The style of King Charles: Top-level classic menswear

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A friend of mine once told me about regular meetings with Prince Charles (as he then was). Assembled at Clarence House, a team of six would wait in a shockingly cold room, to the extent that anyone who was near a window could see their breath. Charles has a reputation for thriftiness - which extends into to clothing - and the heating was rarely on in these meetings. 

When Charles entered, however, his slightly bumbling effusiveness always had everyone animated, talking, moving, shaking hands, and the cold wasn’t noticed again. “I remember the enthusiasm, that was always what stayed with me,” she said. 

I have one other anecdote, this time from a tailor that made for Charles: “He brought in an overcoat of ours he’d had for about 10 years, in order to have it relined. The inside was shocking - worn to death, actually ripped to pieces. I think I must have raised my eyebrows or something because he looked at me and said, ‘it’s done very well’. 

“So we were to reline that, but he also wanted to order another, very similar. When we started to discuss fabrics he said he was interested in vicuna. This surprised me as he’d never used vicuna before, but that’s what he ended up going with. I’m sure that’ll come back in a decade in exactly the same state.”

I’ve talked to tailors, shirtmakers and shoemakers over the years that have made for now King Charles, but that story has stayed with me. I think because it captures something of the ‘old money’ or ‘English country house’ attitude: buy the best, look after it well, and then wear it to hell. I doubt many in the current aristocracy are ordering vicuna, but still. 

While we're on the subject, this is one thing current enthusiasts for the old-money or stealth-wealth look often get wrong, that it’s about quality. The reason the old-money look works is that everything ages well; the reason stealth-wealth does is that the materials look luxurious. That’s why they can get away with being so plain. 

Returning to Charles, the reason I like these anecdotes is that they reveal something of his character from people who worked with him - and it’s very clear he cares about what he wears. It’s sometimes questioned how much credit Charles should get for his style - whether it isn’t just the valet that has the eye for colour. I don’t think it matters who actually lays out the clothes though: it’s being done at his behest, to his taste, and he certainly cares what it is. 

When Prince Charles became King Charles last year, there was the predictable flood of pieces about his style. I didn’t write anything then because (perhaps stupidly) doing so would have felt like climbing on a rather crowded bandwagon.

But it was interesting that a lot of the time the articles focused on his more unusual outfits - like the shot above in a safari suit. These are often nicely executed and he looks easy in them, but they’re very specific to the context.

Most other people would look silly in a full safari suit, even on safari (I recently spoke to a reader who did just that). And unfortunately this is a mistake magazines often make: ignoring the context and focusing on the abstract idea of style. One even called the 1980 skiing look above "timeless".

I’d say the same about the third outfit above, as well, shot when Charles was visiting Canada. Yes he deserves credit for pulling off that bolo-hat-western combination, but it’s very specific to the person as well as the time and place. 

These might seem like obvious things to say, but trust me, there are men out there speccing out a new safari suit with all the bells and whistles (or rather, epaulettes and pockets and belt and bellows) because he’s King Charles, and King Charles has style. 

Where Charles really shines, where he is the master, is his tailoring combinations - particularly in paler, Spring-like colours. 

Take the outfit above from Ascot for example. He knows a mid-grey suit goes well with pinks and purples. He uses a pale purple stripe for the body of the shirt, but also a tie in a similar colour and almost the same pattern density. This is risky - playing at the borders - but the two are saved from being too similar by the tie pattern's horizontal direction, the white collar and a punch of tie pin. 

His silk pocket square is in a different shade of purple, which is pleasingly complimentary and makes use of a third pattern, a glen check. But it's the cornflower-blue boutonniere that's the killer - not a colour that picks up on something else in the outfit (as the beginner is instructed to do) but is different and harmonious. 

This is top-level stuff, sophisticated dressing as Flusser would say. Six colours and patterns across a little dense locus of style

It's the same with other, less formal combinations, like the portrait above. The suit, shirt, tie and pocket square are all different in scale of pattern, with the suit plain, the shirt faintly striped, the tie subtle and the square rather bigger. 

The suit is not navy, but neither is it the strong blue that became so popular a few years ago; the tie is purple and white, the flower pink, the square grey and black. It’s a lovely combination. 

Of course, these kinds of outfits are hardly office wear, but for a special occasion like a wedding they’re really exemplary - and the colour choices can also be inspirational for simpler outfits, just for a tie or handkerchief perhaps. 

Interestingly, Charles has got noticeably more creative with this over the years. While he’s always been good with colour, he tended to wear plain white or cream pocket squares in the past, as in the shot above with Princess Diana. 

He’s also, I would argue, become better at pulling off those more complex combinations. In the second image above, for example, the shirt/tie/hank combination is a little too busy, the pieces too similar to each other. Forty years later, he’s playing with much the same colours and patterns, but doing it better. 

Charles has grown into his own style, essentially, as all good dressers tend to do. It’s been many years since he switched from the strong-shouldered Turnbull & Asser tailoring to Anderson & Sheppard, and that almost exclusively double-breasted, both of which suit him. 

But he’s also switched from navy suits and jackets to shades of grey. This is less about becoming better dressed, to my eye, than about recognising what suits him. With grey hair, the grey tailoring is more complimentary, as long as he retains enough contrast in the suit/tie/hank to avoid it washing him out. 

Charles’s casual attire is perhaps more admirable for its attitude than its style. 

The attitude is the frugality we discussed at the start. It’s obvious from the tailoring - the famous patched John Lobb shoes, the patched DB suit, the A&S tweed coat that’s been going for decades. You can see him wearing the same morning dress to Ascot for almost 40 years, and to Prince Harry’s wedding. (All in images above.)

It’s only natural that when Charles gets to the countryside, everything is even more battered (yet maintained). Again, photos from different decades show a hunting jacket when new, and then full of holes and patches. His John Partridge coat almost became a fashion sensation for its patching of patches. Even a dressing gown has had the treatment (all below).

The combinations here are done well: a blue shirt, a navy knit, brown checked plus-fours tucked into green socks. All quite pleasing and avoiding the bright colours and loud checks that can beset rural style. 

But I wouldn’t say any of this elevates the King to someone admirably for his style: that has to rest on the tailoring. 

Interestingly, when The Crown dressed Dominic West as Prince Charles, you could see how they got many things right but also several wrong. 

In the image above, the eye might be caught by the too-long shirt sleeve, but what’s more significant is Charles would never wear a brown suit like that if it wasn’t in his beloved tweed. Worsteds are grey and navy, brown and green are reserved for tweed (which he also deserves huge credit for promoting, alongside the Campaign for Wool). 

Although I might be wrong, I also can’t help feeling Charles wouldn’t pick as simple a pocket-square as that - boringly, pedestrianly lifting a colour from the tie. He aspires to more. 

One final thing worth saying is much of the King’s style comes from the fact he is so at ease in his clothes. This is what he grew up with, has always worn, and the flip side of never having a cool/rebellious style phase is that he makes all that traditional clothing look like a second skin. 

When some magazines talk about how great he looked in polo gear, what they’re often picking up on is that sense of ease. He’s smiling broadly, has the glow of exertion, and has that sense of being completely himself. Even in a skin-tight top and jodhpurs. (Although, GQ, I think that yellow sweater is not from Hermès, but refers to the aircraft carrier he flew from.)

In the end, the reason I personally admire Charles’s style is that he wears tailoring very well, and very few people in the public eye do. Look at any best-dressed list and he has no real rivals in this category. I’m no royalist, but from a menswear perspective I’m very proud he’s our King. 

A few more of my favourites:

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Lindsay McKee

If you look up the website of the Royal Warrant Holders Association, you can find out all you need about his sartorial suppliers among other things.
Hope this helps.

Lindsay McKee

Totally agree.
For instance, some of the dry-cleaners and launderers of the Royal clothing I wouldn’t use…. I’ll mention no names!

Adam

I find these articles slightly problematic and i wont go into why as i don’t think you’ll post my comment through fear of politicising the thread. However on that point i will say that posting a piece on a political figure, and one that in many ways is very divisive, and then not allowing any political comments is somewhat unfair. As much as you may wish to argue you can discuss Charles purely on his style i would argue its impossible to view this style purely subjectively on someone so high profile as he – no matter how hard you try i don’t think these things are inseparable. Indeed this article, although free of politics is very pro-Charles and as such has a political position and a bias that could then be extrapolated to areas outside of clothing. I think to keep the site on the subject of clothes and style and away from politics it shouldn’t feature people of such as this. Or, on the flipside if you do – some political discussion should be permitted.

James Fettiplace

Thanks Simon – I personally really enjoy these, and did also the article on Silvio Berlusconi, and I do think we should be able to separate the person and politics from appraising their style. If you can stomach it, there are some pretty big personalities (East and West) that could warrant the same review.
Far from your intention, but we probably shouldn’t refer to chopping heads off in when referencing a King Charles…..hopefully after three and a half centuries we moved on from that as a country!! 🙂

Fred

I think I half agree with the idea that a politics and style can be separated, and like many, I love looking at how Charles dresses, it is very classy – excuse the pun. However, there is an unavoidable tension between wealth, privilege and the ability dress well that should not be avoided by anyone interested in “luxury” clothing. Having the time, money and access to advice to wear such beautiful clothes so well is an immense privilege. While the British aristocracy do have values of mending and getting the most out of garments, that is to some extent a choice and one that most do not have. The average UK income was 38K in 2020, so clearly, most Brits simply cannot afford this stuff. People like Charles and Agnelli are rightly style icons, but we shouldn’t totally shy away from recognising the connection between wealth, power and style. 

