check three-piece look, the pale blue spread collar shirt is matched with a mid-blue silk necktie, knotted in a half Windsor, both of which complement his eyes and his shades. This tonal technique is also seen with a lilac shirt and lavender tie worn with a mid-grey three piece – it’s a sophisticated way of dressing and one that’s easy to replicate.

With the most stylish of films it’s often the lesser discussed looks that are the best. The Thomas Crown Affair is a case in point, with McQueen’s off-duty dune buggy look a real highlight. For his gallivanting ride on the beach he chooses a long-sleeve orange utility shirt, cut in a boxy fit in what appears to be a lightweight cotton-linen. He pairs it with black shorts and his signature Persols for what is an effortlessly cool beach look. It also shows the versatility of the collared shirt – from suits to beachwear they’re always appropriate as long as the cut, shape and fit is correct. Dougie Hayward knew it and now so do you.

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