Suiting that’s fit for a king

Timothy Barber
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THERE’S a moment in the movie du jour, The King’s Speech, when Colin Firth’s Bertie, Duke of York (and future George VI) goes to Balmoral where his brother Edward, the Prince of Wales (Guy Pearce, above right) is hosting a rather racy party. Firth shows up wearing a kilt, and looks rather a ninny compared to the suavely suited bright young things of his brother’s crowd. And, of course, not the least debonair among them is his brother himself, resplendent in a green tweed number with a blue check.

This is one of the few moments in the film to hint at the famous stylishness of the Prince of Wales as was, and Duke of Windsor as he became post-abdication crisis. As it happens, Firth and co-star Geoffrey Rush sport some very fine suits themselves in the film – note: heavy wools, wide, peaked lapels and bold stripes are the 1930s order of the day, while Firth even manages to make a bowler hat look just the thing.

But it was Edward (far right), the rebellious playboy who refused the throne to marry a divorcee, who was the style icon of his day. Arguably the most photographed celebrity of the age, he popularised the grey glen plaid suit pattern that subsequently became known as the Prince of Wales check (and which is creeping back into fashion at the moment). His wearing of suede brogues with a lounge suit was an act of arch sartorial rule breaking, while his wide tie-knots – inevitably in a regimental tie – gave us the Windsor and half-Windsor knots, named in his honour.

More than these details, though, it was the effortless, easy elegance with which he carried off his suits that made Edward such a charismatic clothes horse. And while we might write the modern royals off as duffers, the fact is they continue to be good dressers. Patrick Grant, director of Savile Row’s Norton & Sons, cited Prince Charles as a contemporary fashion icon when he won Menswear Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards before Christmas.

And even Prince William, hitherto a rather awkward Sloaney figure, was cutting more sartorial dash than expected when he announced his engagement in a sharp, single-breasted blue suit accessorised with a natty, on-trend pocket square (left).

They may not be much good at dressing down, staying married or making declarations on architecture, but wearing suits is one thing the royals continue to get right.