IT

There are plenty of extremely rich and powerful men in the world, but whom would you call an excellent dresser and a style icon? King Charles is actually not so rich (and definitely not so powerful) compared to many other multi billionaires and politicians (whether democratically elected or ruling as dictators). The entire wealth of the British crown is minuscule, compared to the wealth of not only the various corporations, but even other monarchies. What Charles’ style represents though, is aristocratic taste and tradition. Whether one likes this style or not is a personal choice and taste. But I don’t see how Charles’ style is any more “privileged” or “powerful” than the super expensive hoodies Mark Zuckerberg chooses to wear, or the various outfits we see on rappers, pop singers and other celebrities.

Sam

From a purely style point of view this article is still of use for those if us on more modest incomes. His move from blue to light grey suits or his playing with similar colours but contrasting patterns is something mant people who aren’t hereditary billionaires can do. You might be shoping at M&S rather than A&S but the underlying points stand. Plus Simon has useful articles on how to alter RTE suits, bulid capsual wardrobes etc.

Peter Bodach-Söderström

I think it’s appropriate to acknowledge that politics (and economic divides) exists. As you just did. But Adam misses the point. Clothes and style is not just a way to express power and wealth, it’s also an artform and a way to develop and express your personality. Regardless of class or political opinions. In the same way that we can discuss Hemingway or Van Gogh, we should be able to discuss the way people dress without it being “problematic”.

Adam

Hi Peter, I think we are talking along different lines. I’m not suggesting anything with respect to clothes and style being an expression of power. Perhaps you miss understood my point.

James

hear, hear!

James

For many it might be comparable, no matter how relatively ghastly one finds both men and the systems that elevate them, to the coronation of the old Duke of Windsor to a sort of latter day style king, which sadly normalizes by omission his despicable political associations and other failures of character. And it may be that, in both men, an absence of substance explains, by their conscious or unconscious compensation, the superabundance of style. And for that reason—as beautifully advanced by the podcast Articles of Interest—any account of fashion is always already political, even or especially if it states that it isn’t. )The simplest example of this imbrication is that phenomenon among American WASPS and the British ruling class they admire, of performative shabbiness and the cherishing of visible wear: if you’re poor you cannot, in the same way, both literally and figuratively, afford to look it.) …well, thanks for the occasion to think about this important aspect of cultural connoisseurship!

Brian

Really interesting article Simon.
My only reservation is the length of his trousers, highlighted in the two close up shots.
I appreciate good quality clothes being well worn and maintained, but also think that his shoes in the close up shot with the blue suit in particular, just look a bit shabby, despite being well polished.

Colin

Have met Charles twice. On both occasions his shoes were a state, leather cracked and looking very worn – somewhat saved by the amount of polish worked into them. Completely threw me as I was always taught to judge people by the state of their shoes!

Gordon

The whole judge people by their shoes thing is totally ridiculous. I’ve heard that elsewhere and never understood it. It places the value that one see’s in people on something entirely trivial. Judge people on the sensibility, kindness, actions, politeness, compassion. Shoes come last.

Oggi

The King’s trousers can sometimes be seen pooling around his shoes …..although not in your photos Simon.A pity because it really detracts from the rest of the outfit.

Carl

Turnbull & Asser tailoring? Do you mean Huntsman?

Peter Smith Wright

At the behest of Diana.

Nick

Very interesting that he had mtm, given that he had the resource and clearly he is interested in style enough to go bespoke.

Very good article, thank you Simon.

Gary

A late friend was a Turnbull & Asser MTM customer. He also bought their RTW suits, which IIRC were fully canvassed, for daily wear in the City. T&A seems to have stopped its MTM tailoring operation before the pandemic. It no longer sells RTW business suits and its range of RTW tailoring is much more limited. Since lockdown, the sales staff have become rude, bordering on offensive, and follow you around the store. I’ve stopped going there for my ties and other accessories.

IT

King Charles’ shirt and tie combinations are truly beautiful.
Speaking of his preferred suit style, in 2020 he switched from the double breasted style, which he had worn for a few decades and made it his signature look, to single breasted 3-button with a gentle roll (although not “3-roll-2”), or two button.
Why did he decide to switch all of a sudden? I have a few theories. One, during the pandemic he wasn’t very busy, got a little bored, and decided to update his wardrobe (many of us did a lot of unnecessary online shopping during the lockdowns). Two, he wanted to support struggling tailoring houses and commissioned a dozen or two suits from them. Three, he decided that now that he weighs a little more than a decade or two ago, he will look slimmer in a single breasted jacket.

Philip

I’d noticed the same thing. Was wondering if those 3roll2s were also from A&S. Some of them (including the very dark one he wore for several weeks in the immediate wake of his mother’s passing) look great.

Tom

“Most other people would look silly in a full safari suit, even on safari.”

I suppose that if the public are used to seeing you wearing bejewelled crowns and ermine robs, you’re going to have a lot of latitude to wear clothes that would be otherwise seen as over the top.

Robin

He’s a real King of Style (excuse the pun)!

I notice he nearly always favoured double breasted. Any reason why , Simon ?
Also , how does his body shape (I note the sloping shoulders etc ) affect his style and vice versa ?

