Prince William: The Unlikely Fashion Trail-Blazer

Style columnist Jeremy Langmead on how the Duke is stepping up in men's fashion

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While most of you were worrying about the calibre of the US presidential candidates, pondering which celebrity might drop dead next (at this rate, MailOnline will soon have no one left to feature in its sidebar of shame), or whether your granny annexe could be a tax liability, I was fascinated by far more fickle things: Prince William's dress sense, to be precise. The Duke of Cambridge clearly has little interest in the menswear world (fair enough), nor has he inherited the eye for style evident in some of his relatives, such as his dad or Prince Michael of Kent.

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William appears to wear clothes laid out for him each morning by a trustworthy valet who must have spent his formative years working for his uncle Andrew: no surprises, protocol-friendly, all-ages, Windsor-wear classics such as baggy blazers, loose-fit chinos, shapeless suits and standard-fit shirts. The overall look makes William appear older than his years; a tad too frumpy for a 33-year-old future king. While it would be a little inappropriate if he dressed like Lewis Hamilton, or Justin Bieber, there's a happy medium... and, when he went on his recent royal tour to India, he seemed to find it. It wasn't that he started wearing Rick Owens hoodies, or Balmain sneakers, he simply began wearing clothes that fitted properly. William's blazers on the India trip were less boxy, his chinos more fitted, the suits sharper and the shoes less clumpy. It showed off the fact that he's in good shape, is living in 2016, and doesn't buy his tailoring from Age Concern.

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It was the prince's selection of neat-fitting blazers that had the most transformative effect on his wardrobe, however. His father, Prince Charles has a good line in blazers and even grumpy grandpa Prince Philip has a dashing model or two that he dusts off for events.

Although the blazer never goes out of style, it does occasionally move from wardrobe staple to fashion essential — as it has now. The Alfred Dunhill collection for this autumn, unveiled at The Savile Club in Mayfair earlier this year, featured tableaux of models in single and double-breasted navy blazers — all inspired, according to the label's design team, by their royal highnesses. Clearly, the death of Ronnie Corbett has also had an influence but the Dunhill team failed to mention this. Corbett (who years ago appeared on one of this magazine's best-dressed lists), was a keen proponent of the blazer.

The blazer's flexibility has inspired many menswear designers, such as Zegna and Paul Smith, to create travel versions made from fabrics that won't crease when thrown (neatly) in the bottom of a suitcase. (I wish they'd come up with a technological advance that could stop my face from looking creased after a long haul flight.) And they've also made it clear that a blazer doesn't have to be navy. This summer, a number of labels offer styles in petrol, storm or sea blues. The ones that have caught my eye this month are the neatly-cut storm blue Morgan linen blazer from Polo Ralph Lauren (£445), the petrol blue linen blend one from Hackett (£450), and, if you're feeling fancy, the sea-blue wool/silk blazer from Boglioli (£770).

Recently, I was at the Broadway premiere of American Psycho, and noted that a lot of the styles parodied in this Eighties satire are back again today. But, much like Prince William's blazers, items such as the pinstripe suit and double-breasted jacket, both favoured by the story's protagonist, Patrick Bateman, have bounced back after a stint in fashion rehab with a trimmer and healthier new look.  

What do you think?

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