Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sherlock's hair: Man-bun or Alfalfa spike?

With all the excitement and prep for 221B Con, some of it unexpected, I've been neglecting to report the big Sherlockian question that came up Thursday night at our monthly gathering of the Sherlock Holmes Story Society at the Peoria North Branch library. And that question was this: What's up with Sherlock's hair?

In "The Adventure of the Dancing Men," we find Watson describing Sherlock in the morning thusly: "he looked from my point of view like a strange, lank bird, with dull grey plumage and a black top-knot."

Now, we know that one of Sherlock Holmes's dressing gowns was gray, so we get the plumage part. And we know Watson often used bird imagery to describe Holmes, with his nose representing the beak. But where is Watson getting that "black top-knot?"

Mary O'Reilly, writer for the Academicasaurus podcast and soon-to-be panelist for the "Unreal Podcast" panel at 221B Con (you know I couldn't help but mention the con at least one more time), couldn't shake the image of Holmes with a modern "man-bun," that samurai-looking ball of hair that many a modern hipster tries to pull off. The word "top-knot" pretty much describes a man-bun pretty accurately.

A little googling took place, and the only picture of a bird with a top-knot found showed us a bird with a spike of feathers going straight up like Alfalfa from The Little Rascals. Given hair products of Holmes's time being much like those of Alfalfa's, this was not the most unlikely idea in the world.

We don't often think of Holmes's hair as black, so I also had to wonder if he was wearing some sort of little hat, though what purpose that would have served, I don't know. No weirder than a man-bun, however.

As with most things Canonical, we did not come to a definite conclusion about this new Watson-provided dilemma, but the most likely answer seemed to me that Sherlock Holmes just had a bad case of bed-head and was too excited about his current chemical experiment to put himself together that morning. But who knows?

Maybe that deerstalker was just there to cover up a man-bun all this time. With Sherlock Holmes, the surprises just keep on coming.

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