Finally , there no obvious pinching of the waist or strong silhouette and yet his style is …..permanent .

Philip
Nils

King Charles is very stylish indeed, great article! What do you make of the black jacket (which he wears with a matching double breasted waistcoat)? Is it something traditional or something unique with the contrast edge?

Georgios

Despite not living in uk and as a result finding kings-queens at least oldfashioned who just were born with titles and arent productive i sure admire his tailoring style. Its also very interesting if one thinks that this guy has a complete different lifestyle as the usual ps reader. I am sure if his life wasnt in a bubble but in real world he would be a very good smart casual dresser too, since he has a very good capsule taste. The article made me think of some of your older tailoring articles which was the reason i started reading you. Have a nice week everyone !

Ps: i would be very interested if you made an article about your next thoughtful purchase and the procedure behind it.

Georgios

I meant more of the thought procedure for something in a wardrobe that is/could missing. Maybe it would be a good idea to include such a question on readers profiles who are mostly done with the basics and add thoughtfully some more characterful pieces. I for example try out some more unusual vintage clothes and if i really wear them a lot i start thinking of replacing them with more quality/better fitting ones. If not i just sell them or give them to friends or family away. That way i keep my consuming and financial low and at the same time i save money for 3-4 good pieces every year. You invest a lot more on clothes and have of course a very bigger wardrobe, so except of the reviews of stuff for obvious reasons how do you decide what to try next for your personal life ?

Stephen

I’ve noticed recently that the King often wears the same suit (light pin striped grey/blue single breasted). We very rarely see him in his trademark double breasted suits these days.
His formalwear has always been the most outstanding, black tie, white tie, and in particular his morning coats are exceptionally well put together. He knows how to wear these garments with confidence and ease.
I would like to see the new Prince of Wales take a similar interest in what he wears.

Gary

I agree totally, As the heir to the throne, The new Prince of Wales seems to prefer RTW clothing and footwear. They certainly don’t look bespoke or even MTM. His brother is even worse and dresses like a shop assistant in John Lewis.

I find this hard to understand as they are both wealthy individuals, educated at Eton, who can afford the best and have staff to advise them on their appearance. Is it a form of inverted snobbery? Perhaps you or another commenter can enlighten us.

Omar Asif

On Prince William, I am sure his suits are also bespoke (why wouldn’t they be when he can afford!) but the style is very different compared to his father; slightly shorter jackets and strangely, they have a centre vent instead of the traditional side vents. I don’t believe I have ever seen an English or an Italian tailor use a centre vent.

Omar Asif

Of course, money itself doesn’t buy taste/ style. Though I meant that since Prince William grew up in household with bespoke associations, he is likely to be a bespoke customer. Prince George is also often shown wearing a blazer and tie and it would be pretty hard for these to be RTW – sizing and fit seems pretty good.

Peter Smith Wright

Are you certain Gieves are the makers of his military uniforms? I thought it was the rather more discreet Dege.

Peter Smith Wright

Dege did make Princes Harry and William’s wedding uniform (Blues and Royals) for Harry’s wedding.

Peter Smith Wright

We may both have our wires crossed! I assumed that as you mentioned Gieves in a reply to Omar regarding William, you meant they made his military outfits.

Peter Smith Wright

Actually I think I’m right is saying that Malcolm Plews is, and has been for many years, Charles’ military tailor.

Gary

Kashket made the Princes’ uniforms – https://www.firminhouse.com/about-us/kashket-partners/

“…we were trusted to make the wedding uniforms of both Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. “

Peter Smith Wright

If you ask Michael Skinner, he will tell you that they made Harry’s Blues and Royals wedding outfit.

Philip

So you would classify Brioni as MTM rather than bespoke? On reflection, how has your commission held up?

Dan

Simon, could you clarify why you classify Brioni as mtm? Some shirtmakers (e.g., T&A) will digitize their paper pattern, and use that for modifications (particularly once your pattern is agreed upon and minor changes required afterwards). But most would agree that is not MTM. Is there something about Brioni’s approach that leads you to think otherwise?

Gary

Suits with centre vents are not uncommon in Britain even though they are considered to be “Ivy League” in the US. Most of Cording’s RTW City suits are 3 button SBs with centre vents. As Simon says, that style is usually found on hunting or hacking jackets in Britain. Gieves & Hawkes sold them for too, made by the defunct Wensum/Bladen, before the firm’s recent difficulties and takeover by Mike Ashley.

The Royals have very different tailoring tastes and preferences. The late Duke of Edinburgh wore bespoke SB suits from John Kent which had no vents. I read with surprise that Prince Michael of Kent uses Rubinacci rather than a Savile Row tailor. Yet he wears his tailoring with shirts that have big collars and wide ties, a very personal (rather than Italian) look. IIRC Prince William was a Turnbull & Asser customer, probably influenced by his parents, but I don’t know who he uses now.

