Is Prince Harry an Influencer Now?

Prince Harry's Instagram

Everything Harry’s new wife Meghan Markle wears flies off the shelves. Can Harry have the same effect on what men wear?

Influencing—the practice of acquiring the bag by taking money from brands and then promoting those brands on your social media—seems like it has to be a phenomenon native to our current dystopia. This is not true. Take England’s King Edward VII, for example: the circa-1900 ruler was so robust that he left the bottom button on his jackets and vests undone so he could more easily hop on his horse. “So everybody started doing that,” says William Hanson, an etiquette expert who is frequently called on to opine on the goings-on of the royal family. “As if to almost say, ‘Oh we’re quite fat, too, it’s not just you, it’s us as well,’ to make the king feel better.” And because of the hungry, hungry highness it’s still unstylish to hook the bottom button to this day. Edward VII was an influencer long before anyone would have considered using that word—it’s also said that while he was still prince he asked his tailor to cut the tails off his jacket, inventing the tuxedo—but the lineage of style-influencing royal men mostly ran dry after the king’s death in 1910.

The women of the royal family have been more than happy to take the mantle up, though. Entire websites are dedicated to fervently tracking what Kate Middleton wears, and much of the known world now suffers from the “Meghan Effect,” a condition that causes women to go dead-eyed while punching in their credit card information to purchase the piece of apparel most recently spotted on the newly crowned Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle. And although the warm glow of the spotlight has been good to the brands worn by Markle, her husband Prince Harry doesn’t get nearly the same attention in the style department. Until now!

A thing that happens when you’re in the business about writing about what men wear is that brands send emails whenever a celebrity is seen in their clothing. It’s good for keeping up with what celebrities are wearing; bad for getting to Inbox Zero. The men in these emails are typically the same uber-popular, style-conscious dudes: Justin Bieber, LeBron James, Jared Leto, and so on. Last week, a new name was delivered to my inbox: Prince Harry.

That’s strange, I thought. Do men care what Prince Harry wears?

Susan Kelley, who founded What Kate Wore and its sister site What Meghan Wore, says that they most certainly do. While the bulk of Kelley’s time is dedicated to sniffing out What Kate/Meghan Wore, she recently put together a formal What Harry Wore sub-section. Kelley says that at some point during the lead-up to the royal wedding, she saw interest in the prince’s style grow, and put the section together. “He’s not shutting down websites,” Kelley says. “But then on the other hand, he does move merchandise.”

Tim Baxter, the CEO of 7 For All Mankind, the brand that makes Harry’s go-to chinos, confirmed Kelley’s claim over email. “We’ve seen a spike in visits to our site, sales, and inquiries specifically related to our denim and chinos each time [Harry] wears them,” Baxter wrote.

There’s a pattern to the brands—7 For All Mankind, Everlane, Club Monaco—Harry is most often photographed in: they’re affordable, everyman-type labels. Harry’s surprising success as an influencer, then, might be seen as a response to the world of cross-body-bagged streetwear bros so prevalent on both Instagram and red carpets. It’s difficult to emulate the style of celebrities turning up to award shows in meme-worthy hats, hand-me-downs from productions of Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat, and clothing that costs more than the average person’s monthly salary. The royals want to appear relatable—or at least like they’re not blowing their people’s tax money on designer clothing—so they dress it. “What any member of the royal family wears is often more attainable for your average person than what Jay Z is wearing or some reality star,” says Hanson.

Hanson says that in etiquette classes he teaches, he often holds Harry up as an example. Because while Harry’s clothes might not keep up with trends, he wears classic clothing immaculately. “When Prince Harry wears morning dress, he looks really good because he know what works,” Hanson explains. “He’s not trying to reinvent the wheel.” This is the appeal to customers, too. Harry, Baxter wrote, “epitomizes the classic modern man to us.” In terms of what average men want to wear, Harry is a perfect role model. For decades, the prince has had the letter of the style law hammered into him. He knows which buttons to button, which side medals and pins should go on, and the appropriate attire to wear for every occasion. He has absolutely aced Menswear 101, and has very little apparent interest in doing further graduate study.

Harry seems to have found his new image with a little help from his wife, too. Perhaps not coincidentally, Everlane and Club Monaco have long been among Markle’s favorite brands. And Kelley also points out that Harry’s now dressing in the earth tones and grays Markle favors. “Harry was not unstylish but he’s certainly upped his game a little,” says Hanson.

While Harry’s clothes will probably never command the sort of rabid attention given to Markle’s, he’s already making a name for himself in a way few other male royals have. Besides King Edward VII, the only other king or prince Hanson points to as a style influencer is Edward VIII. The former king, who gave up the throne in 1936 and became the Duke of Windsor to marry a divorced woman, is often credited with popularizing the Windsor knot and would even get his ties made in a thicker fabric to make his knots appear beefier. (The Armed Services in the U.K. still won’t use a windsor knot because of its association with the former king). “I don’t know if Prince Harry will ever invent a tie knot,” Hanson says, “but I think he certainly will help the British fashion cause.”

Watch:

GQ Editors on Their Menswear Addictions

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