Dec 31 2010 4:12pm

From Bow Ties to Sneakers: Fashion Tips from the Doctor

Fashion tips from the DoctorOther than maybe Han Solo, in the universe of sci-fi fashion; most leading men have let us down. Captain Kirk is cool, sure. But you can’t go out dressed like him without getting some serious pit-stains. I always loved the outfits from Logan’s Run, but it gets cold in big cities sometimes. Battlestar Galactica? Come on. T-shirts and ugly wifebeaters? What is that? All in all there’s only one hero of time and space out there who knows how to dress. And his name is the Doctor.


Doctor Who fashion: Ten’s trainers

Before the Tenth Doctor’s alternating red or cream sneakers, the Fifth Doctor was rocking some pretty sweet white trainers. Because Peter Davison’s Doctor sort of had a cricket-player thing going on, this totally made sense. But he’s not the only Doctor with cool shoes. Though one can’t wear the dandy boots of Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor with just anything, a good formal boot is an easy way to communicate sexiness. And speaking of boots, current Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith has brought back the “ugly” functional boot in a big way.


Jackets, Blazers and Suits:

Jon Pertwee a classic in velvet

Starting with William Hartnell, the Doctor’s dress has generally exuded a vague sense of formality. With the exception of Christopher Eccelston’s Ninth Doctor, every incarnation of our favorite Time Lord has worn a collared shirt, and often a blazer or suit-jacket of some kind. Though Patrick Troughton’s ill-fitting jacket is pretty much a fashion fail, he did start the trend of the Doctor dressing casually formal while simultaneously goofy.

You’d think the Third Doctor would have a monopoly on the velvet blazer, but both the Fourth and Eighth Doctors sported velvet too. The Eleventh Doctor’s tweed blazer is maybe a little more classic than a velvet one, but it communicates the same retro message. The Doctor Tenth Doctorlikes vintage clothes, because from his perspective there’s no such thing as vintage since nothing ever goes out of fashion.

The Tenth Doctor probably wins in the blazer/suit department owing to the fact that his ensembles work because he isn’t trying too hard. He looks cool, but never out of place. In “The Waters of Mars” when he’s standing there in his blue suit, cradling his spacesuit, it might have looked stupid. But it doesn’t, because the Tenth Doctor’s suits are like James Bond’s tuxedos, strangely appropriate for all occasions because the wearer is super-confident.



When the Doctor is doing outer-wear, he does it in the style of a detective or a superhero. Most of the Doctor’s big coats are cloak-like, reminding us of the character’s connections to Sherlock Holmes. Some of this—like the Third Doctor’s capes—just call a lot of attention to the Doctor. Other coats, like the Ninth Doctor’s plain leather jacket, are unassuming, but still works on a classic level.

Ninth Doctor leather jacket

Even though the Ninth Doctor got a lot of grief for this jacket, it actually was a brilliant fashion move. The Doctor had been gone from the public consciousness for a while, meaning any notion of how he dressed was up for grabs. Playing it safe would have probably meant doing some amalgamation of familiar Doctor pieces—a scarf, a hat, a big coat, a tie of some kind. Instead, the Ninth Doctor’s outfit is a risk. Because it’s simple, or “boring,” it actually is one of the cooler outfits of all the Doctors. The Ninth Doctor’s coat and general fashion works because it’s relatable. Most of us don’t wear bowties and crazy scarves. But many of us do own a warm-weather coat and a few sweaters (jumpers) which we will always wear. Fashion-wise, the Ninth Doctor was the people’s Doctor.

While he’s not the Doctor, Captain Jack Harkness should get a special mention here for bringing back the WWII style trench. Honestly, I bought one cheap from an Army surplus place last winter and feel like I’m on the Torchwood team whenever I put it on.


Scarves and Ties:

Fourth Doctor

Obviously we can’t talk about the Doctor’s fashion sense without talking about neckwear. The Fourth Doctor’s ridiculous scarf is probably the most noticeable scarf of all time and space. What’s so great about the Fourth Doctor’s scarf is that it is somehow its own fashion reference point. Don’t tell me the long scarf Rose wears in the final scenes of “The End of Time” isn’t a shout-out to Tom Baker. Not only that, but I bet those Harry Potter scarves wouldn’t be near as cool if it weren’t for Doctor number 4.