Matt

Do we know how much personal input Charles has in his wardrobe choices? It’s possibly a reflection of my slightly Cromwellian view of the monarchy, but I’d always imagined that his outfit for the day would be picked out by a butler (a la Bertie Wooster) rather than pulled out of the wardrobe by the man himself. Are we giving him too much credit here?

Ankit

His ties are slightly thinner than one would expect, those ties nonetheless are re-worn and beloved by him. Where do you think he buys them?

Another Charles

I’ve been told by someone who used to work for one of his warrant holders that they made his ties from a bespoke pattern too.

Albert G

I think the key thing here the article makes reference to is the fact that he has been wearing these clothes all of his life and therefore he gives a real sense of being at total ease in formal attire. In 2023 this will never be the case for the vast majority of us readers because office attire and casual attire has changed so much that we only ever really dress occasionally to this level of formality and consequently it’s difficult to acquire that natural sentiment he transmits, regardless of how well a suit fits and how good the tailoring is.

Buddy Levy

Your best article of the year. I learned a great deal. Thank you

George

“In the image above, the eye might be caught by the too-long shirt sleeve” – is it the shirt sleeve too long or the jacket sleeve too short? Looking at the picture the shirt seems fine to me while the jacket sleeve looks shorter than it should be.

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Gary

That was my thought too. Whoever chose that outfit, presumably a wardrobe professional, made several errors. Do these people really know anything about style or tailoring? Despite huge production budgets, sartorial standards in movies and television are slipping even further. So-called “stars”, notably Harry Styles (sic), dress appallingly at awards ceremonies. It all proves that Royal genes, fame and lots of money can’t buy brains, talent, manners, good taste or real class!

Chancellor

Regarding the cowboy hat and bolo tie look, I live in Canada and grew up in the western Province of Alberta which is most associated with cowboy hats and “western” culture. However, no one here actually wears those. It’s just costume for special occasions, e.g. for a week during the Calgary Stampede event. So King Charles’s wearing of the cowboy hat and bolo tie should be seen as him partaking in costume, likely during an event when that costume was encouraged. This doesn’t inform about his sense of style, which you have correctly noted.

Kali

I suspect the ‘safari’ suit was worn on a trip to the sub- continent where its style was very popular. Not, I think to Africa

Yolo

A safari shirt and no trousers would be quite a look! 😬😜

John Motzi

Charles dresses well. His father dressed well. His sons – well there’s where it ends…

Brett

As an American, I can say that I could only hope that one of our political leaders, statesman or civil servant had the sense of style as King Charles. I think he is a credit to England. I must also say that I think Prince William always looks well put together with nicely fitted clothes. He has his own style and presents himself as a modern gentleman. I especially like his thin lapels and narrow ties. Again, a credit to the English.

Alex

Thanks to Simon for the reminder that in the 80s Spitting Image pretty much had all their caricatures served up to them on a silver platter. Their designers must have had a lot of afternoons off down the pub.

MBB355

Interesting that he buttons both the middle and bottom rows of buttons on his double-breasted jackets. Is that a King Charles quirk, or more common than I realized?

Winot

I was always under the impression that rather than just common it was the conventional buttoning for an English DB jacket.

Stephen Dolman

Hi Simon,
Have a look at some old photographs of the actors William Powell and Adolphe Menjou, both extremely well dressed.
As far as I remember they both favoured DB suits, I can’t recall their buttoning stance.
BTW, Menjou, who I believe was voted best dressed man in America quite a few times called his autobiography
“It took nine tailors”
Regards
Stephen Dolman

Stephen Dolman

Hi Simon,
You jogged my memory.
You’re probably too young to remember, but back in 1969/70 when I had just picked up my first proper bespoke suit from a wonderful tailor named Bobby Valentine I decided to buy a fine voile shirt from Sulka in Bond St. Beautiful shirt, most expensive shirt I had ever owned up to that point, if I remember correctly about 4 guineas.
At another counter was Douglas Fairbanks Jr, the most beautifully dressed man I had ever seen.
I can still remember: he wore an exquisite DB Light grey chalk stripe suit, white shirt and a dark red striped tie and his signature carnation.
Kindest Regards
Stephen Dolman

Guy

A very minor point but the green country jacket the King is wearing is a John Partridge, not a Barbour. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/prince-charles/9922565/The-makings-of-a-patchwork-Prince-of-Wales.html
Perhaps it would be interesting to look at country clothing as another example of what you’ve discussed in your excellent How Great Things Age series: practical yet stylish clothes which look better the more they’re used, accumulating stories in their scars. Too often it can look like a costume but I’ve been interested to see how recently people like Jake Grantham have tried to bring the country coat into the city by changing the colour palette.

Andreas

He’s been known to wear a Barbour on occasion, but I believe the heavily patched jacket shown here is in fact not a Barbour; some claim it’s by John Partridge, but whatever it is, it’s not made of waxed cotton.

Bystander

It is John Partridge. He has also been pictured in what appears to be a Barbour Solway Zipper – pocket flaps (as usual) tucked in, and minus its belt loops.

