Stephanie Smith: High hopes for the first gentleman of style

New Prime Minister Theresa May, wearing Amanda Wakeley and her trademark leopard print heels, followed by her husband, Philip (who is already impressing with his dapper outfits), as they walk into 10 Downing Street. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

New Prime Minister Theresa May, wearing Amanda Wakeley and her trademark leopard print heels, followed by her husband, Philip (who is already impressing with his dapper outfits), as they walk into 10 Downing Street. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

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Who cares about what Theresa May wears, and why does it matter anyway?

Our new Prime Minister has flummoxed those who demand to know why style observers like me should be commenting at all on what powerful, intelligent women choose to dress in. And she has done this simply by demonstrating her own passion and flair for fashion.

Theresa May cares about what she wears, and she definitely, defiantly, wants her outfits to be noticed. She raised eyebrows, when she guested on Desert Island Discs, by choosing as her luxury a subscription to Vogue. Her Downing Street debut choice of ‘that Amanda Wakeley jacket’, in midnight blue with a flash of bright yellow, was an upbeat and interesting style statement, a promising hint that her support of British design will inspire and reap rewards. Her trademark leopard-print kitten heels have become shorthand for a bold, creative, individual, yet consistent, approach to power.

Despite the fact that the UK fashion industry contributes £27 billion a year directly to our economy and employs almost 800,00 people, fashion is considered to be a shamefully trivial pursuit by some. Yet ten times as many people visit the White Rose shopping centre every week than go to see Leeds United when they play a mile up the road. Passion for “the beautiful game” is not thought trivial. Why is that? The reason is as obvious as it is ridiculous.

In 2016, there are still those who claim to find it incomprehensible that clever, serious women should care about the design, crafting, artistry and meaning of clothes, shoes and bags.

Reasons for this thinking range from a type of so-called feminism (usually by women) that bizarrely insists on denigrating anything deemed feminine, through to an intractable, deep-rooted misogyny (usually by men) that simply despises anything it deems to be to do with women.

It is impossible to argue with either opinion and, thankfully, it doesn’t look as if Mrs May is going to bother trying.

But I hope Mr May is gearing up to play a committed role in supporting British design and manufacture, continuing the work of previous PM spouses Samantha Cameron and Sarah Brown.

British menswear and tailoring is highly regarded the world over, and Philip May is already impressing fashion mags with his smart, co-ordinated approach to his outfits.

By making bolder choices and focusing on well-designed, well-made British clothing and accessories, he could restore British manufacture and craftsmanship to its rightful place as world leader and standards bearer. He could also revolutionise and up-style the wardrobe and pride of the middle-aged British male. For which we would all be very grateful.

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