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When Prince Harry (31) met Philip (94) in the style stakes... and got a royal dressing down

In a triumph of experience over youth the Duke of Edinburgh has beaten his grandson in a poll of most fashionable men. Our writers Laurence White and Malachi O’Doherty debate what really gives a man the sartorial edge

Published 06/01/2016

Dress code: Prince Philip with Prince Harry
Dress code: Prince Philip with Prince Harry
Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Harry

When the barometer of men's sartorial appeal, GQ magazine, rated Prince Philip above Prince Harry in the style stakes it seemed to speak volumes about how style doesn't necessarily span the generations.

Yes, Harry (31) is one of the most popular younger members of the royal family, but that doesn't mean he couldn't learn a thing or two about looking the part from his grandfather, who now finds himself a fashion icon at 94.

Perhaps it all points to the fact that the definition of style isn't just about the labels on your clothes, but can often have more to do with how a man carries himself.

It's something to do with confidence and being at ease in your own skin. Undoubtedly, too, Philip's time in the Navy has informed his views on always being well turned-out.

Whether clad head to toe in country checks while hunting at Balmoral or exuding the old-school elegance of a bygone era in tails at a dinner ... Philip always looks immaculate.

That's not to say Harry doesn't look rather fetching in his military fatigues or in jeans and a casual shirt, but does he really have much style?

What distinguishes him from any other well-heeled member of his age group? Perhaps he'll become more stylish as he gets older, but for now it seems that his grandfather is wearing rather better than he is.

Laurence White: The citation which accompanies Prince Philip's entry in GQ magazine's most stylish British men list reads: "He embodies duty and decorum and comes across effortlessly in the way he dresses. He is always British, masculine and appropriate for his role".

Essentially it is saying that style is not just about the clothes or the ability to buy the best suits or whatever. In Philip's case it is the man who makes the clothes, not the clothes which makes the man.

It is significant that the words duty, decorum and role are used in summing up his style for that is what the longest living male Royal in British history is all about. Since his marriage in 1952 he has always been at the Queen's side, dutifully one step behind when the occasion demands, but an unstinting partner in perhaps the hardest working monarchy in the world.

At 94 he still cuts a remarkable figure. A number of health scares in recent years do not seem to have dimmed his vitality or his sense of service. Last year, he carried out 217 engagements at home and 23 abroad, more than the combined totals of Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry combined.

And not only does he physically wear it well, but he wears his clothes with equal aplomb. In the past he has been described by fashion experts as having a time-honoured style, showing an under-rated tweedy genius and paying homage to classic British tailoring. Critics may say that if a member of the Royal Family cannot dress well then who can, but Philip is no spendthrift clothes horse. Indeed he has a reputation, like the Queen herself, for thriftiness and often has favourite suits or trousers retailored in line with modern, if conservative, trends.

One report says he frequently is seen at naval events wearing the same uniform in which he was married - no mean feat as those of us whose marriage can be counted in decades will readily testify.

Perhaps it was that naval service - he served from 1939 until 1951 including with the Pacific and Mediterranean fleets during the Second World War - which instilled in him the ability to be always well turned out. Think of all those old servicemen that go on parade every Remembrance Sunday and note their bearing and pride in their appearance. They have a style which even the uniformity of uniforms cannot hide. Then compare them to so many young people today who seem to slouch their way through life. Of course fashion trends change - and the GQ list contains several entrants known for their individual taste in clothes - but style is a mixture of character and apparel.

Take David Beckham or One Direction's Harry Styles, for example, who feature high up in the list. They both have an unique sense of style but can carry off even the most outlandish outfits because they project a star quality.

Top of the list for the second time is actor Eddie Redmayne, the chameleon-like actor whose latest film sees him star convincingly as the first person to undergo trans-gender transformation from male to female. Given his genius he may even top the list for the most stylish British woman.

But what all of the GQ entrants - even those whom we have never heard of - exude is star quality. Prince Philip - once described as HRH Victor Meldrew for his irascible nature - might harrumph at the very idea of being a style icon, but he certainly, after the Queen, is the star of the Royal Family.

For anyone else to be beaten in the style stakes by their grandfather would be a blow to the ego, but it is not something that is likely to concern Prince Harry.

Unlike his older brother William who daily seems to be growing into the role of future monarch, Harry is still seen as the Prince of Fun. He is the one member of the royal family that young people can most readily identify with, be it through his partying or his action man roles in helping disabled servicemen or taking part in games.

He always seems most comfortable when dressed casually, unlike his brother who is quite conservative in appearance.

Whether either of the princes can really be said to be particularly stylish is debatable, unlike their grandfather. Another word used in his citation is "appropriate", and that is something which comes primarily from experience. Older men, unless going through some much delayed mid-life crisis, should have learned what suits them and what is age-appropriate apparel.

