The most stylish movie ever made: The Thomas Crown Affair

Posted on April 24, 2013

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I recently caught the Pierce Brosnan remake of the 1968 original Thomas Crown Affair and I’ve found it wanting. While the 1999 incarnation has gratuitous sex (probably more a statement of a decade of Basic Instinct led cinematic titillation), I felt dirtied rather than stimulated by its tawdry. Inversely, the original affair was showcased on the precipice of ‘free-love’ 70s yet carried more subtly, the sexual yearning between the leads Faye and Steve without overt nudity. In fact, it also passes an extremely high sartorial bar for both leading gent and lady- Featuring structured Brit-cut suits, Ferrari GT250s, Rolls Royces and what I believe is a vintage Jaeger Le-Coultre Reverso- McQueen’s Thomas Crown Affair is definitely the most stylish movie ever made.

thomas crown affair- steve mcqueen style (4)A Stylish Discourse on The Thomas Crown Affair

Style paragons of today: Tom Ford; et al, still refer to The Thomas Crown Affair (go watch A Single Man). Indeed, such is the film’s influence on tailored menswear and character archetypes that we can see style tropes and personalities in shows like White Collar, Hannibal and to an extent The Mentalist. Additionally, the movie is a “how to” guide on living the ultimate playboy lifestyle– A thirty-something polo-playing self-made businessman (we never find out if his fortune was legitimately earned or ill gotten- not that in matters in our age of Too Big To Fail) having reached the pinnacle of satisfaction, now pursuing a path of self actualisation through bank robbery. His audacity and virility are evident from the first scene, he meets his unknowing accomplice in person albeit from the shadowy corner of some Boston hotel, casually tossing him $50,000 (huge money in the 60s) for a new car- “stationwagon with wood panelling on the side”- Crown’s penchant for specificity is indication of the character’s attention to detail even before he whips out gold chained Patek Philippe pocket watch from vest.

thomas crown affair- steve mcqueen style (16)Surprisingly, given the era, it’s unabashedly chauvinist but Faye Dunaway’s insurance investigator Vicki Anderson is given equal weight in cunning and flair for style. In fact, from the innovative (by 60s standards) split screen cinematography, together with chaotic jazz soundtrack and the dozen or so screenshots culled from my blu-ray edition, everything about the film oozes style and lifestyle.

Steve McQueen made the standard bank heist so stylish that in the oceans of caper flicks after, they had to have 11 more stylish cads to equal it! Yes, hyperbolic I know but in terms of male (and female) sartorial expression, The Thomas Crown Affair is the standard by which we all should live by- one where men are masculine and properly suited and women are smart and sexy without being whorish- point in note, Dunaway’s Vicki is in jacket and dress most of the time, nary a cleavage until perhaps the most sensuous game of chess ever.

thomas crown affair- steve mcqueen style (24)The sharp aesthetics are undeniable and in fact transcendent, it’s a film that leads by stylish example only to be equaled by films the American Gigolo and A Single Man when costumers and designers enjoy the gift of hindsight and another 40 years of style and error. It’s classic elegance in cinematic form- gold print stationary and even Crown’s burnt orange bathrobe, every frame of the movie exudes good taste and decadence. 40 years on this stylish affair is still as sartorially relevant today.

A crowning achievement in menswear

Nifty shades of grey: Steve McQueen in three-piece Prince of Wales glen plaid suit.

Nifty shades of grey: Steve McQueen in three-piece Prince of Wales glen plaid suit.

Thomas Crown's Mother of Pearl cufflinks

Thomas Crown’s Mother of Pearl cufflinks

His classic Persol shades.

His classic Persol shades.

Patek Philippe pocket watch separates him for other men who are just "stylish". It distinguishes him as a man of means and taste.

Patek Philippe pocket watch separates him for other men who are just “stylish”. It distinguishes him as a man of means and taste.

Note the waist suppression on his jacket. Buttoned up, McQueen cuts an impressive figure. Structured shoulders- a hallmark of British tailoring.

Note the waist suppression on his jacket. Buttoned up, McQueen cuts an impressive figure. Structured shoulders and solid roping- a hallmark of British tailoring.

Even relaxed and in a bathrobe, Thomas Crown is ridiculously put together. I don't know many robes with pick stitching.

Even relaxed and in a bathrobe, Thomas Crown is ridiculously put together. I don’t know many robes with pick stitching.

No decadent playboy lifestyle would be complete without a Ferrari GT250.

No decadent playboy lifestyle would be complete without a Ferrari GT250.

A man can never go wrong with a charcoal grey three-piece like the one worn by Thomas Crown as he waits to clear immigration.

A man can never go wrong with a charcoal grey three-piece like the one worn by Thomas Crown as he waits to clear immigration.

 

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Posted in: men's style