We are back with another post on something that has been a topic of recent conversation. It is written by a WKW/WKKW friend, Brooke Nurthen. Some readers may recall seeing Brooke’s name during the India/Bhutan tour when she contributed to this post about Kate & William’s hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery; she had made the climb with her husband in 2014. Brooke lives in Australia and knows her fashion; she recently left a position with Zimmermann, a brand Kate has worn. She is now learning lots about childrenswear as the mother of a precious 6-month-old boy. We look forward to seeing more of Brooke’s work here on occasion!
Today we take a look at a commonly asked question about Prince George’s style.
The young royal is always seen in shorts at official events and engagements, and in images released by Kensington Palace. A lot of commentary around Prince George’s style centres on the ‘old-fashioned’ look he champions, and there’s a reason Kate dresses George in shorts.
First, a look back on some of our favourite moments. Below, HRH at his first official engagement, a playdate with Plunket in New Zealand in 2014, wearing Rachel Riley Dungarees.
In official photos for the young prince’s third birthday, he sports a cotton navy blue pair and a linen-blend beige short, both by a brand Kate favors, Pepa and Company.
Most recently, leaving Canada after his second overseas tour George wowed the crowd in red corduroy shorts by Doña Carmen.
The answer? “It’s a very English thing to dress a young boy in shorts,” British etiquette expert William Hanson told Harpers Bazaar UK.
“Trousers are for older boys and men, whereas shorts on young boys is one of those silent class markers that we have in England. Although times are (slowly) changing, a pair of trousers on a young boy is considered quite middle class – quite suburban. And no self-respecting aristo or royal would want to be considered suburban.”
The best news? We’ve got a few more years of year-round Prince George knees before he grows into his trousers for public engagements. “The usual custom is that a boy graduates to trousers around eight years old,” says Hanson.
Of course, this short story isn’t news for all royal-watchers. Many will remember Prince William and Prince Harry sporting similar styles as boys, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, followed the same style guide for James, Viscount Severn. In the portrait of Her Majesty with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the custom becomes apparent to the keen eye, as Viscount Severn, seen below at age eight, wears trousers while Prince George dons shorts.
“The modern habit of upper class families choosing to dress their boys in shorts will deliberately hark back to a bygone age. The British upper set are always keen to hold on to tradition, and this one also silently marks them out from ‘the rest’,” says Hanson.
Many readers will also note Prince George’s ‘hand-me-downs’ from his father, which were spotted on the Buckingham Palace balcony at 2016’s Trooping the Colour.
The pair were previously worn at Prince Harry’s christening, some 32 years prior:
Diana and Charles got some mileage out of the blue and white suit; Prince William is also seen wearing the ensemble aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1985 during an official visit by his parents to Italy.
Embed from Getty Images
Below, Prince George at the christening of sister Princess Charlotte in a look inspired by his father’s wardrobe.
Adding to the conversation, Bethan Holt, The Telegraph’s digital fashion editor, in a piece that ran on Sunday:
Some on social media were shocked to see the three-year-old Prince sporting shorts on Christmas Day, but the long-socks-plus-shorts combination has been the customary formal dress for young upper class boys for several generations.
Of course, Diana was well-versed in the rules. Young Princes William and Harry wore matching shorts and smart shoes as Harry goes to his first day at Mrs. Mynors’ nursery school. (That is the proprietress, Jane Mynors, seen below right.) You can tell the occasion isn’t quite as formal as Trooping the Colour or the Christmas day walk to church at Sandringham because the boys are wearing short socks, not the dressier knee-highs.
The topic is one that never really goes away.
The next quote dates back to 2014, from a People story that followed the release of photos showing George sitting on the Kensington Palace steps in a pair of Amaia Kids bloomers/shorts. From the People story:
“Boys wear short trousers until they are 8,” Editor-in-Chief of Majesty magazine Ingrid Seward tells PEOPLE. “It is very English.”
The same was true for George’s father. “Prince William didn’t wear long trousers until he went to school at Ludgrove at the age of 8 or 9,” says Seward.
That’s not to say that George will never wear pants until he goes to prep school. (After all, those English winters can be pretty cold!) But it’s likely he won’t be photographed in them.
This isn’t an exclusively British standard by any means. Indeed the practice is also noted as an upper-crust class marker in America, where particularly in the South and in New England, young boys don short trousers.
Bastions of upholding social protocol, the Kennedys wouldn’t be seen with JFK Jr in a pair of trousers as a boy, as seen in this 1962 photo taken in Palm Beach.
Many American readers will find the below image, c. 1962, a familiar sight – note older boys in trousers and younger in their shorts (and those sailor-inspired ensembles!).
It looks like it could well be several years before we see Prince George in long trousers at important and/or formal events.
A quick note – we’ve updated the Sunday post to reflect the latest information, and have also added some fun photos.
We will see you shortly after New Year’s Day. Until then, a massive ‘thank you’ to everyone who has helped make this site such a fun, collaborative environment. I wasn’t sure how doing the second blog would work (or if it would work at all, truth be told), but it has turned out to be just delightful. Not having children has made some things a challenge (yours truly has been utterly clueless on some fronts!), but I love learning all about the current children’s brands and styles. I hope you all have a terrific 2017 and am excited to see you again in the New Year!
I hope Kate continues to dress her children this way because it is charming, adorable, and because children are only little for a very short time. I hate seeing children dressed in adult clothes. It looks positively “tacky” to see a baby wearing a suit and tie for example. My opinion only.
Many llittle boys under ten in the UK wore shorts, knee socks and t bar sandles, during the Nineteen Sixties and early Nineteen Seventies. I know this because I was one of them. I also recall wearing white socks before I started school.
