It’s ironic that this most macho of style icons is so well remembered for playing the tweed-jacket-wearing San Francisco detective Frank Bullitt. McQueen’s image is about as far from tweedy as it’s possible to get thanks to his love of fast cars and motorbikes, and his appetite for beautiful women. Perhaps that’s why his wardrobe in the film, which could have left a lesser man looking rather professorial, is anything but.
The jacket is made from herringbone tweed cut in the soft American style that foregoes any structure in the shoulders and darts in the chest and in keeping with traditional Ivy League style, it has a 3-roll-2 button stance (wherein the lapels of a three button suit roll down to naturally cover the top button).
It’s instructive that although longer and looser than contemporary tailoring, the jacket looks right on McQueen’s athletic, not emaciated, body. Beneath the jacket the actor wore a mid-weight blue roll-neck, the casual deployment of which transforms the outfit – it would have looked entirely different if he’d worn a shirt and tie. Ignore the black and white stills shot on the set, and instead go back to the film and admire the superb colour contrast between the jacket and the blue sweater.
While McQueen’s charcoal-coloured trousers are the least notable element in the outfit they make the overall image entirely urban, in spite of the sports jacket, and ensure our attention is drawn up to his face.
The ensemble is finished with an informal and sporty pair of brown suede chukka boots with chunky crepe soles, which presumably allowed his character to masterfully pilot the legendary 1967 Ford Mustang GTA Fastback that effectively co-stars in the film.
Nearly half a century after Bullitt was made McQueen’s outfit still shows us how best to wear a tweed jacket in the city, why every man should own a blue roll-neck, the fact that brown suede chukka boots are almost always a good idea, and the importance of the right accessories – in this case a fast car, and Jacqueline Bisset. This is the kind of tweedy to which every man should aspire.