Consort to the Queen of England isn’t a role for look-at-me types but for the sort of man who knows how to hang back with poise and grace. This is something the dashing Prince Philip, with his ubiquitous two-button jackets and neat white pocket squares, has understood instinctively for 66 years. For daily wear, the prince, who turns 91 this month—the same month his wife celebrates 60 years on the British throne—favors spread-collar shirts (mostly white, sometimes with stripes); a solid-colored, striped or subtly patterned tie, and a jacket with a natural shoulder. The crease in his trousers is always pronounced.
A British Royal Navy officer in his youth, the prince, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, learned early about discipline, restraint and how to wear a uniform to best effect. “One does not see him indulging in the sartorial high jinks of a Duke of Windsor, and he resolutely avoids fuss and unnecessary detail,” says James Sherwood, author of Savile Row: The Master Tailors of British Bespoke. “You do not see clouds of silk exploding from his breast pocket. You will not see extravagant tie knots in rich patterns.”
But while his look may be muted, it never lacks glamour. “He epitomizes the Hollywood style of Fred Astaire, Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,” says the royal author Leslie Field. “He’s soigné, upper-crust and understated—you know there’s a valet somewhere in the background.”
His longtime tailor is John Kent, of Kent, Haste & Lachter on London’s New Burlington Street, just off Savile Row. But even with a tailor on tap, the prince is well-known for recycling his wardrobe. In August 2008, he famously asked Kent—who was then working at Norton & Sons—to restyle a favorite pair of baggy herringbone trousers from the Fifties, making them narrower and more contemporary-looking.
At military events, he often wears the same naval uniform he donned for his wedding to Princess Elizabeth in 1947. For new military attire, he turns to Kashket & Partners, who outfitted Prince William and the page boys at the royal wedding last spring.
Patrick Grant, who owns Norton & Sons and the men’s ready-to-wear label E. Tautz, calls the prince a “very correct dresser, not hugely flamboyant, but nor is he starchy in the way his father-in-law [King George VI] was. And he has always looked terrific in uniform.”
The prince can also work a sporty weekend look with ease: He prefers cords to jeans, and is never without his waterproof gear, tweeds and flat caps for those blustery weekends at Balmoral or sunny strolls on the grounds of Windsor Castle. Life in the Queen’s shadow isn’t so bad after all.