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Retro Style – The Kings of 60′s Cool

We’re taking you way back … to the 60s – the most diverse and vibrant period in modern history.

The 60s were and continue to be nostalgically synonymous for the counterculture and radical social revolution near the end of the decade. The era (aka the Swinging Sixties) has been described as one of irresponsible excess and flamboyance because of the fall or relaxation of some social taboos especially relating to sexism and racism.

Youth predominated the culture of the 1960’s. They swayed the fashion, the fads and the politics of the decade introducing surfing, the hippie culture, bell bottoms, afros and platform shoes to the world.

Men’s hair became longer and wider, with beards and mustaches.  Menswear had a renaissance – casual shirts were often plaid and buttoned down the front. Bright colors, double-breasted sports jackets, polyester pants suits with Nehru jackets, and turtlenecks were in vogue and by the end of the decade, ties, when worn, were up to 5″ wide, patterned even when worn with stripes. By 1968, the androgynous hippie look – frayed bell-bottomed jeans, tie-dyed shirts, work-shirts, sandals and headbands – was in style.

However a few resisted the ‘free love’ movement and stayed true to classic style; their dedication to looking timelessly stylish rewarded today by the fact that we still consider them icons in their own right.

Steve McQueen

McQueen in his Larazoni Jaguar XK SS – only one of 16 ever built.

When 3 of the world’s  best dressed men including Pharrell Williams, names Classic Hollywood bad boy and King of 60’s cool, Steve McQueen, as their style icon, it’s enough for MSP to sit up and take notice.

The highest-paid film star of his time, Steve McQueen had a rebellious nature that complemented his onscreen American antihero persona and earned him the nickname “The King of Cool.” Off-screen, the actor was passionate about motorbike and car racing, and had a natural yet distinctive all-American boy-meets-renegade style that, together with his no-nonsense man’s man personality, made him a style icon both in his time and in ours.

On-screen McQueen was often put into uniform: combat fatigues (Hell Is for Heroes), starched khakis (Soldier in the Rain), sailor suits (The Sand Pebbles), prison whites (The Getaway), and prison stripes (Papillon). Even his snazzy three-piece suits in The Thomas Crown Affair had a regimented fit, as if he were modeling an exclusive uniform—a tasteful weave of crisply pressed money.

On-screen McQueen and off-screen McQueen was the same cat. His look was rough and ready, yet with a touch of elan and grace thrown in.

Ruggedly street smart

Style-wise, Steve McQueen excelled at taking classic American sportswear and giving it a rugged, masculine edge. Hallmarks of the actor’s style included aviators, slim-cut tailored suits, sport coats, zip-up windbreakers, khakis, button-downs in pale colors, V-neck sweaters, and shawl-collared cardigans, as well as polo shirts. Of course, as a racing enthusiast, the iconic star was also a fan of clothing he could get down and dirty in, such as racing jackets, simple cotton T-shirts, leather jackets, gloves, boots, and denim, denim and more denim.

Solitary and uniquely himself …

Interestingly, although Steve McQueen was most in his element when dressed down in jeans, he cleaned up so well that Rolex named their sophisticated Explorer watch after him, officially calling it the McQueen Rolex. Additionally, the Tag Heuer Monaco watch the actor donned in 1971’s Le Mans made such a splash that the company re-released it in the 1990s. This style icon was also the first man to grace the cover of the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar.

The fate of many performing icons is to live long enough to witness and even collaborate in the parody of their fame and career highlights. McQueen’s too-early death spared him being fed into the cultural Cuisinart, mashed in with everyone and everything else. He was one of the last of the true solitaries, his mystique and individual style illuminating the path to true manliness.

Robert Redford

Redford in classic aviators.

His cowboy chic has long extended beyond ‘Butch & the Sundance Kid’ and today Robert Redford is less known for his white crispness in The Great Gatsby than for his activism – he was an environmental activist long before it was fashionable and long before global warming entered the lexicon.

The man was the quintessential blue jean “relaxed and rugged utilitarianism” pictogram. Straight legged or boot cut blue jeans were and continue to be a staple in Robert Redford’s closet.

Exuding cool  – With Barbara Streisand on the set of ‘The Way We Were’

The Oscar winner and sometimes preppy pea coat lover has been spearheading grassroots movements of conservation since the age of 24, when he spent his last $500 on two acres of land in his now beloved Utah. That parcel has widened to nearly 5,000 acres and is home to his Sundance Institute, which was created to nurture independent film-making and was the inspiration behind the Sundance Film Festival. Redford, a frequent narrator and producer of documentaries focusing on green topics, has long put his public persona to good use. Thirty years ago, he moved words into action as a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council and later the founder of the Institute for Resource Management. He regularly speaks out for clean, sustainable, and alternative energy production, as well as to protect clean air and water resources.

Peacoat anyone?

Want to channel Redford’s nonchalant style?

Add a vintage leather bomber jacket, tweed blazer and dark rimmed aviators to your wardrobe, all part of Redford’s iconic ensemble.  Then take a cue from Redford, and wear a Grant’s Ike jacket. The original Ike was designed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It is a classic jacket that was worn by troopers in Europe. Grant’s design is a favorite of Robert Redford and he’s been spotted wearing it at many Sundance festivals.

Paul Newman

Newman’s homage to the nostalgic 60’s

There has never been anyone in show business like Paul Newman. A dazzlingly handsome man who never felt entirely comfortable with his good looks, Newman specialized in portraying irresistible rogues like ‘Butch Cassidy’ opposite Robert Redford as the ‘Sundance Kid’ .

His personal style leaned towards the traditional;

An American minimalist take that featured skinny lapels on slim fitting charcoal suits, a look he perfected in the movie, “The Hustler”. Dark ties, white button down shirts and cufflinks were thrown together to complete his coolly, calculated style and crisp oxford button downs were worn tucked into equally crisp slacks, reminiscent of Newman’s image in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”.

Newman’s onscreen wardrobe would sometimes feature soft sweaters and knits and he also showed up in a classic trench coat, worn with the collar popped. Under it all, the man wore white – pure white undershirts and boxers that matched his quest to becoming a genuinely good, pure guy in real life using his fame to support the causes he believed in.

The true rebel with a cause …

He changed the lives of literally thousands of people (among them more than 100,000 children) with his generosity, and he entertained and moved us with his films. Newman passed in 2008 and was deeply mourned by fans, friends and family. Described as an honourable man, he left a strong impression on all he met. He was … “a man of conscience.”

What better epitaph than that?


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