The Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater

A cream Aran knit is about as timeless as a sweater can get. Steve McQueen wore his twice in the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair. First, while he was hanging out at the beach in his Meyers Manx dune buggy, quietly contemplating his next move. The second time was during the bonfire scene with Faye Dunaway  (she’s wearing one too!).

affordable alternatives Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater affordable alternatives Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater

But perhaps the best look we get at the sweater is in some behind-the-scenes pics from the production.

affordable alternatives Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater affordable alternatives Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater


Features wanted for The Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater
  • Light beige color
  • Center honeycomb pattern flanked by diamonds on the front
  • Honeycomb pattern on the sleeves

Okay, first thing is the color. Crown’s sweater is not the common cream. It’s more of a very light beige or sand. But if we used the color as the defining characteristic, we’d only be left with one option: The King of Cool’s sweater. So I’ve been a little flexible with this.

The second interesting point is the pattern. As most know, the different elements of the pattern are symbolic. The cables are for the safe return of the fisherman and good luck during the day. The honeycomb represents hard work and diligence (bees). The diamond symbolizes plots of farm land, with the dots inside the diamond symbolizing the crops; together they represent wealth. And the basket weave is the fisherman’s net and represents hope for a good catch.

What some of you may not know is that most of this “symbolism” was made up by a self-proclaimed textile expert named Heinz Keiwe in the late 1930s. The Irish knitters didn’t bother to correct anyone because “every sweater tells a story” is great marketing.

Regardless of it’s origin, the myth of the “symbolic Aran pattern” was pretty established by the time of The Thomas Crown Affair. And it’s fun to analyze McQueen’s sweater through that lens. The predominant patterns are honeycombs, diamonds and baskets. Unlike most Aran sweaters, the cable pattern is kept to a minimum. So the story McQueen’s sweater is telling is “hard work and diligence are the heart of wealth and good fortune”. Which sounds about right for the character.


Best Option for The Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater

The Irish Store Donegal Merino Basket Aran Sweater in Cream: on sale for $114.95

affordable alternatives Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater

Except for the triple cable on the front, the pattern is pretty much a spot on match for Thomas Crown’s sweater. And it’s handmade in Ireland which, for the price, is very nice. The yarn is 100% merino wool and they have sizes small to XXL available.


Under $100
Uniqlo Middle Gauge Cable Crewneck Sweater in Off White: $29.90

affordable alternatives Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater

The budget sweater in an 85% acrylic/15% wool blend. The sleeves are lacking the honeycomb pattern of the film sweater. But the pattern on the front is close. Sizes XS to 3XL are available.


J.Crew Factory Fisherman Cable Crewneck Sweater: on sale for $54.50

affordable alternatives Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater

J.Crew Factory’s alternative is 100% cotton and lacks the honeycomb pattern. Still, the type of diamond knit they used could definitely work if you’re not too picky. It has 4.7 stars out of 5 on the site, so people seem to like it. Only complaint is the sizing runs small. They’re stocking sizes XS to XXL in regular, slim and tall fit. A good choice if you’re worried about the itch of wool.


Aran Sweater Market Heavyweight Merino Wool Aran Sweater: $89.95

affordable alternatives Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater

A more fitted style made in Ireland from 100% merino wool. Again, we get the triple cable pattern on the front and down the sleeves. Sizes small to XXXL are in stock. And it comes with a Certificate of Authenticity!


Under $200
Peregrine Aran Cable Jumper in Ecru: £89.00

affordable alternatives Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater

A 100% English sourced merino wool, made in England option from a legacy company. Peregrine can trace its origins back to 1776 and the Glover family has stayed involved in the company up to today. If you’re looking for the super-warm alternative with some history behind it, this is the one you want.


L.L. Bean Irish Fisherman’s Crewneck Heritage Sweater in Natural: $149.00

affordable alternatives Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater

L.L. Bean imports these 1oo% wool sweaters from Ireland. So you get some of the heritage, but with the U.S. brand label. Plus L.L. Bean’s excellent 100% satisfaction guarantee and customer service. Sizes small to XXL are available. But if the sweater’s in line with typical L.L. Bean sizing, you can expect it to run big. They also have a less expensive, 80% cotton/20% linen option for $99. However, the pattern isn’t as close a match.


The King of Cool McQueen Arran Jumper: £124.99

affordable alternatives Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater

You want absolute screen accurate? Go to The King of Cool, fans of all things McQueen. They had their sweater made in Scotland from 100% lambswool. And as they say on their site, they obsessed over every detail, from the pattern to the color. So why isn’t the Best Option? Basically, the price. The alternative from The Irish Store comes close in pattern and costs about fifty bucks less.


The Investment Piece
Blarney Woolen Mills  Hand-Knit Donncha Crew Sweater: €257.83/£229.85/$299.00

affordable alternatives Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater

Wool sourced in Ireland. Handmade in Donegal. Includes a hand written note from the knitter who made it. And there can be up to 6 weeks of waiting to get one. But man, that pattern is almost perfect.


Completing the Look


In The Thomas Crown Affair, all we see of McQueen’s total look is a dark blue baseball cap and a pair of pale blue jeans. And the cigar of course. Above is a suggestion for the total outfit:

  • Jeans are by The GAP from a couple of seasons ago. The Gap x GQ Steven Alan slim twill jeans ($98.00) are pretty close. I have serious doubts I’m cool enough to wear a pair of robin’s egg blue pants.
  • Baseball cap is a no name. Something like this $7 one from Amazon would do the trick.
  • Shoes are Converse Jack Purcells. The color is no longer available, but you can check out other options at Converse.
  • Sunglasses are Persol model 3018s. To really capture the McQueen vibe, try the folding Persol PO0714s, available for $191.58 at
  • My mommy hand-knit the sweater ….


If you have any comments or suggestions for alternatives for the The Thomas Crown Affair Aran knit sweater, leave them in the comments below!

Information for this post was sourced from The Irish StoreDoChara and In Stitches. Black and white photographs were sourced from Getty Images

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