King of style: How HM King Charles III became fashion’s favourite royal

13 Sep 2022 | Updated on: 27 Sep 2022 |By Ellie Goodman

The former Prince of Wales’ style credentials go much further than a well-tailored suit

On 8 September 2022, following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at age 96, Charles, Prince of Wales, acceded the throne to become King Charles III. Though on occasion overshadowed by more obviously glamorous royals, including Princess Diana, Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle and Catherine, Princess of Wales, over the last 50-odd years, His Majesty has been quietly staking his claim as a sartorially savvy sovereign. In fact, his wardrobe saw him rank sixth on 2019’s GQ Best Dressed List, securing bonafide tastemaker status, with little of the effort or experimentation we might see from menswear mavens such as Harry Styles or David Beckham.

His Majesty has – on more than one occasion – referred to himself as “a stopped clock”, whose style comes around every 25 years. In today’s fashion lexicon that translates as having transcended the dreaded trend cycle to reach the upper echelons of thoughtfully cultivated personal style – think Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour or the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs – something many strive for, with varying rates of success.

Whether it’s a well-tailored Burberry trench coat, a bespoke double-breasted suit from Savile Row’s Anderson & Sheppard, or knitwear by Johnstons of Elgin, the King is an icon of seemingly-effortless stealth wealth style and a fierce supporter of traditional British craftsmanship – as evidenced by the array of heritage menswear brands that hold Royal Warrants.

“I’m lucky because I can find marvellous people who are brilliant makers of the things that I appreciate, and because of that, I try to keep them going for longer,” he said, in an interview with British Vogue’s Edward Enninful in 2020. Shoes are cobbled by John Lobb and Crockett & Jones, while His Majesty’s shirts are supplied by Jermyn Street’s Turnbull & Asser and millinery by James Lock & Co.

King Charles III, then His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Duke of Cornwall, 1984. Image: Allan Warren
King Charles III, then Prince Charles, at the Planalto Palace, Brazil, 2009. Image: Valter Campanato/ABr

This dedication to craft saw King Charles III join forces with Federico Marchetti, Chairman and CEO of Yoox Net-A-Porter to launch the Modern Artisan training programme in 2019, forming part of the Prince’s Foundation Future Textile initiative at Dumfries House, which was founded in 2014 to encourage younger generations to train in traditional textile skills. The Modern Artisan programme saw students in Italy and the UK design a sustainable capsule collection for Net-A-Porter, Mr Porter, Yoox and The Outnet, and many of the Modern Artisans have since been snapped up by big brands or launched their own businesses.

But it isn’t just good quality that makes the King’s style pitch-perfect; attention to detail goes a long way. “I mind about detail and colour and things like that,” he told Enninful. To that end, His Majesty has a deft way with colour, print and pattern; see a baby blue and white striped shirt, styled with a navy spotted tie and paisley pocket square as a case in point.

He also has a thorough understanding of silhouette. Few wear a double-breasted suit like our Head of State, and who can forget that taupe Yves Saint Laurent-inspired safari suit, cinched perfectly at the waist, worn on a State Visit to Australia in 1985? It’s enough to put even the most dapper of Pitti Peacocks and Square Mile menswear aficionados to shame.

In 2022, however, being a style pioneer is about more than just boasting impeccable taste. His Majesty is also a staunch proponent of sustainable fashion, having dedicated much of his philanthropic work with the Prince’s Foundation to bolstering the British fashion industry and promoting the vital importance of sustainable practices. In October 2010, he launched the Campaign for Wool, a global initiative founded to educate the public on the benefits of wool (a 100 per cent biodegradable textile) and support the wool industry. Ten years on, in 2020, His Majesty established the Sustainable Markets Initiative, to encourage a move towards circular economies and sustainable practices with an ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2035.

King Charles III, then Prince of Wales, with Princess Diana on a Royal visit to Uluru (Ayers Rock) in March 1983. Image: John Hill
King Charles III, then Prince Charles, and Princess Diana visit the Greek Amphitheatre in Siracusa, Sicily, 30 April 1985

More than mere greenwashing, though, this sustainably minded philosophy extends to His Majesty’s wardrobe. A proud outfit repeater, the King has been sporting the same two double-breasted, peak-lapelled overcoats – one camel, one tweed – by Anderson & Sheppard for more than four decades. The morning jacket he wore to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is one he has owned proudly since 1984. He has been snapped many times sporting patched-up suits and re-cobbled shoes, having told British Vogue, “I’m one of those people who hate throwing anything away. Hence, I’d rather have them maintained, even patched if necessary, than to abandon them.”

Once seen as a relic of past generations, this buy once, buy well, make-do-and-mend mindset has been adopted in earnest by young fans of fashion, keen to participate while remaining as ecologically conscious as possible. And, in keeping with the stopped clock theory, His Majesty has once again ascended to the coveted heights of style as the fashion industry at large reassesses its harmful, throwaway practices. We must say, it suits you, Sir.

Read more: London Fashion Week announces major reschedule following the death of Queen Elizabeth II