Prince Philip: A Tribute To A Style Icon
Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh with Prince Charles at the Badminton Horse Trials, Gloucestershire, 9 April 1965. Photograph by Mr Ray Bellisario/ Getty Images
We first published this story in 2017 on the occasion of Prince Philip’s retirement from public life, but republish it today in tribute to a much-loved figure and a globally renowned style icon.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, had to navigate a harder corporate dress code than most men. As the Queen’s consort, his clothes had to be impeccable, but nearly invisible. Faultless, without attracting attention. In the seven decades that he stood, literally and metaphorically, in his wife’s shadow, his wardrobe was always beyond reproach, but very rarely eye-catching.
Look closely, however, and the Prince has a lot to teach us about dressing correctly and with restraint, and about the importance of looking comfortable. This is true of his classic suits, which were made by Savile Row tailor Mr John Kent and are as relevant now as they were in the 1950s, and of his more relaxed outfits. Following the sad news of his passing, we have chosen to celebrate his life and style with five of his finest looks.
The trench coat
Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Lisbon, 18 February 1957. Photograph by Mr Freddie Reed/Mirrorpix
Not for Prince Phillip the casual polo shirts that President John F Kennedy famously wore while sailing. The Queen’s husband here obviously doesn’t think that taking to the high seas is any reason to take off his tie. Trench coats are still popular 60 years after this photograph was taken, but not every man looks good in the classic, calf-length form. What is it that Prince Philip brings to this garment? Bearing. And great posture. His broad shoulders prevent the epaulettes drooping, while the belt creates a drape in the chest that emphasises his athletic physique.
Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh at a polo match at Ham Common, Richmond, 1961. Photograph by Mr Reginald Davis/Shutterstock
There aren’t many photographs of Prince Philip looking this relaxed and demonstrating his firm grip on that elusive concept, smart-casual. The beer in his hand helps, as does the way the soft-looking cream shirt gives a formal garment a casual spin. This is a great example of a man wearing his clothes, rather than vice versa. In case you’re wondering, his unusual trousers are polo-appropriate fall-front breeches (the Prince is captured here rehydrating between chukkas). Their vintage style contrasts sharply with his contemporary-looking sunglasses.
Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh at the Badminton Horse Trials, Gloucestershire, 9 April 1965. Photograph by Mr Ray Bellisario/ Getty Images
Another shot of the Prince spectating at an equestrian event, and another enviable outfit. There are some subtle but unusual elements here, most obviously the perfectly tilted felt hat, which makes us wonder why the Prince in particular and men in general don’t wear them more often. The double-breasted blazer is also distinctive – His Royal Highness typically wore single-breasted jackets – while the chunky shoes and socks strike an authentically rural note. Sadly, this is not how men in the country dress now, polyester fleece being the fabric of choice in the shires.
Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, Windsor, 1 May 1974. Photograph by Mr Tim Graham/Getty Images
Among the numerous admirable things in this photograph is the Prince’s first-generation Range Rover, a model that is finally being recognised as a classic car. Needless to say, his clothes are just as classic, taking the form of a traditional British tweed jacket and non-matching trousers, both in shades of brown. While the Prince looks entirely at ease, the outfit is noticeably smartened up by the tie and the crisply folded pocket square. Much less conspicuous, but still notable, is the formal tone struck by the Prince’s black shoes.
Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on board HMY Britannia, 18 March 1972. Photograph by Lichfield/Getty Images
Given the Prince’s buttoned-up image, this shot of him in a vibrant Hawaiian shirt is revelatory. Who knew the fabulous fashions of the 1970s reached Buckingham Palace? The shirt’s bold pattern has a Polynesian vibe, and the Prince, to his credit, looks so comfortable one would wrongly imagine that he habitually wears such garments. He betrays none of the awkwardness frequently demonstrated by politicians when they dress down for contrived holiday shots.