Tuesday, July 30, 2019

In Praise of the Deerstalker

[A version of this essay originally appeared in The Watsonian (Spring 2018, Vol. 6, No. 1)]

Sherlock Holmes and the Deerstalker

The deerstalker hat is probably the most identifiable symbol associated with Sherlock Holmes. The silhouette of a profile wearing such a hat is universally connected with him - although some purists maintain that Holmes actually had no connection with the deerstalker at all, based on the fact that it isn’t specifically mentioned in The Canon.

The deerstalker, also sometimes known as a “fore-and-aft cap”, is usually constructed of some type of tweed cloth, often in houndstooth, herringbone, or plaid patterns, although other variations of material and pattern exist. The hat consists of both a front and rear bill, as well as two cloth earflaps attached to each side. These are kept raised and tied in place by ribbons or leather thongs, except when lowered to cover the ears in extreme weather. There are numerous variations in styles, related to height, shape of the hat and the ear-flaps, and the width of the bills. The hat was initially used by hunters, especially (and obviously from the name) for hunting deer.

The deerstalker is never specifically identified as such in any of the original Canonical stories. However, in “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”, Watson mentions Holmes’s “close-fitting cloth cap” . . .

and in “Silver Blaze”, he indicates that Holmes is wearing an “earflapped travelling cap”:

Contrary to the belief that Holmes was first shown in print wearing the deerstalker in The Strand, or even in later plays or films, its first appearance was in the June 7th, 1890 edition of The Bristol Observer. An unknown artist provided woodcuts of scenes from The Sign of the Four, which had first been published the previous February in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. These illustrations unfortunately and also incorrectly show Holmes wearing a mustache (!) but otherwise, the deerstalker is correctly located on Holmes’s head – even if the front and rear bills are somewhat abbreviated:

As will be explained below, this depiction of the deerstalker was certainly presented with the approval of both the author and the Literary Agent.

The deerstalker made its next and more widespread appearance in the Holmes Canon in the previously mentioned “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” (published in The Strand, October 1891) wherein Holmes and Watson are shown in a train compartment:

Holmes, wearing the deerstalker in this illustration, is also shown in what is described in the story as his “travelling cloak”. This has later come to be associated, along with the deerstalker, as an expected part of Holmes’s wardrobe. It’s usually identified as an Inverness coat, consisting of a long overcoat with an attached cape around the shoulders.

This and many other Holmesian illustrations were drawn by famed artist Sidney Paget (1860-1908), who was commissioned to illustrate The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes during their initial twenty-four story run in The Strand magazine, from 1891 to 1893. This periodical’s first issue had appeared in January 1891 – contrary to a common but mistaken belief that it was around as far back as the 1880’s, and even then publishing Watson’s stories. The Strand’s early success was quickly guaranteed when the first Holmes short story, “A Scandal in Bohemia”, was published on June 25th, 1891.

Prior to that date, only two of Holmes’s cases had appeared in print, A Study in Scarlet in 1887’s Beeton’s Christmas Annual, and the previously mentioned The Sign of the Four. Illustrations for previous editions of those two books had been by artists who clearly never met Holmes, as they portray someone completely unrecognizable – although the unnamed artist from The Bristol Observer was apparently advised to put Holmes in his deerstalker in scenes where he and Watson were being led around London by Toby, and then when they meet young Jack and his mother at Mordecai Smith’s boat dock.

When preparing his illustrations, Paget had the advantage of having extensive access both to the author of the tales, Dr. John H. Watson, as well as the Literary Agent, Arthur (and later Sir Arthur) Conan Doyle. Holmes was presumed dead after May 4th, 1891, following the Reichenbach Falls incident, and at that point Watson decided to memorialize his friend by publishing a series of short stand-alone sketches relating Holmes’s past cases. His literary agent secured a deal with the new Strand magazine, quite lucrative for the both of them, and then the magazine hired an illustrator.

