Reinventing the Deerstalker: How the BBC Modernized Holmes's Outfits
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most iconic characters in the world. His first adventure was published in 1887, over 125 years ago. Since that time, interest in the lore has continued to inspire generations through countless imitations, parodies, adaptions, and extremely analytical essays. There is no denying that the words of Sir Authur Conan Doyle were powerful. The illustrations by Sidney Paget gave the world Sir Doyle created new life.
One new adaption is the BBC television mini-series Sherlock, which aired starting in 2010. It attempts to take the world of Sherlock Holmes and bring him into the modern day. By all accounts, this attempt was successful, with positive responses from critics and fans. Much of this success can be attributed to the series's attention to detail. From nods to past adaptions to hints of events to come, this series as chock full of detail as the stories it was birthed from. Even details overlooked by most Sherlock fans can provide interesting stories. For example, how did Sherlock get that coat?
The Image of an Icon
If I were to ask you for a description of the classic Sherlock Holme's outfit, I would probably get three items:
- A Deerstalker
- An Inverness Coat
- A Pipe
It is true that the Sherlock Holmes Doyle wrote of would have owned all three items. However, he would have not worn all three items together. A deerstalker cap was worn in the country, as its name might imply. The Inverness coat, on the other hand,was considered formal attire. Wearing both of these items at the same time would have gotten Holmes laughed out of the room.
Holmes wore the same sorts of things as other gentlemen of his era. This meant he would usually wear a top hat, a long coat, a vest, a button down shirt, a tie or cravat, and dark trousers.
A Quote from the Costume Department
BBC's costume designer Sarah Arthur was quoted by GQ as saying the following:
"Holmes would not have any interest in fashion so I went for classic suits with a modern twist: narrow-leg trousers and a two-button, slim-cut jacket. I also went for slim-cut shirts and a sweeping coat for all the action scenes - it looks great against the London skyline."
It turns out the outfits worn on the show are also similar to what a Victorian man would have worn. There are many parallels between the old outfits and the new ones.
The Inverness vs. The Milford
The Inverness coat is one of the most notable parts of a Sherlock Holmes costume to the point where, in the modern world, someone wearing an Inverness coat would look like nobody else. This posed a problem for the costume designers of the show, who wanted him to look modern. It would appear they took the basic look of the Inverness and revamped it using a Milford coat from Belstaf. Both coats have a close-fitting silhouette and go past the wearer's hip.
Do you like the redesign of Sherlock Holmes?
The Cravat vs. The Scarf
A cravat is one of the fist pieces of clothing mentioned in A Study in Scarlet, the first Holmes story. It is a small, unruffled piece of cloth worn around the neck, similar to a necktie. It is another item that, while fashionable at the time, are not worn nowadays. Sherlock's costume designers used a blue scarf to cover their titular character's neck.
The Shirt and The Trousers
Men in the Victorian Era always wore a button-up shirt. It did not matter the day, the time, or the dress code; if there was a man at some sort of a gathering, he would be wearing a shirt that buttoned up the front. They would also wear full trousers wherever they went. Most modern people wear jeans and t-shirts. Holmes never does. He is usually sporting a shirt that buttons and a pair of trousers.
I say "usually" because there was one time he turned a bed-sheet into a toga and wore it in public. I won't be talking about it; Doyle's Holmes never made linens the basics of an outfit.