I love getting the chance to wear a Sherlock Holmes hat.
Not that silly deerstalker. When you wear that thing, you can only be going for one effect: to look like somebody who wants to look like Sherlock Holmes. Whether you're the kid whose mother painstakingly sewed a costume for him in today's "For Better Or Worse" comic strip or Katherine Parkinson playing Kitty Riley pretending to be a fan of Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock, the deerstalker cap screams "SHERLOCK HOLMES!!!" to the point where it's practically unwearable. (Big kudos to Steve Thompson and the boys for figuring out how to get that hat on a modern day Sherlock and make it part of his image all in one fell swoop.)
What I really enjoy, however, is wearing one of those other hats that Sherlock Holmes wore. The less iconic ones. Sherlock was a true hat-user in an era of serious hat-users, so there are a few.
Top hats can be fun, and finding the right moment to bring out that magical Victorian topper I found in an antique store years ago is always a delight. (Thank you, 221B Con, for this year's moment.) This Halloween season brought a different Sherlock Holmes hat into play, though, when . . . for my usual complex chain of Halloween costume logic . . . I decided to go to one party dressed as "Stumpy" from the short-lived TV series Carnivale. (Yes, I have a horrible history of picking the most obscure and unrecognizable costume choices possible for Halloween.)
The hat my costume involved this past Friday was the boater or skimmer, the flat straw hat favored by modern barber shop quartets, once used by carnival barkers, Victorian beach-goers, pre-War FBI agents, and, yes . . . Sherlock Holmes.
In Sidney Paget's illustrations for "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box," Holmes is shown wearing a boater quite dapperly while interviewing a witness, hailing a cab, and even in the case's most gruesome moment, as he carefully looks over the severed ears central to the mystery.
And if that wasn't enough, a different kind of gruesome occurs with Sherlock Holmes and the boater in Fox's 1939 film The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, when Basil Rathbone's Holmes does an in-disguise song-and-dance number, "Beside the Seaside" with boater in play. (While BBC's Sherlock has cunningly paid tribute to many a moment in the history of Sherlock Holmes, this is one I hope they continue to overlook.)
Chances to wear the Sherlockian boater come few and far between, but as cosplay moves more into the fore as a standard Sherlockian activity, perhaps we'll be getting a lot more Holmes hat opportunities. Sherlock Holmes's variety of headgear makes him an excellent role for the hat fancier to display a lot of what men have worn over the years.
And besides, sometimes it's just fun to wear a hat.