Endless column inches and hours of screen time have been devoted to the bride – Google has over 5m search results for “Kate Middleton wedding dress” so far – but it’s hard not to wonder: what about the groom? He’s expected to wear uniform, but neither Clarence House nor the Savile Row tailor Gieves & Hawkes, which is rumoured to be producing said military outfit, will comment.
Patrick Grant of tailors E. Tautz would be glad to see Prince William in uniform, like his father, grandfather and every other royal stretching back to George IV. His view is that “a royal wedding should be about pomp”, but for some in the tailoring world it’s enough to make a fellow want to rend his morning coat in frustration.
Oh, the missed opportunity! Does the royal family not care enough for the British tailoring industry to want to take this singular moment to promote it? After all, retail analysts Verdict are predicting the royal wedding could boost the UK economy by around £620m – and shouldn’t men’s wear get a piece of that?
As Harold Tillman, chairman of the British Fashion Council, says, “the wedding is an ideal opportunity for the fashion industry to highlight the long-standing relationship between the royal family and our Savile Row tailors”.
Interestingly, however, those tailors are themselves divided.
Luke Sweeney of tailors Thom Sweeney thinks it’s a shame if William has been told to wear military uniform. He says, “I’d suggest a slim-fitting three-piece suit with a horseshoe waistcoat. It could really help British tailoring if he wore a well-tailored suit – two or three times a week a guy will come into the shop with a picture from a magazine that has inspired him.”
By contrast, Ozwald Boateng, who is know for particularly dapper suits, says, “though I would have loved him to wear a suit, I completely understand his need to wear military attire”.
Chris Hall, head of tailoring and fashion at Newham College in north London, which has a special tailoring department working in partnership with Savile Row tailors, says: “It would be brilliant for William to get married wearing a bespoke suit that reflects his style and the great traditions of English tailoring.”
Steven Dell, director of programmes, design and craft at the London College of Fashion, would like to see Prince William making more of a fashion statement. He says: “In the same way that Kate Middleton is promoting contemporary British fashion, wouldn’t this be a wonderful opportunity for Prince William to promote contemporary British men’s wear?” Dell would recommend designers such as Tim Soar and JW Anderson for a wannabe style-setting prince.
“I like the idea of sticking with tradition, but it would be nice to see the prince adopting a modern look,” agrees Ryan Hackett, head of design at Austin Reed. His choice would be a one-button suit with a waistcoat in a slender cut.
“Light grey suits are the most popular choice for weddings, along with tuxedos,” says Hackett. “However, with blue being a key colour this spring and summer, I can see lighter tones taking over. One-button fastenings are a key trend, as are details such a silk pocket hanky or white pocket square. A navy or blue suit would work well with Prince William’s colouring.”
“William seems to have some unwritten rules: a morning suit for formal occasions and a simple, hand-crafted suit for less formal events,” says Warren Bennett, co-founder of online tailors A Suit That Fits. “At Charles and Camilla’s wedding, William wore a bespoke morning coat. The traditional black morning coat with grey trousers and a light waistcoat were tied together with a pale pocket square and a pastel-coloured cravat.”
If he had his way, Bennett would dress the prince in a tailored morning suit “with dapper accessories and bespoke touches such as working cuff buttons and a peaked, hand-stitched lapel. We won’t see much of the lining but perhaps there could be a flash of something fun.”
Tradition may well dictate William’s outfit, but what of his male guests, asks Eric Musgrave. The invitation card gives invitees to the royal wedding three options: uniform, morning coat or lounge suit. Only the second two will allow any freedom of expression. Aside from confirmed guests David Beckham and Elton John, where exactly the male fashion statements are going to come from on April 29 is not clear: the men’s fashion parade is likely to be largely predictable rather than creative.
Savile Row-based tailor Nick Tentis urges greater daring: “Why would anyone want to blend in at the biggest wedding for years? I wouldn’t! You could bring a bit of peacock style to a morning suit by having it in a grey Prince of Wales check with a lavender overcheck, a plain grey trouser and a lavender waistcoat. With a pale pastel shirt and a rich silk tie in purple, you’d look that little bit sharper.”
The reworked morning suit also appeals to Chris Ingham, former designer with the men’s occasion wear specialist Favourbrook. He thinks the badly fitting one-size-fits-all mentality of the hire market has put men off morning suits, but says “a correctly fitting morning coat is very stylish. I’d choose the duelling jacket [a twist on the morning coat] I designed for Favourbrook, a black waistcoat and houndstooth-patterned trousers. Another worthwhile option with the morning coat, though, is to go very colourful with a fancy striped shirt and tie, although there is a danger that you might look like you are off to Ascot.”
Kathryn Sargent, head cutter at Gieves & Hawkes, also stresses the possibilities of variation in the morning suit. “There is a huge difference between an all-grey suit and one that has different cloths for the jacket, trousers and waistcoat,” she says. “A uni-colour approach can look chic and restrained, while a black jacket, striped or checked trousers and a subtly coloured waistcoat is elegant and correct in a different way.”
Among the royal attendees, Prince Michael of Kent could be the man to look out for, as he is not one to shy away from bright colours and bold patterns.
Soho-based bespoke tailor Mark Powell favours making a statement, because “a wedding is supposed to be a celebration, so something like a 1950s men’s cocktail suit would be great,” he suggests. “I’d propose a bright red lightweight needlecord with a shawl collar, single button and jetted pockets. This would look good with narrow, flat-fronted trousers, a rounded tab collar shirt and a slim textured or pleated black tie.”
Indeed, Mad Men’s Don Draper would not look out of place in Westminster Abbey, and tailor Timothy Everest agrees that the mid-century single-breasted style is a current staple in men’s wear. But he detects a revival for more of a 1980s aesthetic, “in double-breasted styles, quite narrow, with fastening on one or two buttons. Colour has been more important for a couple of seasons and we are doing well with a royal blue that is also reminiscent of the Claude Montana blue from the 1980s,” he says.
Richard Anderson of the eponymous Savile Row firm detects the influence of the economy on the silhouette of suits. “Everything is being taken in a little,” he observes. “Jackets are getting shorter and trousers are narrowing.”
Likewise, Edinburgh-based tailor Peter Johnston sees an opportunity for a guest to pick up on the slimline trend by wearing Scottish trews, along with a “dress shirt and a velvet smoking jacket in a dark blue or deep Bordeaux shade. This would certainly work at the evening reception.”
Eric Musgrave is the author of ‘Sharp Suits’ (Pavilion)