Steve McQueen is the epitome of cool and is widely regarded as one of the most stylish men of all time.
From his iconic leather jackets to his classic chinos and sweaters, his classic wardrobe is timeless and can be easily replicated by anyone looking to emulate his effortless style.
I am personally a huge fan of this style…for the young man looking to upgrade his style game, there is no better icon.
In this article, we’ll be exploring the 9 items you need to get the iconic, effortless Steve McQueen look.
With these timeless pieces, you’ll be able to channel the same effortless cool that McQueen was known for and create a wardrobe that looks just as good today as it did back in the 60s.
01 Denim Jeans
One of the most important items in a rugged wardrobe is denim jeans.
Jeans are a staple and you probably already have a few pairs a must-have for anyone who wants to add a little extra style to their wardrobe.
However, for someone who wants to dress like the King of Cool, it’s important to get the details right. This means getting the rise, fit, and wash of your jeans right. All three of these things are crucial to making your jeans as cool as possible.
The Rise: The first and most important thing to note when picking out a pair of jeans is to make sure they have the right cut.
You always want to look for a pair of jeans that sit just below your natural waistline. These are usually labeled as regular or mid-rise by jeans manufacturers.
The Fit: The jeans should be a slim or straight fit depending on your body type. In other words, if you are a little slimmer, choose slim. If you never skip leg day and have bigger thighs, go ahead and get a straight fit.
At all costs, steer clear of low-rise skinny jeans if you want to channel Steve McQueen.
Wash refers to the fading and coloring of the jeans. If you’re going for the classic Steve McQueen look, you want to make sure to get a pair of jeans with a dark or classic blue wash.
If you can afford it, it would be best to go for a pair of thicker gauge selvedge denim jeans.
Keep fading and any other embellishments like holes to a minimum. Wear your jeans in and you will have a fade that is better than any that comes from a factory.
I have a pair of selvedge denim jeans from Uniqlo which so far, I have been impressed with. These are on the cheaper end but seem like good quality.
A quick google search for ‘Steve McQueen’ will illustrate that he was a big fan of chinos. And he wore them well, very well indeed.
To emulate McQueen’s classic cool look, make sure to grab a classic-looking pair of chinos in a slim but not skinny fit.
For an authentic look, it is best to opt for khaki chinos rather than brighter more outlandish colors which will give a more preppy look.
Avoid chinos with cargo pockets or any other embellishments.
Pair them with a pair of boots in the colder months or some casual white trainers in the summer.
Personally, I won a few pairs of chinos, again from Uniqlo. They have been great and don’t break the bank. Here’s a review of them for those of you interested.
03 A White T-Shirt
A white t-shirt is perfect for anyone who wants to dress like Steve McQueen because of its versatility.
It can be worn as an undershirt or as a standalone top for a casual cool look.
Pair one with khaki chinos for a relaxed and comfortable summer look.
In the fall, opt for a white tee under a classic leather jacket and you can do no wrong.
The white t-shirt is the perfect item to stock your wardrobe with because it can be worn with almost any type of pants and can be styled in a variety of different ways.
In my experience, it is not worth spending a lot of cash on white tee shirts as whether they are cheap or expensive, they tend to wear out at almost the same rate. Find a store that fits you well and buy a few.
04 A Navy Or White Polo Shirt
We’ve said it before and we will say it again, a polo shirt is a staple in any man’s wardrobe. They’re casual and comfortable, but they can also be dressed up if needed.
A polo shirt is also the perfect item to add to your wardrobe if you want to dress like Steve McQueen. The polo shirt can be worn with a pair of jeans for a relaxed look or with a pair of khaki pants for a slightly more conservative look.
The right polo shirt with a stiffer or button-down collar can also be worn underneath a sports coat for a sleek, put-together look that is perfect for any smart casual occasion.
Polos come in a variety of materials each with pros and cons which we’ve already covered in a full article. However, if you are after the Steve McQueen look, you should be looking out for a cotton waffle-style material or a merino wool polo. Steer clear of anything made from polyester or anything with logos.
