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Sherlock Holmes: His Hats Explained

By Taylor James


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Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous detectives in the world. He is seen in hundreds of books, movies, and television shows, sporting his trusty detective hat. 

Sherlock Holmes wears a deerstalker hat on the original book covers by Arthur Conan Doyle. The famous detective also appears in multiple movies and television shows wearing top hats, fedoras, bowler hats, flat caps, and newsboy caps. 

There are dozens of adaptations of the famous detective, and he wears some memorable hats in most. Even though he wears many different kinds, there are a few that the character wears more often than others. This article will describe what type of hat Sherlock Holmes wears in the books, popular movies, and television adaptations. 

Deer Stalker Cap
Alexei Novikov@123rf.com

The Hats Sherlock Holmes Wore in the Books

It is a vast misconception that Sherlock Holmes wore one particular hat style in Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. The true character of Sherlock Holmes, written by Doyle, did not have one hat he always wore. 

As a character, Sherlock would wear whatever was appropriate for his setting. He would never wear one thing but would wear whatever he needed to blend in. In many instances, he would wear what was most practical.  

Even though many people think that the original Sherlock Holmes had a particular fashion style, he had many different styles he sported. The original books were set in the Victorian era, so his outfits were what was in trend then. When the author described the hats he wore, it was usually a top hat since they were the most common at that time. 

When people think of the original Sherlock Holmes, many believe he wore a deerstalker hat. This hat is usually worn by hunters that are stalking deer. Deerstalkers are typically made of cloth and have two flaps hanging in the cap’s front and back. 

Sidney Paget was the illustrator of the original novels. He often drew Sherlock Holmes wearing a deerstalker hat on the book covers, which is why the hat is most commonly associated with the famous detective.  

The Hats Sherlock Holmes Wore in the Movies

There have been many movie adaptations of the famous Sherlock Holmes. We will review some well-known depictions of the detective, and let’s also look at some of the different hats he wore in the movies. 

The Hats in Mr. Holmes (2015)

This film follows an older Sherlock Holmes as he ventures through retirement. Mr. Holmes is a mystery that takes place in 1947. Even though the movie is not set in the victorian era like the original story was, the character wears a top hat throughout the film.

Another hat that Holmes wears is a fedora. Even though Sherlock Holmes wears one in many adaptations, it is not the style he is most famous for. 

The Hats in Sherlock Holmes (2009)

In this particular movie made in 2009, Robert Downey Jr. plays Sherlock Holmes. He is not even wearing a hat in many scenes since he often jumps out of windows or rolls on the ground, although you can spot him wearing three different kinds in a few other locations. The first is a black fedora. It has a tall crown with a wide brim. He sometimes wears it slanted on his head for a unique look. 

Another hat that Holmes wears is the newsboy cap. This was a typical style worn in the 19th and 20th centuries. The newsboy hat looks like a flat cap but has a more round and puffier body. The film takes place in London in the 1890s, so the choice makes sense with the film’s period. 

Lastly, the character is seen wearing a bowler hat in a few scenes. Bowler hats are made of stiff felt and have a round crown. They can be worn with both formal and semi-formal wear. 

The Hats in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)

This film is based on the 1902 Sherlock Holmes book The Hound of the Baskervilles. The character adaptation of the famous detective is more comparable to the original books in this film. This is one of the movies where Holmes wears the infamous plaid deerstalker hat. He also wears a dark fedora with a tall crown. 

The Hats Sherlock Holmes Wore in Television Shows

On top of the movies that portray him, there have been numerous TV shows about Holmes. Let’s look at a few of the most popular ones. 

The Hats in The BBC’s Sherlock

Since it is a television show, there are even more chances to pull out multiple hats for different episodes. BBC’s Sherlock Holmes sports several different hats throughout the seasons. 

While some hats belonged to the first episode set in 19th century London, other hats were worn in other episodes set in the modern era. 

The hats featured in this television show were the top hat, bowler hat, flat cap, newsboy cap, and deerstalker hat. The deerstalker hat unconventionally appears on the show, almost appearing to be a gag. This version of Sherlock Holmes does not appear to have any sentimental attachment to the hat. 

The Hats in Sherlock Holmes 1965

This well-known television adaptation stars Douglas Wilmer as Sherlock Holmes. The show is set in the Victorian era, the same as the books. The character bounces between wearing a dark fedora and a deerstalker hat. This adaptation of Holmes is one of the most similar adaptations to the original stories, so it would make sense that he wears the deerstalker. 

How Did the Deerstalker Become Sherlock’s Famous Hat?

It is a bit ironic that the deerstalker hat came to be known as the famous detective’s hat. This hat style was usually only worn by hunters and was meant for countryside living. Deerstalker hats weren’t worn in the city, where many of Sherlock Holmes’ mysteries occur. 

Even though some adaptations depicted Holmes wearing that style of cap in the city, the true character of Sherlock is unlikely to do that. He was well-known for staying in line with societal fashion rules. 

As mentioned before, Arthur Conan Doyle did not mention Holmes wearing the deerstalker hat in his novels, so how did the hat become known as Holmes’s main hat? It was all because of the original book illustrator, Sidney Paget. The illustrator wanted to give Sherlock Holmes a memorable appearance, so he decided to have the detective wear a deerstalker on almost every cover. 

The hat first appeared in 1891 on the cover of The Boscombe Valley Mystery. Another famous icon on the cover was Sherlock’s cape, an Inverness cape. Even though the detective arguably has one of the most iconic looks, the creator of the beloved Sherlock Holmes did not intend for him to have such a static fashion look. 

If you want to recreate the iconic look, check out the Pasquale Cutarelli Men’s Wool Tweed Deerstalker Hat from Amazon.

The famous character of Sherlock Holmes wears many different hats in the dozens of adaptations. These hats include the top hat, bowler hat, newsboy cap, flat cap, and the deerstalker hat. 

Wondered why deer stalker hats have two bills? Find out here.

The deerstalker hat is the most famous Sherlock Holmes one since the illustrator of the original books gave Holmes the hat on many of the book covers and magazine illustrations. He did this to create a memorable look for the character. Even though the illustrator gave Holmes the deerstalker, the character is known to wear many different hats or none at all.

There is no question, though, that despite this, Holmes remains one of the few characters that can instantly be recognized by his silhouette.

About Taylor James

As Philip Treacy once said, “How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about.” And on that note, I hope you enjoy your hats and find the site useful. Learn more about Hat Realm's Editorial Process.