Prince Philip: a sartorial star

The retired Duke of Edinburgh has always had an eye for simple but outstanding suits

Features

09 May 2017

Prince Philip has always cut a dash at grand occasions, such as Trooping the Colour, when decked out in military uniform. However, our newly and deservingly retired Consort knows exactly how to dress when out of uniform, too. While, his son Prince Charles is rightly praised for his style, and often tops various ‘most stylish lists’, be in no doubt about where he got his eye for tailoring from. Like Edward the VIII and Edward VII before that, Prince Philip has impacted the sartorial landscape on the basis of being royal (remember the true history of luxury is all about what Kings and Queens had), but unlike his distant in-laws, has done so without really trying.

Holistically, the Duke of Edinburgh’s style is as interested as moving with the times as mechanical watchmaking. That is to say, not at all. New technologies for watches may help but modern examples are reserved strictly for the footballing set and by the same token, Italian, tighter, flashier, pointier suits (and shoes) can be left to the UFC fighters and gentrified rappers. A lot of this has to do with the Duke’s tailors of choice over the years. He was a patron of Hawes and Curtis when it was a true tailoring house for the military and royalty, which is where he met his current tailor John Kent in the late 60s.

Kent, now part of the holy triumvirate of tailoring, Kent, Haste and Lachter, is an old-school tailor in the truest sense of the phrase, in that he apprenticed at 15 and hasn’t really looked back. On top of that John has a wicked sense of humour, so the two were a great match. The benefits of a suit from John serve what seem to be the Duke’s tastes well. John is a believer that less is more and simplicity defines an elegant suit, one that doesn’t seem to try too hard to grab attention. Looking at the style of Prince Philip; it is a good example of how clothes can be a true extension of oneself. Colour tones are the same, almost always grey or navy blue with naval brass buttons on a blazer being as close to bling as he would get.

Prince Philip pictured on a Brighton cable car in 2016

Prince Philip pictured in 2016 (AFP/Getty Images)

We see similar detailed tailoring hallmarks of his through the years. A low button which lengthens the silhouette and, with an unstructured cut around the skirt and side panels, creates an hourglass figure. The shoulders are natural but not too soft in the Anderson and Sheppard way that Prince Charles likes, and the trousers are a good width in a style that is very true to British tailoring, which favours drape over the Italian or wide-boy British style that clings a bit more to the body – enter miscellaneous footballers.

One observation is that Prince Philip virtually never wears vents on his jackets, which is very unusual for today’s suits, but is extremely smart. His lapels look to be between three and four inches wide, a classic rather than fashionable width, with a high gorge (the break in a notch lapel). From early imagery this seems to have a style he consciously chose to adopt, which has proved somewhat prescient. The style elongates the torso and strengthens the shoulder, especially against the less angular and lower gorges that Savile Row would have been making up until the 70s. Indeed, today thin lapels are losing out to broader ones with a high gorge, so the Duke was clearly something of a trailblazer.

Forgive the nerdy tailoring details, but they are important. Prince Philip is immaculately simple sartorially. He is a man with an understanding of what is correct and appropriate and seems at ease in a suit in a way that currently has never been more popular. Sceptical? Look at the drop in sales of highly monogrammed, over embellished luxury. It is dropping at a rapid pace, especially in British luxury. People expect it from Italy, and Dolce & Gabbana execute it wonderfully. For Britain though, the demand is to supply the highest quality, reliable, steadfast and perennially stylish suits on the planet. Something that Prince Philip knows a thing or two about, both in style and in substance.


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