It is famously told that the magazine hoped to use Walter Paget (1865-1935), Sidney’s brother, and also a well-known illustrator, but the commission accidentally went to Sidney instead. This was one of the world’s luckiest mistakes, because Sidney Paget went on to illustrate all twenty-four of the original Adventures, (later published in book form as both The Adventures and The Memoirs,) The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901-1902), and The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1903-1904) before his untimely death in 1908. In doing so, he firmly established for the public – who might not have ever had the chance to encounter Holmes in person – exactly how the world’s first consulting detective looked:

It has been asserted that Sidney Paget’s portrayal of Holmes in a deerstalker was simply because he himself wore a deerstalker, as shown in this photo of him punting:

Others maintain that Sidney Paget’s representation of Holmes was actually influenced by the appearance of his brother Walter, who had some similarity to Holmes . . .

. . . but their brother H.M. “Henry” Paget (1856-1936), also an artist, debunked this, as related in the 1912 edition of The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which states, “[t]he assertion that the artist’s brother Walter, or any other person, served as the model for the portrait of Sherlock Holmes is incorrect.” The statement that Sidney Paget’s illustrations were not based on brother Walter must therefore lead to the inescapable conclusion that Holmes’s likeness, as shown in The Strand, was in fact based on Holmes’s own appearance, and upon information provided by Watson to Sidney in the form of photographs, as well as descriptions from those who knew Holmes best.

Walter Paget actually illustrated one Holmes story for The Strand, “The Dying Detective”, published in late 1913. In those representations, Holmes looks very much like the same fellow that had been previously drawn by Sidney. Thus, Walter must have been illustrating the true Holmes, because for him to have the arrogance to decide to draw himself in the role of the hero of the story would be an unpleasant aspect of his character that simply doesn’t seem to be supported in other descriptions of him.

For those who might insist that Sidney Paget had simply made up his own version of how Sherlock Holmes looked, it must be remembered that both Watson and Doyle would have had quite a bit of control and influence over the illustrations that were used in the Strand publications, and they wouldn’t have allowed anything that didn’t look like Holmes – or that did look instead too much like Sidney’s brother Walter – to ever be published. Conan Doyle has been quoted as stating that Holmes was actually somewhat less attractive than the man illustrated by Paget, indicating further that in real life he saw Holmes as “a more beaky-nosed, hawk-faced man, approaching more to the Red Indian type”, but the Literary Agent’s opinion cannot always be trusted. For example, in a famed filmed interview in 1927, Sir Arthur, when asked about Holmes, referred to Watson as Holmes’s “rather stupid friend”.

(To see it for yourself, check out this film clip at minute 4:37:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWjgt9PzYEM )

Such an egregious comment about Watson's intelligence must be weighed very carefully and critically indeed - as should the person making such an outrageous statement.

Paget wasn’t the only Strand illustrator who placed Holmes in a deerstalker, with the approval of the author of the narratives, Dr. Watson. Here is a scene by Frank Wiles from “Shoscombe Old Place”, published in April 1927:

Holmes was also shown in non-deerstalkers, both by Paget (in The Hound of the Baskervilles, published in October 1901), Frank Wiles (from The Valley of Fear, published September 1914), and Albert Gilbert (in “The Problem of Thor Bridge”, published February 1922):

A possible explanation for the artist’s depiction of other hats is that the deerstalker was considered to a “country” hat, and therefore would not have been appropriate to wear in town. Holmes, well-adjusted to the requirements of the society in which he lived - and not the defective sloppy addict sociopath that some would try to imply - would have certainly known this and therefore behaved accordingly. However, it has also been well-noted that Holmes was a non-conformist, caring little for society’s requirements, expectations, and mores – Remember, this is a man who, in the very heart of London, fired his pistol at the wall to spell the initials V.R. It’s certain that when wearing a deerstalker in town made more sense, Holmes did so. Holmes was always prepared, and he never knew when he might suddenly need to dash into action. Far better to be dressed in a deerstalker and Inverness, regardless of social convention than to be caught in delicate city clothes when an adventure begins.

