Little fogies forever: Prince Charles is not the only upper-class parent to favour the 'stuffed-shirt' look for his children. Dinah Hall reports

'HOW could he do this to a child?' tutted the tabloids this week, in tones of moral outrage normally reserved for stories about battered children. But this was a tale of sartorial abuse among poor little rich boys Prince Harry and Prince William, dressed like miniature versions of their father in jackets and ties. In contrast to the uncomfortable stuffed-shirt look the princes wear whenever they accompany the Prince of Wales, the newspapers had dug out photographs of them with their mother, who usually does her best to pass them off as 'normal' children in baseball hats and sweatshirts.

Poor old Harry, gloated the press, how miserable he looks at Silverstone struggling to look interested in the engine of a racing car from within the confines of his buttoned up grey jacket. And how different from the Harry seen splashing about in the Caribbean - the implication being that even there His Royal Dadness would have incarcerated him in a Norfolk jacket and deerstalker.

There is, it is true, something immensely sad about boys dressed as 'little men'. But equally there is something rather distasteful about criticising a chap for his dress sense - particularly when there is a hereditary weakness involved. After all, Barbour jackets and tweed caps are now genetically programmed into the upper classes - they can't help it. But Harry's friends would laugh at him, wailed the journalists. In fact, of course they wouldn't - because they probably wear exactly the same clothes when they go out with their own fathers.

The working class may have long since abandoned its badge of status - the flat cap - but the upper class still adheres to a strict uniform from cradle to grave. Sartorially speaking, their sons have an extended babyhood: romper suits, velvet-collared coats and sailor suits until the age of six, when they jump straight into the tweed sports jackets and grey suits of manhood. Photographs of their fathers at the same ages will show them wearing almost identical clothes, while their sisters, in little smocked dresses or kilts with T-bar shoes, are replicas of their mothers as children.

Celestria Noel, social editor of Harpers & Queen, and mother of a three-year-old daughter, sees nothing odd in this. 'It's perfectly reasonable to dress children in traditional clothes. If you are taking them to a smart tea- party you would dress little girls in smocked dresses and little boys in something traditional. It's a combination of courtesy and common sense - the essence of manners is to be suitable. When my daughter was a baby I took her to a party wearing a dress that has been in my family for 50 years: I wouldn't have taken her in a dirty old babygro, it would have been rude.'

Among those that are at ease with this strange code of behaviour and dress, the words 'suitability' and 'special occasion' crop up frequently. The upper-class young seem to spend an inordinate amount of time at tea. And when one is going to 'an aunt's tea- party' - according to Barbara Barnes, ex-nanny to the Wales children and now owner of Young England, childrenswear shop for the rich and nostalgic - one needs something more formal than Gap can offer. Then of course there are charity events, smart lunches and weddings. For a summer wedding, she estimates, you could kit out a boy for about pounds 80 - but that would be just the short-sleeved shirt and knee-length shorts; new socks and Start-rite shoes (the nobs don't wear Clarks apparently) would bring it up to about pounds 110.

Paul Keers, author of The Gentleman's Wardrobe and a stickler himself for 'appropriate' clothes, believes that if you dress in the uniform of a gentleman you have to earn the right to wear it - a concept of meritocracy that only someone not born into the upper class could come up with. 'Children are too young to make those meritorial decisions that mark you out as a gentleman. But in the case of the princes, because they are in a strait-jacket from the start, with no freedom to choose which path to take in life, they might as well dress the part from the word go.'

In fact most people, whatever their social standing, have a clannish instinct to dress their offspring in such a way that they are recognisably theirs (and Prince Charles probably needs these pointers more than most). At Silverstone, however, he committed a serious violation of upper-class dress code in trussing his son up in jacket and tie (although, as Celestria Noel points out scornfully: 'Of course Charles didn't dress him. I expect Nanny told him to brush his hair and put on a jacket.')

To the ignorant masses, Barbour jackets, tweed caps, junior sports jackets and check shirts all blend together into a homogeneous concept of upper- class prattishness, but these individual items speak volumes to those on the same wavelength. Colin Woodhead, always elegantly turned out himself as would be expected of a PR for several menswear designers, saw Prince Harry at Silverstone. 'Utterly inappropriate,' he expostulates. 'What he was wearing would have been fine for somewhere vaguely horse manurey like a county fair, but not at Silverstone where the whole atmosphere reeks of Castrol GTX.' The right compromise between casualness and princely apparel would apparently have been reached with a 'single-breasted navy blazer, open- necked button-down shirt, smart jeans, Docksiders - and a pair of Ray-Bans.' Woodhead himself has two sons aged 14 and 16 and therefore - perhaps fortunately, looking at that last sentence - outside his sphere of influence ('the older one wears his Caterpillar Climbers to go to balls'), but the favourite photograph he carries in his wallet is of them at the ages of eight and 10 'looking just like the princes, in jackets and ties'. They are now into grunge like normal, healthy boys. There could be hope for Harry and William yet.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

    Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Support Engineer

    £20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence