Tuesday, 17 July 2012

HRH The Prince of Wales officially launched the inaugural London Collections: Men at St James’s Palace.

Princes of Wales have always been arbiters of gentlemanly style
Prince Charles may have made a mess of his marital life in the 1980s, but at least he has never made a mess of his neckwear

Gustav Temple
guardian.co.uk, Friday 15 June 2012

That the Prince of Wales is to host the inaugural London Men's Fashion Collection at St James's Palace, organised by the British Fashion Council comes as no surprise to me. If such an event had existed at any other time over the last 200 years, the choice of host would have been as obvious then as it is today. For Princes of Wales have always been arbiters of style; men whose faultless interpretation of the gentlemanly fashion palette has greatly influenced the men of their generation.

From George IV, who as Prince of Wales during the Regency period followed the dictates of his chum Beau Brummell (despite the prince having a frame at least twice as portly), to Edward VIII, the controversial abdicator who nevertheless is still regarded as one of the great style icons of the 20th century – the men who have inhabited that limbo period between being a boy prince and king have always devoted a good part of it to dressing well.

In the case of Prince Charles, that period of limbo has been rather long - he's the longest serving heir-apparent in British history (the previous record, of 59 years, being held by his great-great-grandfather Edward VII). But despite all his controversial moments he has shouldered through these years of scandal, divorce, chutney-producing and eco-idealism, one thing has remained constant. He has always been immaculately dressed.

The Prince Charles "look", although based on very traditional and classic gentlemanly lines, is uniquely individual. And this is the art of the gentleman, to make one's own peculiar mark with what appears to be a very limited palette. Charles has pulled it off more than anyone in the royal family since the 1930s. His suits, and dinner jackets, (either from Anderson & Sheppard or Turnbull & Asser) are always double breasted. For fabric he choosesclassic English patterns: narrow pinstripes in dark fabrics for winter, lighter colours and Glenurquhart check (or Prince of Wales check) for summer. The collars of his shirts (usually Turnbull & Asser as well) are always cutaway, which he twins, unusually, with a very small knot in his tie (Turnbull & Asser or Benson & Clegg). His shoes and polo boots are invariably made by John Lobb, Jermyn Street's finest bootmaker. And Charles never appears in public without a pocket square.

While fashions come and go, and trousers lengths have wobbled up and down the legs of trendier men (including a painful period of genital constriction thanks to skinny jeans in the early 2000s), Prince Charles has soldiered on with his personal take on the Savile Row look. This sartorial consistency counts greatly towards his regard as a public figure. While he may have made a mess of his marital life in the 1980s, he has never made a mess of his neckwear. The fact that he has been asked to host the London Men's Fashion Collection speaks volumes about the respect accorded to him by the arbiters of traditional menswear, from Savile Row to GQ magazine – on whose "best-dressed" list Charles features this year.

Some would argue that, had poor old Charles been crowned several decades ago, he would have brought the monarchy into the 21st century, with his unconventional views on organic farming, the environment and religion. Lacking this opportunity he has at least embraced his long-term role as heir apparent with a dress code to match: elegant, tireless, timeless and consistent. So perhaps we should be pleased he was not made king when younger: otherwise he may have been the first monarch to strut around in genital-constricting trousers?

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