Sunday, 24 May 2009

The well worn Prince

The well worn Prince through the ages.

On Friday morning as I was hurrying my late ass to work I received a text message from Dan Jenkins to check out the Daily Mail for an interesting style piece on Prince Charles. Now, the Mail is a paper which I freqently catch a glimpse of in newsagents and even the shortest of looks forces me to walk away shaking my head in bemused disbelief. Ultimately, I tend to avoid handling it at all costs but thanks to the wonders of the Internet I do not have to taint my fingers with this publication for the far right of centre and can share its contents with you. The article One's antique clothes show: How Prince Charles has always been the King of recycling is well worth reading and to discuss further.

His suits are unmodishly double-breasted. His dinner jacket is cut like a slouchy cardigan. His ties are almost comically narrow and tightly knotted. His morning suit is a slightly gauche, grey-on-grey, called a 'pick and pick' fabric; the lapels of his waistcoat are accessorised with dandy-ish, white 'slips' or 'demis', which attach to the inside of the garment with buttons.

In light of the above (unfair) sartorial criticism throughout his adult life it is somewhat remarkable that Prince Charles could be considered as the most stylish man on the planet. You might recall that the April issue of Esquire declared Prince Charles as the worlds best dressed man. Esquire described him as "perfectly turned out", adding that "admirably, the prince keeps his wardrobe in appropriate style and we're told he has a room laid out like a tailor's shop. Of course, the prince comes from a significant family line of royal clothes horses, but where his great uncle, the dapper Duke of Windsor, played with bright colour, flirted with fashion, and even started the odd trend, the current heir to the throne is a dab hand at solid yet fully accessorized classic English style. His image riffs on a quintessentially perky British look, which is essentially based around smart tailoring with dapper touches.

His classic English style which has not always had its plaudits has been custom made for him by a mouth watering list of fine British craftsmen including Anderson and Sheppard, Gieves and Hawkes on Savile Row, and veteran custom shirt-makers Budd and Turnbull and Asser on Jermyn Street. The Prince certainly has good taste and is not afraid to invest in quality.

When we spoke to Patrick Grant during the launch of E. Tautz we discussed the art of wardrobe building and Charles (Can I even call him that? I can't keep writing the Prince...) is certainly a practitioner of this idea. There is something very charming about building a collection of clothes, where every piece has a position in your wardrobe. If any item requires attention and repairs then these alterations are made, the item is not thrown to the bottom of the wardrobe and forgotten about. The below paragraph demonstrates that the prince believes in the art of wardrobe building:

Clothes that never went out of fashion because they were never in fashion. Clothes that are over and above fashion - and which he is thus happy to wear for decades on end, repairing them as and when necessary.

Charles embarked on his art of wardrobe building in his early 20s. The collection of clothes and accessories has aged with him and he has continued to buy well throughout his adult life. As he has bought well made, crafted pieces then he can still wear them at sixty years old. I have no interest in a royal biography because his wardrobe will almost tell the story of his life. Just look at his shoes.

The Prince bought his first pair of Lobb shoes when he was twenty years old and is no doubt still wearing them today.

To make a pair of shoes is a lovingly laborious process involving a hand-made wooden last, eight pieces of leather and expert stitching techniques. You do not throw a pair of Lobb shoes out because they get old. The Prince has kept them, cherished them, and when needed has sent them off to be mended. Charles clearly loves wearing clothes with provenance, with a bit of a story to tell.

The Prince is shown wooden lasts by cobbler John Lobb during a visit to his workshop in London on January 23, 2009.

The Times covered a recent Royal Visit to John Lobb, in St James’s Street, where the Prince was shown the lasts (wooden rough models of foot shape and size) of customers including Queen Victoria, George V, the Queen and Prince Philip, not to mention those of Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra and, indeed, himself. To have a pair of bespoke shoes made takes six months for the first pair, and costs about £2,300 plus VAT.

Clarence House said that the Prince had had shoes made there in the past, and still sends shoes in for repair. For the visit, he wore a pair of black Oxfords made by Lobb 40 years ago – as the Prince said: “Quality will always count.” Of course we all might not be as privileged as the future King of England but we can certainly learn a thing or two from him about investing in quality, supporting craftsmanship and in building and maintaining a wardrobe to be proud of.


JKISSI said...

Gread read here.

There was a lot of information I just simply wasn't aware about. Now I look at the prince in a different kind of light. Not that I was looking at him in any kind of negative , or positive annotation.

Ian Brown said...

Wow. That photo of the Lobbs really encouraged me to take a little better care of my leather dogs. I've never noticed Charles' style before but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Being classy doesn't have to mean being noticeable. I'll keep my eyes peeled in the future.

j said... Brits are so quirky.

Giancinephile said...

I couldn't wait for the day when I could purchase a pair of John Lobb!
(that is if ever that day comes) haha

Mr Brown said...

J - no quirk here mate,that's the point. Decisions are made and stood by, not cast away at the whim of what turns the next profit for Mega Luxury Brand Made in China) Corp.

Style Salvage Steve said...

JKISSI: Thanks! I just love how ther Prince has just stood by the clothes he feels most comfortable in. It is amusing that after many years of derision he is now considered one of the most stylish men in the world.
Ian Brown: I'm sure Charles has atleast one person working full time to keep his brogues in perfect condition. Time for you to get the polish out though maybe?
J: I prefer the word eccentric.
Giancinephile: I'm sure that day will come. Here's to them lasting you more than forty years of wear.
Mr Brown: Well said. This is something of a forgotten approach to clothes but I for one, would love to see it become more prominent.

Daniel Jenkins said...

This article has made me pop on a Budd knitted silk tie for the day. Wonderful store.


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