I have quite a few cotton polos that I picked up over the years from Uniqlo and Decathlon. They, again, are on the budget end but have help up well.
05 A Killer Leather Jacket
The leather jacket is the ultimate item to stock your wardrobe with. Yes, leather jackets can cost a pretty penny but the right one will give you that instantly recognizable Steve McQueen look.
Whether you’re wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt or you’re wearing dress pants and a button-down, a leather jacket can be worn with both.
As I live in a place that is hot all year round, I don’t currently have a leather jacket though I do have one at my parent’s house for when I visit home. There’s no getting around the fact the leather is expensive but anything fake will not cut it; it’s the real deal or nothing.
In my view, many fashion-focused leather jackets are not that well made or very functional in terms of keeping out the elements. I would therefore advise looking at actual motorbike jackets for this. Companies like Triumph make great-looking jackets that are designed to withstand the wind blast you get when riding a motorbike and even slides on the pavement so you can rest assured they will last a long time. These are also more ‘authentic’ looking than those made by fashion-only companies and will give you that rugged McQueen look even if you don’t ride a motorcycle.
06 A Thick Knitted Sweater
Thick-knitted sweaters have somewhat fallen out of fashion in recent years but everyone young man should have one in his wardrobe, especially if you’re interested in dressing like Steve McQueen.
It’s the perfect layering piece and adds a touch of class and elegance to any outfit. A thick knitted sweater can be worn as a standalone piece for a semi-formal look or as a layering piece for a casual look.
A thick knitted sweater is also perfect for wearing underneath a sports coat for a more sleek and put-together look.
As with most items on this list, you should opt for a classic color like navy or gray rather than anything too bright or daring.
07 A Sports Coat
The sports coat is a timeless piece of clothing that every man should have in his wardrobe. I’d argue that there is no one item that can take an outfit from drab to dapper quite like a great sports coat.
A sports coat is also the perfect thing to stock your wardrobe with if you’re dressing like Steve McQueen. It’s a classic McQueen piece.
Regardless of it being a McQueen go-to, It is the perfect item to stock your wardrobe with because it can be worn with a variety of different pants and can be styled in a variety of different ways.
Style it with chinos, a pair of loafers, and a button-down shirt or polo on summer evenings or during the spring. Add a sweater and some leather boots during the winter months and you’re good to go anywhere.
As I am based in South East Asia, I have a linen sports coat. I had it made by a tailor here and if you have that option, I would recommend doing it. A sports coat is an investment piece and something high quality that fits you well will stand the test of time. If I were living in a place with a colder climate, I would opt for tweed and would recommend you do the same.
08 A Button-Down Shirt
It goes without saying that a button-down shirt is a timeless piece of clothing that every man should have in his wardrobe.
Like many items on this list, its versatility is what makes it so valuable. McQueen seems to have been a big fan of pieces that could be dressed up or dressed down.
A classic white button-down can work with slacks, jeans, chinos, and even shorts.
A button-down shirt is perfect for wearing underneath a sports coat for a more sleek and put-together look. It can also be worn more casually with some chinos. or even shorts on those hotter days.
I have a few pale blue and white button-downs and I wear them all the time. They really are some of the most versatile pieces of clothing a man can have.
09 Leather Boots
Leather boots are timeless pieces of footwear and every man should own a pair in his wardrobe.
I would argue that Steve McQueen was one of the first men to bring boots back into fashion after they had been on the outs for a few decades.
His iconic style was tied to biker culture which included leather boots and chaps for those riding motorcycles and that influence can be seen throughout his movie roles.
Look for boots like those made by Red Wing for an authentic classic look. They can be word day-in-day out and will bring a more rugged element to any outfit.
Steve McQueen was and remains a style icon. His rugged yet classy has stood the test of time and is a great starting point for young men who want to upgrade their style game.
Best of all, it is not difficult to achieve once you have a few key pieces like the ones mentioned in this post.
Have we missed any essential Steve McQueen-style pieces? If so, we’d love to hear which ones in the comments!