Benson & Clegg, displaying the Prince of Wales feathers proudly in the window of their picturesque Piccadilly Arcade shop
GQ Magazine posed this question in a wonderful piece in July 2012 paying tribute to the Prince of Wales’s unique style blend of the traditional, the flamboyant and the slightly eccentric. The Prince is not the first of the Windsors to be noted for his style. His great uncle, also Prince of Wales and later Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor, was famous for his flamboyant style, sporting plus fours, Oxford bags and daringly fat-knotted ties (the ‘Windsor’ knot has something of a racy reputation in certain circles). The Prince’s father, George VI displayed a rather more traditional approach though in every photograph, comes across looking at ease with his style.
Prince Charles’s own style seems to meld influences from both his forbears, as well perhaps as his own grandmother, the Queen Mother. This is not at outlandish as it might sound. The Queen Mother was closely associated with pastel colours – a style she evolved over time but especially during the Second World War. Dark colours could have seemed too sombre at a time when keeping national spirits up was a priority and death and destruction a daily occurrence and pastel colours also made her visible when out and about in public. The Prince today frequently combines traditional tailoring, often in the pale grey Prince of Wales check, with pastel colours in shirt, handkerchief, tie and socks.
He also occasionally uses his dress to express his great interest in ethnic culture, religion and society. This can be close to home, for example he launched the Campaign For Wool in 2008 and champions the use of native British tweeds and tartans. In an episode of the British Sunday evening slice of rural life, Countryfile, HRH was interviewed against a backdrop of hedge maintenance at Highgrove, wearing the ancient field jacket he uses for this work. It had been patched so extensively that it was almost impossible to discern its original lines. Clarence House later revealed the original manufacturer to have been John Partridge, a Staffordshire firm and that the jacket itself had been bought around 15 years previously.
The Prince’s taste for the unique also embraces global influences. In 2014, London’s Garden Museum hosted an exhibition of fashion inspired by gardens. Though it boasted a couture Valentino gown, it was the Prince’s gardening coat that stole the show. Strictly speaking it is a Chitrali, a full-length robe worn in the mountains of Pakistan. To the Western eye it resembles a rather grand dressing gown but the genius of this garment is its combination of practicality with statement style. Sufficient on its own to signal the wearer’s individuality, it makes it the easiest garment to wear and endlessly adaptable whether it is layered over shirt and suit trousers, casual clothing, sportswear – anything.
Though we may never know who made the coveted gardening robe, thanks to the royal warrant system we do know who makes the majority of the Prince’s wardrobe. Warrant holders may display the words “By Appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales” and distinctive three feathers badge. The companies must fulfil strict criteria to qualify and, in the Prince’s case, an additional requirement to meet a code of good environmental practice. Scroll to the end for the list of warrant holders to the Prince for clothing and accessories as of August 2016. It is an impressive showcase of British manufacturing and artisanship. The list of warrant holders changes every so often and can be found at https://www.royalwarrant.org.
James Lock & Co, supply hats and caps, from formal styles like regimental headwear and top hats to leisurewear like tweed caps.
Lobb remains a family business tracing its St James boot-making history back four generations. The Prince has been a customer since 1971. Tricker’s of Jermyn Street also hold a warrant from the Prince for shoes and as the proud owner of a pair of decade-old Tricker’s brogues myself I can attest to their indestructible qualities and utter comfort. I’m currently eyeing up a pair of their black ghillies for my next purchase.
Anderson & Sheppard is the Saville Row tailor that makes the Prince’s familiar double-breasted suits, including those in his signature ‘Prince of Wales’ check. They also made him a double-breasted herringbone tweed overcoat that is still a familiar fixture in the Prince’s winter wardrobe, almost thirty years after it was made.
Turnbull & Asser of Jermyn Street hold the Prince’s Royal Warrant for shirt-making
List of the Prince of Wales royal warrant holders for clothing and accessories as at August 2016: Anderson & Sheppard Ltd (Tailors), Saville Row; Benson & Clegg Ltd (Buttons, badges, military neckwear), Jermyn St; Burberry Ltd (Outfitters), London; Corgi Hosiery Ltd (Knitwear and hosiery), Carmarthenshire, S Wales; Daks Ltd (Outfitters), Old Bond St; Dents Ltd (gloves) Wiltshire; Ede & Ravenscroft Ltd (robe makers), Chancery Lane; Frank Hall Tailoring (Tailored sports clothes), Leicestershire; G. Ettinger Ltd (Leathergoods), Putney Bridge road, London; Gieves & Hawkes Ltd (Tailors & outfitters), Saville Row; J Barbour & sons Ltd (Waterproof & protective clothing), Tyne & Wear; James Lock & Co Ltd (hatters), St James St; John Lobb Ltd (bootmakers), St James St; Johnstons of Elgin (Estate tweeds and woollen fabrics), Morayshire; Kinloch Anderson Ltd (tailors & kiltmakers), Edinburgh; Malcolm Plews (Military tailor), Bexhill-on-sea; R.E. Tricker Ltd (shoemaker), Northamptonshire; Turnbull & Asser Ltd (shirtmakers), Jermyn St; Wendy Keith Designs (Shooting and kilt hosiery), Cornwall.