There has never been anyone like Steve McQueen. The coolest guy ever. Women loved him, and so did men. He was a rascal, and an original. He was straight up.
NOBODY ever had better style. Of course, Cary Grant, Noel Coward, the Duke of Windsor all had perfect taste, but it wasn't everyday, all the time. And it was beautifully done, but not cool, like McQueen.
I had a brief encounter with him in 1978. It was at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. He was living there. I was staying for a week, visiting from New York. One of those lucky, unforgettable moments, frozen in time. He was the most charismatic person I have ever met. And, the most masculine. He was like a lion. He absolutely commanded the space around him, in a very cool, laid back way.
In terms of the style part of this blog, there is no beating Steve McQueen. From the Savile Row suits, to the desert boots, white t-shirts, cashmere sweaters and blue jeans, he was unique in the way that Audrey Hepburn was unique. Totally different, much imitated. Clean lines, looked great in anything.
More LIFE photos-
Photo: William Claxton
I met Mr. McQueen's self-proclaimed illegitimate son, Fred Spiker aka "Spike", a couple of years ago, while designing the costumes for a Mitsubishi commercial. Stories vary on the authenticity of his claim, but I can say after spending some time with him, he was eerily similar to Steve McQueen, and it wasn't just his face. He was a tough guy, an ex-firefighter, smoked like a fiend, liked to fix up engines, fire engines, rough life, result of a one night stand, never acknowledged by his "father", all that. He had a chip on his shoulder the size of Monaco. Can't say I blame him. Sitting across from him at lunch, I never mentioned any history, but it was very difficult not to think back, and wonder.
On this day, I'd like to give a nod to that wonderfully wonderful man's and woman's man, who made so many of us smile. The crazy, charming, fabulous, difficult, daredevil, racing roustabout has never been replaced, (although Hollywood tries endlessly. Hello, Kevin Costner and Daniel Craig).
Colin Farrell, Kevin Costner, Pierce Brosnan and Bruce Willis have all listed McQueen as their hero and inspiration for being an actor. Countless others come into town every week.
Tom Ford did a good job trying to turn Daniel Craig into McQueen in Skyfall, and obviously looks to McQueen as a source in his men's clothing line.
Nobody comes close.
Thanks for the memories, and for your absolute determination to be yourself.
The book by William Claxton is gorgeous.
For more inspiration, here are a few other blogs celebrating the style of the magnificent McQ...