Gary

Charles has a Barbour Gamefair, the original version with the classic Gordon tartan lining.

Omar Asif

I have always been a fan of the style and taste of King Charles, a very classic and effortless dresser. A very enjoyable read Simon and made me really miss not being able to wear suits and ties anymore!
On the topic of safari suits, they were never popular in Europe (understandably, given the weather) but growing up in Pakistan, I remember my father wearing them to work during the summer months, albeit half sleeves and he looked good. I always had old manly association with them, perhaps because seeing my father wear them but he wore them with ease even in his 30’s.

Charles

Where would you place that blue/not navy which you discuss?
Really enjoyed this analytical post – different to the numerous, cliched articles elsewhere. Thank you.

Charles

Apologies. Yes – how smart/formal? Do you know what shade of blue it is? Thank you

Willem

Looking at the pictures of the double breasted suits and blazers I can’t help noticing that King Charles always uses all of the functioning buttons, whereas I’ve always heard that one should only button the top functioning button of a double breasted, which is what I do.
Is this a particular oddity of him or is there something more to it, such as different habits in the UK rather than in continental Europe or a generational or even class issue ?
Happy to hear your view on this – admittedly – minor point.

YJ Kim

I appreciate your interest in classic fashion and the questions you’ve raised. Here are your inquiries translated into English:

“After the legendary Duke of Windsor, Edward VIII, Charles, Prince of Wales, often referred to as the last guardian of classic fashion, continues a remarkable legacy. Your writing, accumulating questions from people worldwide and your responses, is evolving into a formidable archive. I have a few curious questions that may be somewhat obscure and possibly sensitive, but I kindly ask for honest and heartfelt answers.

Since the departure of the legendary A&S tailor John Hitchcock, to whom does Charles, Prince of Wales, turn to for tailored suits?
I have several points of curiosity.

1. Simon, why do you not go to A&S these days and instead commission suits from Steven Hitchcock? I’m curious if you believe that the quality of A&S suits has declined compared to before.
2. A&S is famous for its DB suits, but when compared to SB suits from other Savile Row tailors or Italian ones like Caraceni, Liverano, Rubinacci, is the quality still satisfactory and superior?
3. Simon, I would like to hear about your personal preferences. Firstly, as a longtime fan, I respect Bespoke Experiences. I’m curious about your favorite fabrics for each season, such as spring/fall, summer, winter, and all-season. What fabrics do you find most stylish and appealing season by season?”

Jerry

Can you talk about more the fabrics he used? like which brand or color or exact fabric model number?
I noticed that he always used light colors fabrics for his suits compare to other politician.
so beautiful!

Kenneth

King Charles is always well dressed….period

Tim

Is it an accurate statement to make that as men age and gray that softer colors are more flattering? I would have thought the opposite that a contrast would be more striking.

Ivan

Simon, glad to see your giving ties some visibility on your website again.
It’s worth noting that Charles is not a civilian, and his wardrobe reflects this. Picture this, every maker wants to do their best for him so they can get or keep their warrants. The same can not be said for the average punter. So in effect there is no incentive for anyone to sell him less then the best. As a result even his lower common denominations of garments and style are good.
He almost can not fail at being well dressed, however he manages not to wear waistcoats in civilian wear, and doesn’t understand much about contriving pocket squares or how to really arch ties.
In terms of Classic Menswear he’s one of the best. In terms of Dandyism he’s mediocre.

Ivan

Simon, we have to remember that Charles’ generation still wears ties. Harry and William are more post modern, so they rarely wear ties outside of ceremonies, which is a shame. They are “of our time”..
The point about tie arching and contriving squares was in regards to dandification, but yes his do always look reasonably good.
Charles’ style is a net possitive for menswear and the wool industry on a whole. He’s a good ambassador, and he keeps carrying the torch for the things in Classic menswear that got us all started in our younger days. I think all menswear guys have held him as a style icon at some point, who could say they haven’t?

Alexander

Did you talk with Fred Nieddu about the tailoring in “the crown”? Did he have any input regarding the style (= can we blame him directly for this brown suit?) or did he just implement what the costume designers wanted?
There are only very few people that wear formal tailoring in a way that make me think again about all my sold worsted suits. I don’t regret giving all of them away, but still: big credit to him. It is very hard in this day and age to make standard worsted tailoring interesting and pleasing to look at. There is just so much boring stuff out there, especially among politicians etc. And in the midst of all this sartorial dullness Charles’ style really is a pleasant relief. Your piece is a well done summary of this! Thanks

Alexander

Ah, Ok. I thought he made all the tailoring for the crown. I could be wrong. Mr. Nieddu also mentioned something about the potential downsides of the drape cut. That the jacket can lose it’s shape completely after some years and it gets all baggy. I don’t see anything wrong with the old suits of Charles, but I would be interested to know more about the technical details there with the drape cut that you or Fred Nieddu might have for us.

