Sunday, December 1, 2013

BBC's Sherlock: Cloaked Personas [Sherlock & John]

[Warning: probable spoilers ahead. If you haven't watched the whole series, read at your own risk.]

I've recently watched BBC's Sherlock again, having convinced a friend to finish it. So of course we watched it together.

This time around (3rd-ish), I was dually impressed with how Sherlock's and John's clothing reflected their personalities.

Yes. Impressed.

This is one more detail of the show that has been worked out brilliantly.

With the exception of Sherlock going to the palace in nothing but a sheet (stubborn, stubborn man), he's always well-dressed. Even when spearing a dead pig. Now, considering that he has no problem with taking the tube all covered in pig blood and carrying a spear, I had to wonder, why is he always dressed nicely? Why not jeans and a polo once in a while, or a t-shirt?
It couldn't just be how the costumer cast him. Not just a trademarked look Moffat wanted him to have, though I believe that's part of it, considering the fact that bringing a classic character into a whole new century is risky business. Giving him a classic style helps keep him timeless. 
After another episode or two and some more thought, I realized the other reasons why.

Sherlock reads people like most of us read books. "I didn't see. I noticed." 
He knows the person that does likewise is rare. But that doesn't make much difference, because everyone picks up clues from other people's appearances, consciously or subconsciously. So he dresses to show who, and what, he is. His clothing choices reflect the observations he wants people to make about himself.
What does he want them to see?
He values (in himself and others), among other things, logic. Intelligence. Competence. Professionalism. He also has a superiority complex and would rather die than look foolish or stupid. Insanely prideful. Close-lipped about personal things, which lends a flair to the mysterious.

Professional dress in simple, classic colors exudes authority, intelligence, and professional competence. So suits and button-up shirts in solid colors make sense.
The long trench coat, scarf, and flipped-up collar? A nod to the classic Sherlock, and the flair of mystery the modern Sherlock loves. It also (at least, to my mind) gives off an air of self-preservation: the long cut of the coat, how he turns up the collar, and how the scarf is wound snugly around his neck. It's a physical demonstration of how he keeps most personal information/thoughts inside his own head, closed off and protected from the looks and confusion he's gotten in the past from being more open.

 Now, on to John! 
He is a very practical man. Intelligent, caring, and trustworthy. A good doctor and a good soldier. While he doesn't have the mental training to make the same logic leaps as Sherlock, or observe as many details, he is smart, thinks things through in a linear fashion, and typically thinks with his head more than his heart. He also employs a liberal usage of sass and sarcasm, which I personally find very enjoyable and endearing. 

While kind and very much a doctor, he is also very much a soldier with nerves of steel. Abducted off the street? No problem. Sass the abductor. New flatmate goaded to swallow poison by a wacko cab driver? Not a problem, either. Shoot the cabby through the head--from another building, no less--at the last possible moment. Friend overly rude and inconsiderate? Tell him to shut up once in a while and give him some pointers at acceptable social interaction.
He's the kind of friend everybody wants to have.

His jacket is a hunting coat, which is a nice nod to his soldiering days. It's serviceable, practical, and sportsman-like. Most of his shirts are patterned button-ups (traditionalist) or comfy sweaters. Sturdy, comfortable pants and shoes. 
He doesn't seem to worry about the persona he exudes, but does pay attention to if he is dressed appropriately for the occasion. He's comfortable with himself and doesn't try to put on airs. 
Everything about his style suggests practicality, comfort, and quality, which I think fit his personality very well. 

The saying goes that clothes make the man, right? In my opinion, whoever designed the wardrobes for these two fantastic characters took this to heart and did a brilliant job. Their clothing doesn't just protect them from the elements. It gives us, the viewers, greater detail into them as people and fleshes them out even more. 

Kudos, BBC. The details woven through this show make it a pleasure to watch multiple times. Each time I pick up something new.  


  1. Neat observations! I've only watched the series through once, but I see what you mean. the clothes really do make the man. Inspires me to pay attention to those details in my own stories. :)

    1. Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed this post and that it inspired you. :)


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