Men of style: how princes, dukes and kings dress in the British royal family
The royal regalia of kings and queens has long captured public fascination, offering a window into a world otherwise hidden to everyone but those within its inner sanctum. One only has to look outside Buckingham Palace to see this in action – where tourists appear in droves to crack the veneers of the unsmiling Queen’s Guard, as if a break in their comportment might open the floodgates to the inner worlds and wardrobes of the Royal Family.
As the enchantment around female royal style has taken flight, with cult followings of what the Duchess of Cambridge and now the Duchess of Sussex wear, the spotlight on the clothing of their male counterparts has dimmed. Yet the royal attire of princes and kings marries centuries of tradition and history across wartime, monarchy and bespoke British tailoring, making a case for why such royal style has, and continues,
At the tender age of five, Prince George of Cambridge (pictured above with his family including younger sister, Princess Charlotte) has made waves as an arbiter of male microstyle. Button-up shirts and wool sweaters are paired with shorts and socks that are pulled up high, rounding out every look with his signature combed-over hairstyle. Yet following in the footsteps of a young William and Harry, George’s outfits actually take their style cues from a lineage of royal predecessors. As British aristocratic tradition would have it, young boys are not allowed to wear long pants until the age of eight, forging a connection only possible through clothing that bonds George to the past.
Outside of royal weddings and other special affairs, the male Windsors are wont to wear an unofficial uniform on their days off. Generally outfitted in a muted colour palette of pale greys, crisp whites and navy blues, wardrobes designed for international tours or days spent in the English countryside abide by a relaxed yet polished dress code. A walk around Sandringham on a dreary day necessitates a Barbour wax jacket, often paired with a tweed flat hat for walking the dog or fishing, if you are the Prince of Wales. His are crafted in his own estate tweed from Lock & Co Scottish wool, at his request.
An evening event may call for a tuxedo suit from Gieves & Hawkes, established in 1771 at 1 Savile Row, while a day of press duties may allow for an understated cashmere crewneck from high-street stores such as Club Monaco or Everlane, or sports jackets in lighter fabrics from English mills. Should you catch a glimpse of a prince in a kilt at Balmoral, note it is a nod to both history and dominion: donning of royal tartans, some designed by the British royal family, date back to Victorian times and provide an instant visual link to Scotland.
The personal style of each prince is also worked into their everyday wear with small accents, like Prince Harry’s Persol sunglasses, regularly fixed to his face, or Prince William’s Wellington boots, from royal warrant-holding Hunter, perfect for a day on the farm. Quality remains paramount: Prince Charles, lauded for his unrelenting dedication to British quality and cheerleading of locally made attire, was spotted several decades later by his own shoemaker in the very same pair of Oxfords he first outfitted him in.
Derived from 19th-century horse-riding practices, where men would ride in a single-breasted coat with a cutaway front in the morning or during the day, Morning Dress is still worn today by the royal male elite to attend weddings or prestigious occasions. The Morning Dress ensemble is made up of a cutaway tailcoat, striped trousers, a turndown collar shirt, a waistcoat and a tie.
The Morning coat is a single-breasted coat worn in black or charcoal with a single-button closure and a peaked lapel. The trousers must be grey but may feature a checked or striped pattern. The turndown collar shirt must be white or pastel and can only be replaced with a single-cuffed shirt worn with a detachable wing collar, over a grey or buff-coloured waistcoat. Ties are generally grey, though lighter colours are acceptable, and optional accessories include top hats, pocket squares and gloves.
Unlike the fanfare ahead of the reveal of the bride’s wedding gown, it is well known that a royal groom must don a military uniform on his wedding day (like the above, seen on King George VI). As is customary, the special occasion of the marriage is also seized upon to mark the groom’s service within the armed forces.
On the day of his wedding, Prince Harry wore a single-breasted frockcoat of the Blues and Royals, a cavalry regiment and the second-most senior regiment in the British Army. Choosing to wear a major’s uniform instead of a general’s uniform – Harry is the Captain General of the Royal Marines – Harry had to seek approval from the Queen herself. On his chest the Prince wore pilot’s wings, representative of his time serving in the Army Air Corps flying Apache helicopters. Harry’s trousers, officially termed ‘overalls’, were made from blue and black wool barathea and featured red panelling, a leather strap and a buckle below the boot traditionally worn on horseback.
As Harry’s best man, Prince William also wore a single-breasted frockcoat of the Blues and Royals with identical overalls, tailored at pre-eminent tailoring house Dege & Skinner, which was established on Savile Row in 1865. He also wore pilot’s wings, which he received after flying helicopters with the Royal Air Force; the royal cyphers of Queen Elizabeth II on his shoulder straps and a gold aiguillette over his right shoulder.
For his own wedding day, Prince William donned the tunic of the Colonel of the Irish Guard, one of two Irish infantry regiments in the British Army. It was a surprising sartorial statement given he was expected to wear his Royal Air Force uniform, William’s scarlet tunic has become a commemorative icon of the style and grandeur of the Royal Wedding of 2011. Tailored by Kashket & Partners of Firmin House, founded in 1655, the buttons on William’s tunic were arranged in groups of four to differentiate the Irish Guard as the fourth of the Foot Guards regiments to be established. Over his tunic, William wore his garter sash and garter star, as well as his pilot’s wings, to represent his service in the Royal Air Force, and a Golden Jubilee medal.
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