The Real Reason Young British Princes Only Wear Shorts

The British royal children are seen out and about on a semi-regular basis, and one thing that remains constant is the younger boys' shorts. Even in cold weather, the youngest royal boys usually wear shorts with knee socks. So what's the reason behind this unusual sartorial choice?

The short answer is tradition. It's what the royal family has done for generations. Starting around the 16th century, young boys were dressed in gowns like their sisters until reaching the age they could be "breeched," or put into pants. This was usually around eight, but it could vary. For the modern royal family and aristocracy, this practice has translated into shorts for young boys and pants for older ones. A boy wearing pants at a younger age is seen as somewhat lower-class by the royals (via TIME). This practice also occurs in English schools, where the uniforms for young boys include shorts (via People). 8-year-old Prince George, however, has now graduated to pants.

The reason for skirts and 'breeching'

The reason behind dressing young boys in skirts was a practical one. According to The Vintage News, whereas gender coding was often strictly enforced in the past, the same standards weren't applied to young children. Girls and boys were dressed nearly identically, though their hair was styled differently.

Old-style clothing could be complicated, and thus was difficult for a young child to put on by him or herself. It also took too long to remove when a pre-potty-training child needed their diaper changed. It was much easier to lift up a skirt than to halfway undress the child.

Once a boy reached what was called "the age of reason," which The Vintage News estimates instead at around six or seven, they could be breeched. In the Victorian era, this was a big deal and also involved the boy getting a haircut and walking around his neighborhood to show off his new pants. It signified a step towards manhood, and it seems that Prince George has taken that step.

Prince George the fashion icon

People who take an interest in the royal family also take note of what the royal children wear, and once their clothes are identified by brand, they often sell out quickly (via Marie Claire). The young prince made Tatler Magazine's list of "Britain's Best Dressed" in 2018, along with his mother, his aunt Meghan Markle, and his great-grandmother the queen.

George broke the "shorts-only" rule a few times when he was younger, most notably at the wedding of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry, when he wore an outfit similar to his uncle's military uniform. At his aunt Pippa Middleton's wedding, he wore knickerbockers, or short pants (via The Today Show). He and his little brother, Louis, were also seen in long pants when attending a Christmas pantomime with their parents in 2020.

He's even made at least one very public appearance in a skirt: his christening in the Honiton gown that he and all his siblings, as well as several of his cousins, have worn. It's a replica of the gown Queen Victoria commissioned for her first-born child in 1841. The original gown was worn by 62 different royal babies before it was retired, according to Town and Country Magazine. The royals are all about tradition.