A life in style: The refined elegance of Prince Philip

One aspect of Prince Philip’s life in royalty which is often overlooked was his unwavering style. Refined, suitable and always British in character.

Last year, the Prince’s Duke of Edinburgh scheme published a checklist of ‘character-building’ areas for young kids, to help enrich and widen their lives.

One of the more inspirational pledges from this was point 22 – ‘dress for yourself, not others.’ And he’s right.

Over his career, Philip was a quietly dashing, well-dressed man. Occupying the rather awkward space between dressing well whilst also not upstaging his more famous wife in the process.

Yet his wardrobe, especially his tailoring, always had a proud nod to his military past. The Duke saw action in the Second World War aboard numerous ships, most notable HMS Wallace. Where he became the youngest first lieutenant of the Royal Navy at 21 years old.

An official birthday portrait of the Duke and Queen Elizabeth released in June 2020 showed him wearing a navy double-breasted suit with notch lapels and an unusual four-button-eight assortment on the front.

Complete with a white pocket square which loosely drapes over the right lapel. Whether this was a sign of the Duke’s ‘sprezzatura’ (An Italian tailoring word for deliberate imperfections in one’s outfit) or whether it showed his old age as he struggled to shove his pocket square down, isn’t clear.

The tie he wore in the portrait was a deep burgundy and navy striped tie. The colours of the Welsh Guard with whom the Prince held great respect for during his life.

A man of habits, much like the institution he was a part of, Prince Philip’s suiting was consistent and conservative.

One reason for this was his loyalty to his tailor. John Kent of Savile Row’s Kent and Haste house remained his suit maker for much of his life. Cutting the Prince’s suits in the finest British fabrics and cloths. According to Kent, Philip was particular of his suits and the way they were cut. He would also insist on the buttons of his two-button suits to belong to various Royal Navy branches. Again, a nod to Philip’s reverence to the British military.

Of course, Prince Philip would always look comfortable and at ease in his tailoring. An important distinction.

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Out in the country, the shirt and tie stayed on, naturally. One shot from 1974 sees him leaning against a Land Rover, wearing a brown tweed sports jacket, cut loosely. His pleated trousers a slightly lighter shade of brown. The obsessive of you will also notice the rather lovely lapel roll of his button-down shirt. His characteristic oval sunglasses finishing off the outfit superbly.

The brown ensemble and nonchalant lean reminds me of the iconic shot of Sean Connery, god of classical menswear, with his DB5 in the Swiss Alps. Or am I getting ahead of myself?

Of course, as British royalty, he would be expected to champion British brands. Whether that be John Lobb shoes, Gieves and Hawkes shirts or the jackets of South-Shields based Barbour. A brand that has been awarded three royal warrants in its 127-year history.

Much like Edward VIII and a young Prince Charles, Prince Philip earns admission to the small group of royals who could dress well and were conscious of this fact. Whose outfits transcended the well-to-do dinner parties and regal pleasantries, to instead fill the pages of style journals and publications.

In a career of controversial chapters, Prince Philip’s wardrobe was one place that thankfully lacked faults.

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Main photo credit: Joe Lane

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