Examples of Holmes wearing a deerstalker within London can be seen, for instance, in Paget’s illustrations for “The Empty House” (published September 1903). While hunting a criminal, he chose to wear a hunter’s hat, even within the city:

And lest we forget, Holmes's finest hour was when he tracked Jack the Ripper, as discussed in this entry from my blog:


Here we see an illustration from a contemporary 1888 newspaper, fancifully depicting Holmes and Watson's investigation - with deerstalker:

Holmes and the Deerstalker in Film

Until his death in the early part of the twentieth century, Paget’s drawings continued to reflect Holmes’s use of both the deerstalker and other hats. Subsequent illustrators of Canonical Holmes stories also made use of the deerstalker. Other influences also did their part to further fix the idea of Holmes’s deerstalker into the public consciousness. William Gillette’s famous play about Holmes, premiering in 1899, made use of the deerstalker, particularly in the famous Stepney Gas Chamber scene. Gillette performed his Holmes play over 1,300 times over the next few decades, and several other British companies toured extensively with it as well. Each did their part to fix the connection between Holmes and the deerstalker in the public mind. In 1916, Gillette filmed his play. The film has been rediscovered after being presumed lost, and Gillette can be seen wearing the famous hat:

Holmes’s connection with the deerstalker was further cemented by American artist Frederic Dorr Steele, who provided the illustrations for American publications of the stories from The Return of Sherlock Holmes, beginning in 1903. His version of Holmes was physically based on Gillette, and was also often shown in a deerstalker:

For a generation in the early twentieth century, until Basil Rathbone became so closely associated with Holmes, Americans pictured Gillette when they thought of Holmes, as shown in Steele’s often-deerstalker-ed version, and not the Paget Holmes so often seen and expected today.

Over the years, the connection between Holmes and deerstalker has continued to be reinforced. It appeared in films starring such actors as James Braginton, John Barrymore, Reginald Owen, and Arthur Wontner:

These films were set in “modern” times – that is, contemporary to the years in which they were made, making use of modern fashions, automobiles, and other current accoutrements and appurtenances. Yet, even as the films presented Holmes and Watson in up-to-the-minute situations (for that time), Holmes continued to wear the deerstalker, further reinforcing it in the public’s mind.

In the 1939 films The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Basil Rathbone wore the deerstalker:

Interestingly, these first two Rathbone Holmes films are often credited as the first to ever set the Holmes stories in the correct Victorian period, rather than showing them contemporary to whenever they were being filmed. After the Gillette film was re-discovered in 1916, it was apparent that it was actually the first to be set within the correct Victorian timeframe. The Rathbone films are also often incorrectly credited with first placing the Holmes/deerstalker connection in the public mind, when in fact Rathbone also wears other hats throughout these two films, such as top hats, similar to the different hats shown in the original Paget illustrations.

A few years later, a new series of twelve Rathbone films were produced by a different studio, with the stories incorrectly updated to fit into the war-era 1940’s. During an early scene from the first of these films, Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942), Holmes is chided by Watson when he starts to put on his deerstalker – “Holmes, you promised!" – and Holmes chooses a fedora instead.

(In my Baker Street Journal essay, “Basil Rathbone’s Solar Pons Films”, [Vol.63, No.4, Winter 2013], I point out that the first three Rathbone films produced at Universal, The Voice of Terror (1942), The Secret Weapon (1943), and Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943), are actually Solar Pons stories, with the names changed to make for easier familiarity to the 1940’s audiences. That essay can also be found online as an entry in my blog from November 2016:


As time went on, Holmes and the deerstalker continued to be associated to an even greater degree. In countless advertisements throughout the twentieth century, and on into the twenty-first, a man in a deerstalker is either immediately identifiable as Holmes, or if not the man himself, then certainly as a detective. Along with the pipe and magnifying glass, the deerstalker has become the universal symbol for sleuth.

Holmes’s indivisible association with the deerstalker is addressed in the opening scene from the film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), in which Holmes and Watson return to London following an investigation. Holmes, in his deerstalker and Inverness coat, complains to Watson that “[y]ou have saddled me with this improbable costume, which the public now expects me to wear.” Watson replies, “Blame it on the illustrator.”

Other Holmes film and television appearances acknowledge the association with the deerstalker, and it has been worn by Ronald Howard, Peter Cushing, Douglas Wilmer, Christopher Plummer, and Jeremy Brett, along with many other portrayers of the Great Detective.(Sadly, except for a few stand-alone films, Holmes and Watson haven't been on television whatsoever since Jeremy Brett ended his run in 1994.)

