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The Icon: George VI of England


George VI is getting a lot of press lately thanks to a certain Oscar contender, but it’s time the man got his due from the style set. As it turns out, the man knew his way around a tailor's.

Perfectly Embodied: As royal admiral, Albert spent a great deal of his time in dress blues. When he wasn’t in that uniform, he was in the uniform of Savile Row—strictly detailed suits, with stiff collars and peak lapels in the style of the day. The royal family set the standards—which in Albert’s case, meant double-breasted, wide-lapeled suits to flatter his narrow frame—and his generation of gentlemen followed suit.

Words of Wisdom: There is great weight in the modern times of being monarch. The scrutiny and access is much more than in times gone by.

The Backstory: Kings always live their lives in the public eye, but with the advent of radio, England was able to follow George VI to an unprecedented degree. That included diplomatic trips to America in advance of the war, presiding over an empire in decline, and a lot of what is generally known as “formal occasions.” Once the war started, it also meant staying in Buckingham Palace during the blitz as a show of solidarity with the people of London, even after he was almost killed by a pair of German bombs that landed in the courtyard. Plus, apparently he had a bit of a stammering problem.

The Gutsy Move: When you’re destined for the Admiralty from birth, you’re going to get dressed up in a lot of child-sized sailor outfits.

The Takeaway: Style isn’t always about personal expression. Sometimes it’s about pulling off the uniform of the occasion with as much sincerity as you can muster. We’re thinking high-wire business trips, formal weddings and anything else that comes with a costume. It’s not always ideal, but it’s part of life and very much a part of style. And George VI nailed it. When in doubt, think of England.