Crowning Glory

Originally featured in Issue 2 of The Rake, Wei Koh expertly examines how Steve McQueen’s magnificent wardrobe stole the show in classic 1968 heist film, The Thomas Crown Affair.
Thomas Crown Affair, 1968 with Steve McQueen. (Photo courtesy of Alamy)

There’s a reason many of the smartest names in men’s elegance regard The Thomas Crown Affair, the 1968 film starring Steve McQueen, as one of the most influential moments in men’s style. To this day, the film remains one of the most empowering intersections between masculinity and sartorial expression ever captured by the camera’s lens.

Created during an era when American cinema was focused on gritty social realism, it was perhaps understandable for reviewers to dismiss a movie like The Thomas Crown Affair — replete with Faye Dunaway’s 31 costume changes, Ferrari GT 250s, Rolls-Royces and, in particular, Steve McQueen’s British-tailored splendour — as mindless eye-candy.

Admittedly, the narrative foundation of the film is not the strongest. Its central character is a new-world Boston brahmin — the 36-year-old, divorced, polo-playing arbitrage specialist and self-made millionaire, Thomas Crown. Because his life is so coloured with ennui, he’s compelled to get his adrenaline double-tap by masterminding a daring daylight bank robbery using unwitting henchmen who don’t know his true identity. Enter Faye Dunaway, who plays a cagey insurance investigator — the cat to his mouse, engaging Crown in a duel of wits, emotion, and stylistic one-upmanship.

Agreed, the characters are underdeveloped and the plot is without true genius. As one reviewer put it, “If style could be purchased,” director Norman Jewison “has turned out a glimmering, empty film reminiscent of an haute couture model: stunning on the surface, concave and undernourished beneath.”


    March 2020


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