Oddly, the Holmes films of the early twenty-first century starring Robert Downey, Jr. chose not to use a deerstalker at all, which was a very serious mistake, in spite of the success of the films. Many criticize the Downey films as being too action-packed, but I have no objection to that aspect, as they actually show activities – bare-knuckle boxing, for instance – which are usually only described off-stage in The Canon. However, Mr. Downey looked nothing like Holmes – which sadly is true for many of Holmes's portrayers – and the use of a deerstalker would have gone a long way toward correcting this flaw and tying his performance to the greater Holmesian deerstalker tradition.

Most filmmakers and authors of pastiches now routinely include Holmes’s wearing of a deerstalker in all settings, attributing it to his personal preference over societal requirements, as well as his disdain for the social conventions that require other hats for other settings. This has helped to reinforce the deerstalker as something indivisible from Holmes’s legend at this point, and it cannot be ignored.

As mentioned, the deerstalker is often used to suggest a character that is a detective. When it appears on screen in films or television episodes, the Sherlockian connection is so strong that – even if it wasn’t intended – it provokes a Sherlockian response.

The hat has been used for comic effect in many films over the years, such as shorts by Laurel and Hardy, the Our Gang (or The Little Rascals, depending on your generation) comedies, the spy scene from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), The Three Stooges, and even in cartoons, as shown in the Daffy Duck epic, Deduce, You Say (1956):

The deerstalker has also appeared in such diverse areas as the hat of the dog handler in “Die Like a Dog”, a 2002 episode of Nero Wolfe . . .

. . . and in the Downton Abbey 2012 Christmas special . . .

. . . and even in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964).

Peter Brady wore it when he was solving a mystery in "The Great Earring Caper", a 1973 episode of The Brady Bunch . . .

and in the 1966 episode of Gilligan's Island, "Up at Bat", the Professor and the Skipper showed up in one of Gilligan's dreams as Inspector Sherlock and Colonel Watney:

We mustn't forget Gomez Addams . . . .

. . . or Kermit the Frog (with Fozzie Bear as Watson).

An oldie but a goodie - the almost-human Charlie McCarthy:

In The Bowery Boys film Private Eyes (1953), Huntz Hall wore a deerstalker. While Hall was trying to look like Holmes, I think it's more remarkable that Hall and co-Bowery Boy Leo Gorcey look more like Jingle and Jangle of The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974) - or vice versa:

Then there's the almost-human Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation . . . .

More recently, the Season 3 episode of Rick and Morty entitled "Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender" had the amazing Rick Sanchez wearing a deerstalker:

Representing Team Holmes: Wearing a Deerstalker Everyday as My Only Hat - For Over 35 years!

I have personally worn a deerstalker as my only hat since receiving one from my parents for my nineteenth birthday in 1984. As I’ve related elsewhere, I started reading about Holmes and Watson when I was ten years old in 1975, and have been a fanatic ever since. When one becomes acquainted with Holmes at an early age, one comes to associate him with deerstalkers. And so, from that early age, I wanted a deerstalker of my own.

I can still see it clearly, the very first deerstalker that I constructed from a plain blue cap of my father’s. It had no logos, insignias, or advertisements. It was simply blue. I didn’t permanently damage that cap . . . although I did destroy a different cap with a red bill, in order to sew the red bill onto the back side of the blue cap. Thus, one deerstalker, rather odd looking, and without ear flaps. I don’t know why I thought that the red attachment on the back was acceptable, but I did. And I wore it proudly in connection with the detective agency that I opened in the basement of our house. (We actually made a little money, performing investigative chores for a neighbor that took pity on us and hired us to solve a few mysteries, but those cases are definitely not resting in a tin dispatch box somewhere, and they will never be written or read about.)

I wish that I still had that first unofficial homemade deerstalker, but at some point, I lost track of it, and my father snipped the threads holding it together, removing and discarding the red bill and reclaiming his blue cap. But even as I grew up, I wanted a real deerstalker.

