About five years ago, then-President Barack Obama wore a tan suit to the White House briefing room and all hell broke loose. Putting aside all of the bad faith chatter about the dignity of the presidency, the episode drew attention to the fact that it is extremely difficult to pull off a tan suit. Some people can do it, however. In the first half of a two-part documentary that aired Thursday, Prince Charles wore one with aplomb. He styled his suit with a pale lavender oxford, stuck a purple flower in the lapel, and had a matching tan silk pocket square folded into a rosette. He was talking about his program for farmers, but he looked every bit the British dandy.
Prince Charles: Inside the Duchy of Cornwall, from British broadcaster ITV, is ostensibly about the 50 years Charles has spent working as the Duke of Cornwall and was meant to highlight the good works he has done in the community. But because it captured footage of Charles in the outdoors, it also provided plenty of opportunities for Charles to display his off-duty style. That meant plenty of plaid, wool caps and scarves, and surprisingly of-the-moment work glasses.
In some ways, Charles’s love for a nice parka or a tweed is quintessentially British, and reflects the tastes of the middle classes specifically. Earlier this year, a writer for Vice U.K. pointed out that the ubiquity of Barbour-style jackets might be due to the fact that they split the difference between being too posh and being attainable, while still having a bit of luxury. In that way, Charles is adopting an understated style in an attempt to be modest.
But he also shows an appreciation for fine craftsmanship and nod at trends. In one scene of the documentary, Charles opted for a Gore Tex jacket by Musto, an outdoors outfitter that bears a royal warrant, which means they are allowed to advertise as clothiers to the royal family. Musto’s jackets are a little less decorated than the ones that Barbour made trendy about a decade ago, and have a sort of normcore utility that means you might expect to see them in the pages of a magazine as well as on the prince’s shoulders. He might never have menswear influence on the level of James Dean or George Clooney, but in an era where outdoorsy trends reign, he would fit right in on the streets of the world’s coolest neighborhoods.
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