Dress Smart, Think Smart

Media, Dress Smart For Kate

Why journalists covering William and Kate's US trip should dress smart

Chris Weeks

Journalists are an ill-dressed lot, by and large.

From Bernstein and Woodward in All The President’s Men to Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, the global army of ink-stained wretches may have a certain effortless style, but they are not often held up as paradigms of formal dressing (JJ Hunsecker is the exception that proves the rule).

Indeed, the overarching meme when it comes to the journalistic dress code is a rumpled and slept-in look - after all who has time to change their shirt or shave when they’re chasing down stories through the mean streets of A.N Other City?

The shabby dress code by which most journalists operate is obviously something of a concern to the press office at Buckingham Palace, which has guidelines on its website which will be relevant to journalists covering Prince William and Kate Middleton’s 48 hour love-bombing of New York City and Washington DC, which will take place from the 7 - 8 December, recommending that the fourth estate look out some smart duds if they want to get in sniffing distance of the royals.

The website says, “Journalists wishing to cover Royal engagements, whether in the United Kingdom or abroad, should comply with the dress code on formal occasions out of respect for the guests of The Queen, or any other member of the Royal Family.

“Smart attire for men includes the wearing of a jacket and tie, and for women a trouser or skirt suit. Those wearing jeans or trainers will not be admitted and casually dressed members of the media will be turned away. This also applies to technicians."

Top hats, however, seem to be entirely optional.

The Buckingham Palace press office has always been somewhat celebrated for the rules it seeks to impose on press photographers, rules which have become steadily less relevant since the sale of the first camera-equipped phone. The palace website, for example, cautions photographers that they “should not photograph” royals “while they have food or a glass in their hand or during a meal,” although, the website allows, “it is quite in order for a photograph to be taken during a Loyal Toast, or immediately before food is served.”

Bizarrely, in royal press protocol, journalists are only allowed to take photos during speeches , “for the first minute after they start talking”.

You are also not allowed to film or photograph a royal ‘at prayer’.

In the UK you can get a serious telling-off from the press minders and even be excluded from future events if you disobey these rules.

Press are also discouraged from asking and shouting out questions at the Royals during press calls. It should also be noted that the ancient paparazzi tradition of yelling , “Oi! Kate! Over here love!” to get the Duchess to turn your way is not on at all, although lately some photographers have taken to gently calling out, “Sir, Sir, Ma’am, over here please!”

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The ultimate sin, though, is to obstruct the Royal view. As the press office says, “It is particularly unfortunate if photographers are allowed to insert themselves between the Royal visitors and whomever or whatever it is they are meeting or watching.”

“Particularly unfortunate” is, of course, code for, “You’ll never work this beat again, pal.”

Friends, you have been warned.

Note: An earlier version of this story said that a 'communique' had been issued to US journalists advising journalists how to dress when covering the royal visit. We are happy to make clear this was not the case.