In 1984, on my nineteenth birthday, I was a sophomore in college, and on that day, I went home – which was only across town from the campus where I lived – to see my parents, only to discover that they had obtained for me a true and authentic deerstalker - the real thing, not some cheap and shabby thing sold at Halloween or for a costume party. It was a houndstooth pattern, heavy tweed, and the earflaps were tied up with thin leather thongs. It had actually been made in England, and my parents had ordered it from somewhere quite expensive in New York. I was thrilled and amazed. )Here's a photo of it, hanging now in honored retirement on my fireplace mantel, after I wore it for years and eventually replaced it with another deerstalker:)

So I was back at college the next day with my deerstalker, and it was time to make a decision: Did I keep this thing as a treasured souvenir to sit in dust on a shelf, or did I wear my Sherlockian Pride on my head, proclaiming my beliefs and walking the walk? I decided to live up to my convictions and put on the hat! And then I walked to the dining hall for lunch – No looking back.

The hat caused some initial comment around campus and amongst my friends, but amazingly not as much as I’d feared. It became my hat and my look for the remainder of my time there until graduation. I wore it to and from class, and for walks in the college woods, and to the mall or out to eat or to the movies, and on road trips, and wherever else that I went. I wore it in yearbook photos. Here's one from 1985:

After graduation, and all through life as a grown-up to the present day, I’ve worn the deerstalker as my only hat - to work and church and shopping, and on walks and camping trips and to the beach. I wore it on a college trip to Washington, D.C. in the mid-1980’s, and to Disney World on a family vacation – anywhere to represent Mr. Holmes.

Here a few photos taken by my dad around 1984 or 1985, in our living room soon after I received my first deerstalker. (I'm standing in front of my grandmother's antique pump organ that I inherited.) And also here are a couple from my first trip to New York in 1986, wearing the deerstalker at the Hard Rock Café, and also in front of a brownstone house on West 35th Street. (I was certain that I'd found Nero Wolfe's house, and that the rubber chicken hanging in the front room window - and that truly was a rubber chicken - was some sort of artifact related to an ongoing case . . . .)

When I first met my future wife in the summer of 1986 - we started dating in 1987 and married in 1988 - I'd already been wearing a deerstalker for two years. I'm very fortunate that, in all the years since, my wife - who knew what she was getting into - still goes out into the world with a deerstalker-wearing man.

Eventually that first deerstalker wore out, and I had to replace it. I've been through several more since then, but I've never considered not wearing one. I've had my current deerstalker, that I wear for most occasions, since 2013, and we've shared a lot of memories.

I’ve attracted stares over the years, wearing a deerstalker as I do, since one simply does not see that type of hat where I live in eastern Tennessee. I receive the occasional comments from passers-by, but they are rare. One person pronounced that I must be a Robert Downey, Jr. fan. (No.) One wag cleverly called me Inspector Clouseau. (Sad.) Even when I’ve worn my hat during trips to New York or Washington, D.C. and walked the streets, no one has really said anything.

Several years ago, after collecting, reading, and chronologicizing literally thousands of traditional Holmes pastiches since the mid-1970's, and writing them since 2008, I started editing Sherlock Holmes anthologies, and it became a special treat to be able to read and edit story submissions in my local coffee shops. I’ve had a lot of fun over the last few years showing photos of different authors’ latest works out in the “real world”, along with my deerstalker and whatever treat that I’ve ordered. One of those many photos is shown here, along with a few other random “real world” deerstalker experiences: In the field on a civil engineering project; at a movie theater; unknowingly photographed by my son on the streets of Blowing Rock, NC; at a Barnes & Noble with one of the issues of The Strand magazine that has published some of my Holmes stories; and during the total eclipse of 2017.

I wear the deerstalker when meeting other Sherlockians too, such as my friends Jim Hawkins and Tom Turley, or the fine attendees at A Gathering of Southern Sherlockians, (where my deerstalker and I are at the top right of the photo near Jim Hawkins, Joel Senter, and Dan Andriacco), or the wonderful Tracy Revels. Then there's Publisher Extraordinaire Steve Emecz, shown here at one of our meetings in London; or at a meeting of The Nashville Scholars of the Three Pipe Problem; or when I was able to meet Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great-nephew Richard Doyle and his son at the grand opening of the Stepping Stones School at Undershaw in 2016; or spending a little time with the amazing Joel and Carolyn Senter:

So I always wear a deerstalker as my only hat, from the time that the weather cools off in the fall until it becomes too warm to wear it in the spring. – and often in the summer too. So it goes without saying that I wore a deerstalker when I was finally able to make my three (so far) trips-of-a-lifetime Holmes Pilgrimages to England.