That is why they can often seem more stylish than their offspring. The age of experimenting is over and they make the most of the tailoring, perhaps to hide the imperfections that come with age. As well age brings confidence and that inner swagger can be reflected in the exterior look.

Malachi O’Doherty: I am a natural born scruff. My father tried through my childhood to comb that out of me, telling me that a man was always judged by how well his shoes were polished.

He was of the generation Prince Philip, who thought that character was not so much embellished by clothing as established by it.

That his tousle-haired grandson rates below him in the GQ style listings seems the natural order to me.

When I visualise myself in the cartoon strip of my life, I appear in cords and a jumper, or double denim, the Lurgan Tux, though I am told I clean up well.

It was from Maureen, my wife, that I learnt that a man never really just buys a shirt, but an ensemble. She wouldn't buy a scarf or a brolly without considering colour co-ordination, something that for most of my life I happened upon by accident if at all.

Yet, even in childhood there were moments when I was paraded in front of the rest of the family in a new "sports jacket" or sweater to the coos of sisters and mother, and while I hated the attention I was amazed by it, tried to comprehend it, grasped that a boy could change the perception of himself just by the expedient of changing clothes.

Which was something like magic.

It is the magic that was worked on the urchin David Copperfield when Betsy Trotwood got her hands on him.

It also seems basically unfair, a pretence. The real me is the naked man, not the scruff in a jumper, but I don't want to show that off. So there is a pretence there, too.

For me, dressing for elegance rather than for comfort feels more of a performance.

I have lots of nice ties which I rarely wear, then when I do come out in one, people notice.

I still shun clubs that insist on a dress code, insisting on the right to decide for myself what to wear.

But it does not surprise me that many older men want to be dapper and neat.

What better way is there to cover the deficiencies of a sagging body?

I know older men who take as much time over their appearance as any teenager getting ready for the club.

The brogues glow, the silk hankie in the top pocket matches the tie and softly contrasts with the shirt; the socks might have been borrowed from Jon Snow.

None of these men will appear in the GQ list of the sartorially exceptional because they are not public figures.

Few of them, if any, I suspect, are inspired by the contrived elegance of the men who are on the list.

All of those GQ men will look simply odd in a few years time when fashion dictates different styles.

What really distinguishes them for now is their cultivated slouches of their standard approved body shape, tall and skinny.

When I take a little trouble over my choice of shirt and cufflinks for the day, choose to wear a tie and nice jacket, splash on some D and G and go out in the world, it is always as a short and stubby old guy without the wan look and the car. And yet I get the compliments and the looks, too.

Who’d have thought it? I guess you either have it or you haven’t.

Three local faces give their verdicts on the dress sense of Prince Philip and Harry

Hair stylist Paul Stafford (47) is married to stylist Leisa (46). They live in Belfast and have two kids, Joni (14) and Ava (13). He says:

The magazine GQ is all about style and has a very classic feel to it now. For the last 15 years tailoring has been such a big part of men’s fashion and style.

That Savile Row quintessential English gentleman’s look which Prince Philip has is really fashionable at the moment.

Harry on the other hand has a rugby player, casual, Jack-the-lad, throw-it-all-together and see how it looks style which suits him.

Prince Philip has had a very distinctive look for 40 to 50 years and is still stylish today.”

Tracey Rodgers (48), director of Style Academy Model Agency, is married to Stefan and lives in Belfast. She says:

While Prince Philip is always very well turned out, I was quite shocked by the GQ Best Dressed list, as I would consider his look to be quite old-fashioned and staid.

Prince Harry on the other hand is quite cool and grungy which I like, especially because he is a member of the Royal family.

He was on TV the other night wearing a trendy little thread bracelet and midi ring and his hair always looks like he has just got out of bed and run his fingers through it. Although he is very casual, it suits him.

I would imagine they would have quite a job getting him into a suit.”

Jason Shankey (45) runs a male grooming business and is married to Brenda (44). They live in Belfast and have two kids, Lauren (14) and Will (13). He says:

I am not in the slightest bit surprised that Prince Philip was higher up the GQ list than Harry.

Older men are a lot more stylish than younger men in my experience — just look at George Clooney compared to Justin Bieber.

Fashion is actually the opposite of style which is timeless. Fashion comes and goes but good style never goes out of fashion.

As men age they realise that style is a much better investment.

Harry can be stylish sometimes but usually he is quite scruffy — with a beard and is often seen out in Africa wearing shorts.

Prince Philip on the other hand is usually in suits or kilts meeting people and is very suave and sophisticated.”

Belfast Telegraph

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