Ángel

Great article, Simon!
Talking about royal style. It would be nice to do a piece on the King Felipe VI of Spain. His sartorial level is very high too.
Cheers.

Ángel

I reckon there are some similarities with Charles, as he is not particularly stylish on casual wear but always looks impecable on tailoring. Being 6 ft 4 and slim certainly helps.
But I can agree that he is doing everything ok rather than trying to be elevated.
I also would assume that he does not care that much about clothing. Simply sticks to a great tailor and likes to look polished.
Best!

Nick

Lovely article Simon, thank you.
I’ve always found Charles’ style appealing, although perhaps not for the obvious reasons.
Yes, he does more than most with his influence (your contribution Simon, not withstanding!) to promote local artisans and the British textile industry, and I’m sure he enjoys wearing quality clothing.
And yes, the colour and styling combinations demonstrate a practiced hand.
But I keep reading quotes from him stating he wears what he does when on duty primarily because it’s straight down the middle of the road; sober enough to not draw too much attention but always appropriate for the occasion and job at hand. Perhaps it’s because we’re so used to seeing him in these clothes – although I prefer to think he’s just nailed what suits him, as you allude to – but he never looks over or underdressed to me.
And ultimately, isn’t that what we’re all after?
Critics often decry his look as “old mannish” (with no sense of the irony that implies, given Charles’ age at this point), or “out of touch with modern sensibilities” (whilst never stating what those sensibilities are). Politics, religion, and views about the Monarchy aside, Charles seems to have cultivated a way of dressing that I’m still attempting to achieve: a sense of ease, comfort, and confidence, balanced with propriety. A recipe for “permanent style” if ever there was one.

Eric Michel

Quintessential British style, nice but not my cup of tea as practically impossible to wear in the modern world, except in very special occasions. The advantage of dressing like this is that you may look in your 60’s all your life. Annoying when 40, but great when 70…

Mark H.

Love it! This is great content. Fun to read and very illustrative and informative.
I’m shocked at those shoe pics. Not least because I myself (before I’d developed any clothing sensitivity) wore down some Allen Edmonds office shoes to just about that shape, with holes in the soles and flaking leather. I was oblivious. Nowadays I cringe when I recall how sloppy I must have looked. I had no idea Prince Charles did the same thing — with fine English shoes of course, and he probably had them resolved before the holes. Well, I’m no prince or aristocrat — so it’s harder to bend others’ will to your idiosyncrasies — but maybe I can feel less severely self-conscious about it, seeing these shots here.

Kevin

Probably the last King to wear bespoke. I admire the vibrant colors and the drape cut style. Like his uncle the Duke of Windsor who also wore a similar style. I believe John Hitchcock is the King’s tailor. I like the Anderson and Sheppard style.

Jerry

Hello Simon,
How about his shirts? do he wear T&A now? or Emma willis?

Sam Shaw

Has anyone else noticed he’s not worn a double breasted suit since becoming king? I’ve found this such a shame and wondered if he’s been advised it’s too ‘old-school’ or something like that…

Dan

Do you the brand that manufactures his ties? I find it interesting he wears such slim ties with a spread collar. I would have thought a traditionalist like him would use thicker ties and a thicker knot.

Peter Smith Wright

Hermes

Samuel M

Good article! Speaking of the (son of the) Duke of Edinburgh, I’m looking for a good tailor in Edinburgh to make a bespoke sport coat, which would be my first tailored garment. Is there a shop anyone would recommend for that?

Petronio

Very good article, I would say even more for non British readers. The thing I like most of the story it is that a prince (or a king) who needs to reline the coat goes personally to the tailor.

George Hammond

I’ve always had a huge admiration for the King’s style, as others have said, it is a shame to see him wearing fewer double-breasted suits nowadays. I’m often reminded of my grandfather’s style when seeing the King, I think it must be a general older British gentleman style, as seeing photos of some society figures who are now long gone, one can clearly see the similarities.

In the more modern generation, whilst I like to keep a lot more traditional, there has been quite a stray in general. See Prince William and Harry for example. But at least we do still have some staples we can all be expected to pull out of the cloak room come winter.

Charlemagne

The only thing I have to add is that, I am totally influenced by Charles when it comes to tie/ pocket square combos. I am Best Man to my Best Man next March and I have searched for the right colours and scale of pattern for the last 2 months. I think Charles often gets this right. No more matchy- matchy for me.

Daniel

Great article. Although I cannot respect King Charles as a person, his taste in classic attire is certainly admirable. Perhaps Charles was under the influence of the Earl of Mountbatten, who spent his youth in the 1930s – the best years of the classical fashion period – and also his father Philip. There are a lot of rich people and some aristocrats in the world, but I can count on my fingers the ones who impress me. For example, The Archduke of Monaco’s attire always makes me sigh. Hardy Armies once wrote about what a blessing the presence of the royal family is for British tailors, but looking at Charles’s successors, I don’t think there’s much time left for British classics.