Holmes Pilgrimages and Deerstalkers

I had wanted to go to England for most of my life. It called to me. I couldn’t watch any movie or television program about the place without wanting to put my feet there. In most directions back, my family tree is English or Scottish. (My mother was a Rathbone, and my great-grandmother was a Watson – really!) And most of all, I wanted to visit all of those places that I had only imagined when reading the Holmes Canon. Finally, in 2013, after making exhaustive lists and consulting my collection of over two-dozen Holmes travel books, I was ready. As my wife and son understood that this was almost a religious experience and that they might slow me down, this trip was just me and the places that I wanted to go. And my sole companion on the journey was my deerstalker.

I wore that hat everywhere while I was over there. For a few weeks in September 2013, a man in a deerstalker roamed Baker Street once again. I went to as many Holmes-related sites as I could while I was there. If it wasn’t connected to The Master one way or another, I pretty much didn’t do it. I didn’t go up on The London Eye, for example, because it wasn’t something that was there in the good old days. I did, however, visit The Tower of London – not because of any historic or tourist features, but because it’s featured so often in some really great Holmes pastiches. London and Dartmoor and Edinburgh and Sussex – my deerstalker and I explored the Holmesland tirelessly.

My first Holmes Pilgrimage was in 2013, and then was able to go again on Holmes Pilgrimages No’s 2 and 3 in 2015 and 2016, respectively. I took thousands of pictures each time, and quite a few included my deerstalker. Here are just a few: At Hound Tor on Dartmoor; at New Scotland Yard across from the Westminster Pier; at Barts Hospital (and the plaque commemorating Holmes and Watson’s first meeting); at the Holmes statue in Edinburgh (across from the Literary Agent's birthplace); at the Prime Meridian in Greenwich; and curioiusly at Florin Court in Charterhouse Square, used as the exterior of Hercule Poirot’s Whitehaven Mansions residence in the television show Poirot. (A few sites related to Poirot, Solar Pons, and James Bond were about the only non-Holmes places that I visited during my three Pilgrimages.)

Of course the place that I most wanted to visit while there was The Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street. Over three Pilgrimages, my deerstalker and I have been there seven times, as shown here:

And nearly as great and important is The Sherlock Holmes Pub, with a number of artifacts related to The Master. I was very fortunate that a wonderful pair of Sherlockians let me in to explore the museum - on one occasion for several hours! - during my Pilgrimages. (The photo of the pub on the bottom left is from 2015, taken by Steve Emecz, where I'm posing in front of the Pub with the first three volumes of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, on the day after the big publication party.)

Throughout my travels, I kept my eyes open for fitting souvenirs. I wasn’t buying the usual tourist items. I purchased some Holmes trinkets, of course, and a bust of Our Hero, and Holmes-related books that I couldn’t find in the U.S. But mostly I bought more deerstalkers. A lifetime supply of them. After my three Holmes Pilgrimages in 2013, 2015, and 2016, I now have over two-dozen of them from various spots in London: The Sherlock Holmes Museum, the Sherlock Holmes Pub, a shop in Baker Street, shops in Whitehall and Whitechapel and Bloomsbury. I was led to a handsome formal black deerstalker in Chelmsford by the amazing Sherlockian Roger Johnson. And I even found a really nice one in Edinburgh. They are all the real thing, solid and heavy – none are cheap costume pieces. In each case, the vendors where I shopped looked at me oddly – a man already wearing a deerstalker – as I would take mine off in order to try on one of theirs. What could I possibly need - they must have thought - with another deerstalker? (I’m sure that my wife has asked herself that question many times over by this point.)

Here's a photo from a few years ago of the deerstalkers I'd collected up to that point:

As might be noticed, that photo was taken at Christmas. Sometimes I fix up a Christmas Deerstalker to wear around town:

A few years ago, my family got together and bought for me the ultimate Christmas gift, a real Inverness and matching deerstalker, custom made for me in Scotland. While I’m used to wearing a deerstalker everywhere, I must admit that it is more difficult to find excuses to go out in full Inverness and Fore-and-Aft, but I’ve occasionally done so, and even then, I haven’t attracted the excessive attention that one would expect. Possibly I carry it off with such swagger that it elicits no curiosity. Or perhaps I look simply eccentric, or even dangerous, and people are giving me a wide berth. In deference to my wife, and the point when I would definitely cross her mortification line, I don’t go out – often – in full regalia, but I still wear a deerstalker on a daily basis for most of the year.

