Marrying into the royal family has not made Meghan Markle any sort of chattel, as John Bercow would say, to her rusty-haired prince. In fact the Windsor boys are much more the products of their marriage (as, frankly, any gentleman should aspire to be), and no more so than in the way they dress.
Prince Harry has of late been having a notable style moment. Us on the wings who comment on such important matters are having something of a conundrum discussing it. It is not that Harry’s style is great, it’s just that it is not bad. To be in the public eye in the most gilded family in the world, and find a style that strips away the princely baubles and is still comme il faut, is an ongoing challenge.
The Duchess of Sussex is immaculate, and her personal style has been introduced to Harry at a time where the Duke needs to set his own tone. The Cambridge and Sussex households are separating over the coming months as Harry and Meghan prepare for the arrival of their new baby. This division provides an opportunity for a new sartorial as well as strategic direction for Harry, away from the shadow of his brother.
His Army officer years were predictably formal, towing the Windsor/Household Cavalry traditions – Gieves & Hawkes suits, clean-shaven, standard-issue Prince and still third in line to the throne and every time he dusts these looks back off, he does so with aplomb. His new position in the Royal Family – with the Queen delegating more, and the Cambridges pushing him further from the line of succession almost annually – necessitates a fresh presence so he can carve his place more securely as perhaps the most approachable royal, and his wife’s input on this is vital. Which explains the neutral palette of greys, dark greens and navy, the slim cut everything, the suede Ted Baker shoes (more on these later). There is a section in Mr. Porter called Mr. P: it is their own label and was specifically created to offer a stripped back men’s wardrobe, with all the classics there in their purest and most elementary form. Whether he wears Mr. P or not, Harry is a pin-up for this kind of simplicity, more Soho House than Cavalry & Guards.
There is precedent for all this. Historically the royals who were the most fun eschewed their ceremonial gear as fast as possible. The Duke of Windsor was a sartorial rabble-rouser, and pushed boundaries of silhouette and ‘correct’ expectations of royal presentation. Edward VII, when he was known as Dirty Bertie, invented the tuxedo in 1865 as a more casual version of evening tails. And a mention of Princess Diana wouldn’t go amiss, who broke the royalty fourth wall with her many appearances in gym kit and loose fit crew neck sweaters, which juxtaposed with Charles’ bespoke Anderson & Sheppard finery. Prince Harry is no different, and has now shifted to a point where his clothes aren’t just appropriate for his position, it is also the most accessible.
A case in point is his choice of Ted Baker shoes. The Chukka boot is a staple for most men’s wardrobe: sturdy, inexpensive and formalish. Harry clearly likes his suede. Whether that’s because it has a louche air about it, or because he is less concerned about that and just likes the fabric, is neither here nor there; what is interesting is the brand. Ted Baker is not, and please read this in the most delicate way possible, a particularly smart brand. Every naff wedding line-up of groomsmen with ill-fitting suits and jazzy linings is likely to be sporting Ted Baker. Ever met an estate agent with a particularly jarring tie or oversize cufflinks? Ted Baker. This next to the £100 cashmere jumpers from Everlane, for which he has a particular penchant, shows he is not pushing the boat out but instead buying conscientiously and intelligently, and believe it or not, he is buying on brand.
Harry, under the influence of his wife, is an international sensation, a guru with nothing to teach, a man for all seasons exclusively in grey, and a rebel with a charitable cause or two. But he doesn’t need to shout this from the rooftops through his style; a hint here and there through tinkering with the rules is enough. Compare this with the grotesquely flashy Middle Eastern royals who, during the summer months, turn Knightsbridge into a racetrack and you begin to understand Harry’s appeal.
Harry’s approach to clothes may be less formal than everybody else in his family, which suits his new life with his fantastic bride, but his style neatly captures the centre ground and enables him to dwell in blissful neutrality. What could be more Royal than that?