On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
BRTISH MEN’S fashion has been jazzed up by Benedict Cumberbatch of BBC’s Sherlock, and thus I believe it’s not inappropriate to examine the sartorial style of the real Sherlock Holmes. The world’s greatest detective was hardly a fop, yet he clearly had a sense of late Victorian propriety.
Let’s look at the sartorial Holmes in today’s item, then his latter-day spirit, Mr. Cumberbatch, tomorrow.
Dr. John H. Watson describes what a perfect clothes horse Holmes was: “In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller.” What’s more, Holmes knew when to spiff up and when it was appropriate to go casual.
Was the dressing gown blue (as in “The Man with a Twisted Lip”), or purple (“The Blue Carbuncle”) or, at its most renowned, mouse-colored (“The Bruce-Partington Plans” and “The Empty House”)?
All three, said Sherlockian scholar Christopher Morley: “This particular gown was blue when new…. It had gone purple by the time of ‘The Blue Carbuncle.’ During the long absence 1891 – 1894, when Mrs. Hudson faithfully aired and sunned it in the backyard, it faded to mouse.”
London attire for Holmes during the day included a frock coat, tie and waistcoat. On the town, he wore a top hat or bowler and sometimes carried a walking stick. Being a proper Englishman, he knew as well about the protocol of evening wear.
I’m reminded of Rob Walker (http://wp.me/p2ETap-jU), English motorsportsman—and gentleman—who raced his Delahaye in the 1939 Le Mans.
It’s said Rob drove in a pinstriped suit, but pitted at dusk to change from brown shoes to evening’s black. Another variation of the tale suggests his crew signaled him in to help finish the last of the champagne, but I doubt Rob would have permitted running out so early.
Our familiar images of Holmes, in Inverness cape and deerstalker cap, are from his adventures in the country. He wouldn’t dress this way in town.
Nor, by the way, did Holmes ever smoke a calabash pipe. This was a later theatrical affectation by actor William Gillette; he didn’t want the pipe to interfere with his delivery.
Trust the original source, artist Sidney Paget, to recognize the properly sartorial Holmes—with the proper pipe.
But wait! Here’s a mystery worthy of the great detective himself: Which of these two images is the original and which is a phony?
Proposed solution tomorrow. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2014