Editorial: Driving Steve McQueen (When Porsche Beat Ford)

Steve McQueen and Jacqueline Bisset in “Bullitt”, 1968 | Solar Productions

 

It’s the car, it’s the casual elegance, it’s this time of year, it’s the times.

It was Steve McQueen’s Mustang – a very fast, dark green 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 – that got all the fame in Bullitt (1968), but Jacqueline Bisset’s 356C Porsche lent the film class and elegance. It was not often that women enjoyed the prerogative of a sports car in movies – my favourite to this day probably remains Tippi Hedren in The Birds, driving her Aston-Martin convertible through the curves of Bodega Bay, free, liberated, driving “as a vivacious expression of her combative personality”, as Camille Paglia notes in her superb BFI book about Hitchcock’s film. It’s a joy watching Tippi control that car.

Bisset turned out to be the perfect counterpart to McQueen on another level than gunning a roadster, adding a level-headed element to an otherwise very realistic and gritty cop movie. It is a fact that style comes more naturally for men. So whenever we have a female character who stands up to her male counterpart in terms of style, especially when the man is Steve McQueen, we should sit back and take notice.

Jacqueline Bisset’s wardrobe in Bullitt (1968) is simple, functional, offbeat, often menstyle inspired, and the perfect match to Steve McQueen’s low-key all-American look. Jacqueline’s camel coat over a rollneck pullover is as much of a classic as McQueen’s defining tweed sports jacket paired with a turtleneck sweater. But the one that truly stands out for me is the sweater look: paired with blue jeans, black boots and a quilted leather bag. Free and liberated and heralding the new modern. I love the contrast between her so natural look and Steve’s sharp suit. It was usually the other way around, especially in those times. And it just happens to be the right kind of look during the gap in season, preferably to be experienced on a motoring trip. The times call for micro adventures. To be mindfully pursued, quietly enjoyed and never purposely displayed. Just like good style.
 

Steve McQueen and Jacqueline Bisset in “Bullitt”, 1968 | Solar Productions

 
 

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