You want to talk iconic movie style? Steve McQueen as Capt. Virgil Hilts in The Great Escape has to be part of the conversation. His outfit for most of the film was simple. An A-2 leather jacket, some khaki chinos, a pair M-43 Type III service boots. And what has now become known as the Steve McQueen sweatshirt. It’s a timeless look that has inspired countless men’s sense of casual style. And, along with McQueen’s waxed motorcycle jacket, Baracuta G9, Red Wing boots and shawl collar cardigan, it has come to define what’s “Cool”.
Both BAMF Style and The Rake do an excellent job of breaking down the look from the film and discussing it’s impact on the way men dress. In this post we’re going to focus on alternatives for the timeless sweatshirt.
Features wanted for the Steve McQueen Sweatshirt
- “Air Force blue” mid-weight cotton or cotton blend french terry fabric, preferably with a vintage wash
- Heavier and wider ribbed cuffs and hem
- Raglan sleeves
- Plain crew neck collar
- Would be great if we could get the contrast stitching at the shoulders and sleeve seams
I’ll leave it up to you if you want to cut off the sleeves.
Before we get to the alternatives, I’m guessing some of you may be surprised by the brands that are NOT on the list. I did look at popular makers like American Giant, Champion, Reigning Champ and Flint and Tinder. And they all have some amazing pieces. But for various reasons, their versions didn’t meet two or more of the criteria above.
Back in 2013, high-end Japanese replica maker Toys McCoy released their version of the Steve McQueen sweatshirt from the The Great Escape in both long sleeve and a cut-off sleeve versions.
Made from 100% loop-wheeled cotton and retailing for about $210.00, they’re pretty difficult to find now. There’s one of each on Amazon (a medium long sleeve here, and a small short sleeve here). And you can still order them from the Toys McCoy website for about $190.00. But their website is only in Japanese, which I sadly can’t read, so I can’t give you much more than that. However, if you’re looking for “as close to screen-accurate as possible”, it’ll probably be worth the effort to track one down.
Best Option for the Steve McQueen Sweatshirt
Velvet by Graham & Spencer Vern Heathered Raglan Sweatshirt in Blue: $122.99 to $147.00/£124.69 to £149.65
Expensive! But I’m not sure we can get much closer to the original without going with a repro. Velvet has gone with a 60% cotton/25% Modal/15% Tencel Lyocell blend terry cloth and given it a washed out, vintage look. These are made in the U.S.A. and Amazon has sizes small to XL in stock. I’m seriously thinking about adding this one to my Wish List!
Amazon Essentials Crewneck Fleece Sweatshirt in Blue Heather: $14.45 to $17.00
This is when I should mention that there are lots of inexpensive sweatshirt options out there. Fruit of Loom, Hanes and Gideon all make basic cotton/poly blend models under twenty bucks that satisfy the needs of plenty of people. I’ve decided to share this one from Amazon because the color is good match for McQueen’s. It’s sitting with 4.2 stars out of 5 on Amazon. Most of the complaints seem to focus on the sizing, which customers are saying is inconsistent. So it may be a bit of dice roll.
And speaking of Hanes … Shame about the notch at the collar. Without it, this would’ve been a serious contender for Best Option. The fabric is an 80% cotton/20% polyester blend and they’ve gone with a slimmer, shorter vintage fit. So you may want to consider sizing up if you want a more relaxed look. Amazon has sizes small to XL in stock.
Banana Republic Core Temp Sweatshirt in Vintage Indigo Blue: on sale for $38.99
If you’re looking for a sweatshirt you can actually sweat in, then this one is worth a look. Banana Republic’s Core-Temp fabric is quickly gaining fans for its quality and feel. So the fact that they’ve used it in a vintage style sweatshirt is pretty cool. Sizes are getting low on the website; they’re down to XXS, M, L and XXL.
A 100% cotton from those classic outfitters in Maine. This one is a fuller cut, which the bigger guys should appreciate. The color and raglan sleeves are a great match for the Steve McQueen sweatshirt. But it does have the collar notch. Reviews are pretty positive, with most mentioning it’s a little lighter weight than expected.
It’s got the raglan sleeves, the right fit and it’s not a bad color match. But then there’s that collar notch. Still, the sanded 98% cotton, 2% spandex fabric and the trimmer cut give it a nice vintage feel. Mack Weldon has sizes medium to XXL in stock.
Designer Tom Cridland became famous for offering a 30 year guarantee on his products. Basically, if anything happens to this 100% organic cotton sweatshirt over the next three decades, you can send it back and they’ll fix it for free. Including the return postage. Gotta say, I respect that kind of commitment! And it’s also a way of fighting back against “fast fashion” and raising awareness about the true cost of our clothing. On a more practical note, the sweatshirt is available in sizes XS to XXXXL.
Yeah, I know. Raglan sleeves and a great color. But there’s stitching at the collar AND a chest pocket?!? I really broke the rules with this one. The truth is I’d feel a little weird not including a Todd Snyder-Champion collaboration piece on this list. I own a couple and they’re really, really nice. The 16oz. super soft french terry cloth is made in Toronto and the actual garment is stitched together in Canada. Plus they have sizes XS to XXL in stock.
The Investment Piece
Okay, let’s play chase the sweatshirt! The color may be a little darker than ideal. But the details come very close to McQueen’s, especially the lighter exposed fabric at the shoulder seams. The problem? It’s from an earlier season, so no one has a complete size run. I’ve linked to Rag & Bond above; they have sizes XS and XXL. Bergdorf Goodman has sizes Large and XL in stock for the same price. If you’re XL or XXL, you’re in luck. Gilt has those sizes on sale for $89.99. And if you’re small or medium I think you may be out of luck.
Have some suggestions for the Steve McQueen sweatshirt? Tell us about them in the comments! You can also visit our Facebook page, Instagram account and Pinterest Boards for more James Bond style advice and inspiration! And don’t forget to check out our Amazon Store. That’s where we’ve organized the James Bond and Steve McQueen alternatives we’ve found the massive online retailer.