How to wear all white and look like Steve McQueen

From the perfect plain white T-shirt to a wardrobe full of bright, light jackets, here’s how the ‘King of Cool’ mastered tonal dressing

Usually, when we discuss the ‘shades’ of Steve McQueen, we’re talking about his iconic Persol sunglasses. But there was more to the famed actor’s signature style than a pair of frames. From three-piece suits to denim jeans (or ‘Steve McQueens’ in rhyming slang), the ‘King of Cool’ blazed a trail for hard-wearing, no-frills fashion.

And, from swim shorts to racing suits, he did so mostly in one simple shade; white. Why McQueen felt such an affinity for the light, bright colour, we’ll never know. But, whether he was relaxing in a bathrobe or cruising around on his custom Métisse Mk3 motorcycle, the Bullitt star would invariably be wearing white — from cuffs of his sweatshirt to the soles of his sneakers. It’s a tricky look to pull off — but who better to school us than the man himself?

Begin by mastering the notoriously tricky white trousers

Few men can pull off bright white trousers. And yet Steve McQueen — a man who was famously slathered in motor oil half the time — managed to maintain several pristine pairs. How? Easy. He had different white trousers for every occasion. 

First up were his jeans, something slim cut and selvedge like Thom Sweeney’s hard-wearing off-white option. Next, his off-duty casual chinos, similar to what you see in the photograph above and perfectly replicated by New & Lingwood. The British brand’s spin on the style, with contemporary rise, belt loops at the waist and gently tapering legs, are ideal for reading your own copy of Motor Racing at the weekend. And, finally, for a touch of formality (we’ve all got movie premieres to attend now-and-then), you won’t find a trimmer, slimmer pair than Mr Marvis’ ‘The Wimbledons’. 

How to wear all white and look like Steve McQueen

Thom Sweeney Selvedge Jeans

£395

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How to wear all white and look like Steve McQueen

New & Lingwood Cotton Chinos

£175

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How to wear all white and look like Steve McQueen

Mr Marvis ‘The Wimbledons’

£109

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Use a plain white T-shirt to form the foundation of any look

Like James Dean and Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen mastered the insouciant cool of the plain white T-shirt. In fact, the actor went one step further — managing to make logo tees from motor manufacturers look inexplicably elegant. You likely don’t race at Sebring on weekends, so we’d steer clear of shirts like McQueen’s ‘Triumph’ design above.

Instead, mix up the style. Aurélien’s super-soft terry towelling would certainly have been a favourite of McQueen’s — the man loved a bathrobe, after all. Orlebar Brown’s cotton-jersey shirt offers a little more movement and stretch, perfect for long, sunny afternoons with your arms outstretched to a pair of handlebars. And, from L’Estrange, ‘The Tailored Tee’ is an organic option with a film-star fit.

How to wear all white and look like Steve McQueen

Aurélien Terry Towelling Polo Shirt

£69

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How to wear all white and look like Steve McQueen

Orlebar Brown Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt

£195

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How to wear all white and look like Steve McQueen

L’Estrange The Tailored Tee

£40

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Also take your sweatshirt styling cues from the laid-back actor

Being a loungewear essential, it’s no surprise that many of McQueen’s favourite laid-back looks featured a sweatshirt. But, as with the rest of the actor’s white-skewed wardrobe, he preferred these practical, comfortable jumpers in a pale colour. 

And wearing a sweatshirt doesn’t mean sacrificing on luxury — as Artknit Studio’s supple silk staple will attest. It also doesn’t mean that craftsmanship should be compromised; Sunspel have dispelled any notion of that with this Japanese Loopwheel Raglan sweatshirt. But comfort remains the most important reason to wear a casual sweatshirt, and this drop-shouldered take on the style from Acne Studios is as cozy as they come. 

How to wear all white and look like Steve McQueen

Artknit Studios Silk Sweater

£128

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How to wear all white and look like Steve McQueen

Sunspel Japanese Raglan Sweatshirt

£225

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How to wear all white and look like Steve McQueen

Acne Studios Oversized Sweatshirt

£190

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Lace up a pair of bright white staple sneakers

McQueen’s choice in footwear continues to influence fashion to this day. His Sanders & Sanders Chukka Boots, in particular, have been ripped-off and replicated by many major brands — all attempting to lace up some of that signature Steve McQueen charm. But it’s the actor’s sneakers we’re most taken by — in all their bright white glory.

Simple, stripped back and with a practical low-top construction, McQueen’s kicks were no-nonsense sneakers. But, thanks to this restraint, they’ve become timeless. It’s an effective approach worked to similar success with Oliver Cabell’s Low 1 tennis shoes. Uniform Standard have added a touch of texture with leather detailing, and the platform soles of Scarosso’s Ugo Bianco sneakers would be perfect for motorcycling and movie-making alike. 

How to wear all white and look like Steve McQueen

Uniform Standard Series 3

£140

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Finally, find a practical, versatile white jacket

Last around the corner comes a wardrobe full of white jackets. Because what else are you going to wear when you’re tearing through the Hollywood Hills in your Jaguar XKSS? McQueen was known for zipping up his famous Harrington Jacket while zipping around — another look that has endured to this day.

But we’d skip the classic Harrington, and instead opt for a slight spin on the style. Something like this Ecru Workshirt from East Hackney’s Percival — in a versatile springtime shade. Or, for added luxury, Dunhill’s elevated, elegant white bomber jacket spun from silk. But perhaps the most ‘McQueen’ option would be this corduroy trucker jacket from Brunello Cucinelli; reliably made, endlessly practical and effortlessly cool.

How to wear all white and look like Steve McQueen

Percival Ecru Workshirt

£149

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How to wear all white and look like Steve McQueen

Dunhill Silk Bomber Jacket

£1095

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How to wear all white and look like Steve McQueen

Brunello Cucinelli Corduroy Jacket

£1570

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