For my parents’ generation in Germany boys did not wear trousers until their confirmation in church which usually happends around the age of 14. it gets colder in winter here too so the English kids are lucky!
That is interesting to learn, thank you for commenting! 🙂
I am probably of your parents generation. In the early 1950s, age 12, I was at a German boarding school. I was an English boy, the only foreigner in the school. I had been wearing long trousers for about two or three years. There was no uniform but almost all the other boys wore shorts. So also did I. I traded a pair of blue jeans for some Lederhosen. But when the cold came Strumpfhose (tights under shorts) were a step too far for me even though by then I had become very German. So I went back into long pants and jeans as did a few other boys. But in the Spring we went back to shorts especially for skiing, because we thought it looked cool. Actually it was cold. In the holidays in England my father forbade me from wearing Lederhosen. When I had 14 years of age he said no also to short trousers except on the hottest days. But in the school yes until 16 years.
It’s many years since my son started at Nursery school and then pre-preparatory; in both cases he had to wear short pants. We were told the children found it easier to change out of them and back again for PE and sports.
Most of the people expressing discomfort with this look seem to be adults who did not grow up with it. We did, so it looks just fine to me. There’s no need for a three year old boy to look manly or macho. He’s an upper class English child.
Well said, many people in here did not grow up that way. People can not even pull off something as simple as a pair of shoes.
So do you think George wears shorts in his off camera life as well? Or do the just save them for formal/dressy occasions?
That’s a great question. I think he primarily wears them for fairly formal occasions, so my guess is that the majority of the time he is in long trousers and blue jeans. 🙂
This is one of the best articles I’ve seen about Prince George’s style, especially the curiousity I’ve had about his shorts. I have a little boy and I love to dress him in shorts as long as weather permits!
Thank you for starting this page and keeping it going! It’s a great pleasure, and as, like yourself, I never quite got round to the actual having of babies, I have loads to learn. My only concern is how on earth you manage to keep up when there’s a full family outing with new items all round. Thank heavens so many posters are able to help with the sleuthing!
I still feel uncomfortable when I see George continuing to wear these shorts. One minute we’re being told the royal family wants to look more modern and then all of a sudden, it’s holding on to tradition. I did wonder if the look on George’s face on his last outing expressed how he felt at being decked out so girlishly.
I think I would question, what tradition exactly? After all, if the tradition of earlier centuries was continued then boys as young as George would be in full-length dresses. These outfits we’re seeing now are very much 1950s retro and not so traditional that some of us don’t recall wearing them ourselves.
I think it still follows that anyone dressing a young boy in shorts too long risks them being mocked by their contemporaries. I imagine it can only make sense if enough aristos gang together and stick to their own schools and playgrounds.
Maybe I just have to accept that I myself am now vintage, of course. Interesting that when George was out at the Natural History Museum he suddenly qualified for full length jeans.
I can’t help thinking that the girlish quality of these outfits is only underlined by the picture of Prince William in that blue coat when young. I never did like those coats on Di’s boys!
I have commented numerous times about this. I am in the US, not the South and not New England, and dressed my boys in shorts also for special events etc. I just like the look:):) They wore sweatpants for play etc. I dressed my girls typically in very traditional dresses, often the smocked versions, but again for special occasions always a fancy dress and a coat if cold. I stopped at a younger age than 8 by about 5, but still always had dress attire of some sort for special occasions, i.e. no jeans, etc.
I grew up in NY. All my little boy cousins wore shorts and knee socks and button wool jackets (including tweed with velvet trim) growing up. My oldest son (born in 79) also wore shorts and knee socks on special occasions. Admittedly though by then I was living in a much more “provincial” part of the country where it was looked upon as an oddity. There was absolutely no shame nor was it considered “feminine” to dress baby boys in light-colored baby clothes-replete with smocking,etc. I myself wore classic clothes much like Charlotte wears well into elementary school. Consquentially, I see nothing odd at all in the way George and Charlotte are dressed. It’s all in what you are used to I supposed and quite frankly, I’m not at all impressed with some of the clothes I see for children these days.
James wore shorts but he never had those awful knee high socks and his shorts were slightly longer.
Hee hee Molly, my boys wore those knee socks in the Fall and Winter. I love the look:)
For dressy occasions, I’ve taken to dressing my toddler in a similar manner. But do you have any suggestion as to how to keep the long socks pulled up? I’ve tried several sizes, but spend all day pulling them up or watching them slip down around his chubby little ankles!
Yikes, I do not have any suggestions. Hopefully some of our readers will share some insight/tips. Thank you for reading the post and for commenting! 🙂
We always wore elastic garters to school with our long socks. Mum would make the by sewing a circle of elastic, making sure it was tight enough to hold up the socks but not cut off our circulation!
I tend to find certain brands stay up better than others.
Hi GinnyLou! I agree with Laura that some brands stay up better than others. If you happen to be in Australia, Bonds socks are excellent. Elastic all through the leg as well as at the top will help – they should look incredibly narrow before you put them on. The garters Kim mentioned was my next suggestion – you could experiment with a wide hair tie in a pinch, depending on the size of your little man’s legs!
My nephews had this problem. We bought girls’ knee socks (but took the labels off so they wouldn’t know). Kohl’s has a good selection.
There are quite a few photos of George in trousers and/or jeans but they are when George is with his nanny, his mum or grandmother (taken by paparazzi). Looks like he wears shorts for formal occasions and trousers for regular day play 🙂
I absolutely love this style of classic dressing on very young children. Great article. Thank you!!!
Thank *you*, Ann! 🙂