Edouard

Nice article Simon. I have long tried to make sense of King Charles’ own style compared to say, the Duke of Windsor’s.
Unrelatedly, I would welcome a piece — when you have the time — about dressing for the office and formal business occasions in hot climates. I live and work in West Africa, where most of my government counterparts dress fancily, but in colors and fabrics that are ill-suited for the hot and humid weather. How does one adjust their formal business attire to such situations. I don’t feel like I can dress as if I were on the Italian Riviera — think light cream linen suits — when I meet a government official.. Any advice?

Paul

Edouard, it sounds we’re in a similar situation, a lot of my tailoring needs to cover SSA also – just get lighter, open weave fabrics for suits, and smarter linens for the step below that. there’s a guide on here somewhere to fabrics for summer.
vests are key though – keeps you way cooler!

Edouard

Well, they’re politicians, so they’re typically in dark navy or black Smalto and Brioni heavy suits, even when they’re cutting ribbons under scorching heat and humidity. I attend these events, so I need — and like — to dress the part, but I also need to be comfortable, so the fabric needs to be different and the color perhaps light. I like your article about Solaro, and thank you for the link on the suits style guide.

David

Trenchant, well informed and informative commentary regarding the King’s clothing.
There is no place here for your views on British royalty that is a political viewpoint which is beyond the issue at hand.

Michael Powell

Why does the King have his left hand in his left suit coat pocket? He’s been doing that for years. A politician did that in the States, we’d wonder – what’s he got in that pocket? I don’t even open the jacket pockets in my suits. I don’t put anything in them. I’ll put a hand in my pants pocket, but that’s it.

Alexander

I am sure there is no interesting secret behind this. It is obviously just a habitual gesture that most of us have in some way.

James

On reflection, maybe the purposefully threadbare dandyism is a response to snobbery at the highest level: though nominally at the top of the feudal chart, the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas, lately the Windsors, are hardly by British terms an old family—such as, for example, the Spencer’s. Like any arrivistes, they must dress better, or with greater self-consciousness, than their company more to the manner born. So in this case this translates to a “more British than the British” sort of mannerism, even among those whom we would think of as quintessentially so. The family must very carefully dress up, as in all those uniforms, or down, in a kind of drag of those oldest families of whom they are nominally in charge, and yet by whom they could easily be looked down upon. (As with the performative shabbiness and disrepair.) Henry VII, dodgy provenance and all, had the same problem. And he certainly took care with his outfits.

Chris May

The first photo illustrates precisely the style mistakes which lesser mortals make. The oversized suit jacket on the man to the King’s side with too long sleeves and a collar which rises up from the corner in a most unfortunate way.

Anonymous

It is quite sad, frankly, that neither William nor Harry has got or has caught his sense of style throughout the years. They dress, in my opinion, extremely badly, showing how limited their knowledge of menswear is.
I am not a huge fan of Anderson and Sheppard nowadays, to be honest. I think that today there are a few houses that do the signature “Anderson and Sheppard’s cut” even better than them – Steed and Redmayne 1860. But in their work exclusively for him, they have been doing a pretty good job. Prince Phillip had always been impeccably dressed as well, working with John Kent. Charles, who has always looked up to his father as a role model and has always wanted to impress him, most likely got his taste in clothes from him.

Joners

hi Simon
i wonder about the longevity of the Italian trouser brands such as Pommela or Rota. I know Savile Row have that reputation but what is your experience of the hardiness of English v Italian. I ask as I love to find vintage Italian trousers; they have such good shape but not sure of say stitching standing up to day to day rigours

Patrizio Giangreco

Hay Simon, could you say something about the morning dress that the King wear at proclamation at Saint James palace and at Westminster Hall? I am interesting to know the alleged epoch of its tailoring, the kind of fabric and the meaning of the withe border on waistcoat. Thank you
Patrizio (Napoli-Italy)

Craig

Worsteds are grey and navy, brown and green are reserved for tweed.”
This really resonated with me. Its a very simple rule that would prevent a lot of unhappy experimentation, though I’d add cotton and linen in with tweed.

Stephen Dolman

Hi Simon,
Regarding tie width. The trend now seems to be getting narrower, I’ve always thought that good clothes should be classic. Not too wide or too narrow lapels, likewise trousers, although the do wax and wain a little over the years. I would like your opinion on ties, I think about 8cm’ s seems pretty classic. Your thoughts
Regards
Stephen Dolman

Max Alexander

Nice assessment, well done–although as an American expatriate I bow to no British royalty (unlike many of my confused countrymen). I prefer the words of Keith Richards who, commenting on the knighthood of Mick Jagger, said, “I wouldn’t let anyone in that family near me with a stick much less a sword.”

Max Alexander

I get that, although Keith’s own distinct sartorial style perhaps merits inclusion of his monarchical opinion. (Meanwhile may he rest in peace Charlie Watts, perhaps rock’s greatest proponent of Permanent Style, along with Bryan Ferry.)