Many people wear jerseys or caps to represent their favorite sports teams. However, I’m on Team Holmes. Certain religious folk wear the vestments that represent their beliefs – I’m a missionary for The Church of Sherlock Holmes, and donning a deerstalker every day of the year that requires a hat – and many that don’t – is a great way to declare my admiration for that fellow who has been described by Watson, with my full agreement, as “the best and wisest man whom I have ever known.”

And if you haven't tried it for yourself, I highly recommend it!

©David Marcum 2019 – All Rights Reserved


David Marcum plays The Game with deadly seriousness. He first discovered Sherlock Holmes in 1975 at the age of ten, and since that time, he has collected, read, and chronologicized literally thousands of traditional Holmes pastiches in the form of novels, short stories, radio and television episodes, movies and scripts, comics, fan-fiction, and unpublished manuscripts. He is the author of over sixty Sherlockian pastiches, some published in anthologies and magazines such as The Strand, and others collected in his own books, The Papers of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes and A Quantity of Debt, and Sherlock Holmes – Tangled Skeins. He has edited over fifty books, including several dozen traditional Sherlockian anthologies, such as the ongoing series The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, which he created in 2015. This collection is now up to 21 volumes, with several more in preparation. He was responsible for bringing back August Derleth’s Solar Pons for a new generation, first with his collection of authorized Pons stories, The Papers of Solar Pons, and then by editing the reissued authorized versions of the original Pons books. He is now doing the same for the adventures of Dr. Thorndyke. He has contributed numerous essays to various publications, and is a member of a number of Sherlockian groups and Scions. He is a licensed Civil Engineer, living in Tennessee with his wife and son. His irregular Sherlockian blog, A Seventeen Step Program, addresses various topics related to his favorite book friends (as his son used to call them when he was small), and can be found at http://17stepprogram.blogspot.com/ Since the age of nineteen, he has worn a deerstalker as his regular-and-only hat. In 2013, he and his deerstalker were finally able make his first trip-of-a-lifetime Holmes Pilgrimage to England, with return Pilgrimages in 2015 and 2016, where you may have spotted him. If you ever run into him and his deerstalker out and about, feel free to say hello!

His Amazon Author Page can be found at:


and at MX Publishing:



  1. My grandmother also got me my first deerstalker from England when I was in college. Its successors have served as my winter hats ever since. Unfortunately I live in the Florida Keys so I rarely do unless I go to my hometown of St. Louis in winter. In Scotland I picked up an Inverness cape which I sport whenever it gets cool. Thank you for your post. Glad to hear from a kindred spirit.

  2. I admire your full regalia, and hope that you will find suitable occasions to go out in it as fall and winter commence. You shouldn't get too many stares when it's proper Inverness weather.

    I don't claim to know much about proper British gentleman's attire, but do you find validity in the idea that the Great Detective, despite his eccentricity and general apathy toward adhering to many social standards of his time and class would consider the 'full regalia' as a Bit Much for town? That is a robust country outfit and it's inconceivable that he would have worn anything else while on Dartmoor or on others of his rural cases. Robert Downey, Jr. had the one interlude with the Gypsies, but never had a country case as such. Perhaps RDJ will don the signature attire in the upcoming third film; let's hope so. Lack of deerstalker aside, I like the costume designer's vision for the Ritchie films in consistently dressing Sherlock Holmes as 'a Bohemian'.

    Are you excited for the third film? After a gap of nearly 10 years, this Holmes and Watson will be firmly 'middle aged'. Also it appears that Guy Ritchie will not be directing it. I was lukewarm about the first one but Game of Shadows was far superior. I hope this one (likely the last, unless they propose to tackle 'His Last Bow') will be worth the wait.

    My cosplay deerstalker will be making a reappearance this Halloween. Otherwise, I wear it to get inspired while reading the Canon.

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  4. David convinced me to wear my Deerstalker everywhere. Now that I have a triple x deerstalker. Anyone have any this size for sale?