Bow ties

Ties and bowties are obviously a big deal with the Doctor. And even though the Eleventh Doctor has been constantly reminding us that “bow-ties are cool,” he isn’t the first Doctor to rock this iconoclast fashion statement. The Second Doctor, the Third Doctor, and even David Tennant under the guise of John Smith, have all worn bow ties. There are a lot of sociological theories as to what the wearer of a bow tie is trying to say by wearing a bow tie. In one of the deleted scenes from Season 5, Amy asks the Doctor “is it a cry for help?” But not matter the answer, the main reason the bow tie works for the Doctor is because he is the Doctor. The Doctor has also worn regular ties throughout his various incarnations. This is good, because ties are cool too.



Fifth Doctor

Let’s get one thing straight—fezzes are NOT cool. River Song did us all a favor by blasting that thing with her ray-gun. But, some of the Doctor’s hats have been awesome. I know we all love Tom Baker’s big floppy hat, and the hat is pretty much the only thing that saved the Seventh Doctor’s look. The sweater and trousers weren’t really doing Slyvester McCoy any favors, but the hat sort of brought it all together and gave him a more distinguished/mysterious quality. All in all though, I have to say that I love Fifth Doctor Peter Davison’s hat the best. It seems like he really uses it to protect himself from the elements, and it somehow makes the stick of celery on his lapel make sense.


There have of course, been many fashion failures. And no, I didn’t forget about the Sixth Doctor. I just couldn’t bring myself to write about his get-up. Sure, trying to kill Peri in “The Twin Dilemma” was messed up, but not near as whack as that freaking coat!

All in all, considering how long the guy has been around, I think he’s succeeded more times than he’s failed. As aliens go, I think we can all agree that the Doctor is hands-down the best dressed.

Ryan’s writing has appeared here and with, Clarkesworld Magazine and elsewhere. In the late 90’s and early 00’s, his fashion repertoire relied heavily on navy blue Chuck Taylors. But in the era of Tenth Doctor David Tennant, he switched to red. He’s also been rocking an elbow-patched tweed jacket way before Matt Smith showed up.

This article is part of The Twelve Doctors of Christmas: ‹ previous | index | next ›
1. Qurtyslyn
Thanks to the Doctor, I now wear my Chucks with my suit. Mine are green so they're not quite the Doctor's, but I can't copy him exactly can I?

Now if I could just find the Tenth Doctor's suit...
Ryan Britt
2. ryancbritt
Qurtyslyn- I totally wore a black suit with red chucks a few months ago to a fancy party. Nobody called me out! I would love to do that electric blue suit of Tennat's, but honestly don't know if I could pull it off. A little too loud you know. The chocolate pin-stripe one on the other hand...I'd love to have that one.

I think there's something about the tennis shoes with suits that is cool. Maybe we have Ellen Degeneres to thank? Hmmm? Basketball players?
Rob Hansen
3. RobHansen
@1: It's not actually possible to find the Tenth Doctor's suit since they were made especially for him. What made them different - as was explained on one of the Doctor Who Confidentials - was that the jackets were made of the same thin material as the trousers, which is apparently unusual.
Ashe Armstrong
4. AsheSaoirse
I always thought the Doctor could wear whatever he wants cause he's an alien and he likes Earth fashion and who cares if it's awful (except for the technicolor coat) or odd. Anacrhonistic or just cosmic hobo or total dandy, he works it because he is who he is.

I do wonder how he'll dress if he manages to become a ginger...
5. Dr. Thanatos
There is no question that the Doctor knows his fashions, but he will eventually be badly out of place. As anyone over the age of 40 knows, all clothing in the future will be aluminum foil
6. zenspinner
I loved Eccleston's Doctor outfit quite a lot at the time, but I took it as an outward manifestation of his state of mind - having just removed his people from existence, he was more than a little bit suicidally depressed. I like to think even in that state of mind he still managed to pay a bit of attention to his clothing, but I also think it's significant that he's wearing an animal. That's not something we've seen him do very often (and aren't at least some of his manifestations vegetarian?)

Tennant's Doctor I guess I saw as a sign of returning health, if not the flamboyance he formerly was known for. The suit managed to be at once completely ordinary and eye-catching in a way that's hard to define - not including the trainers, as they are pretty easy to define. :) But Matt Smith's Doctor, I think, is pretty much as mentally healthy as he's going to get, and he's back to taking something of a childlike glee in clothing, which makes me happy. And he must be respecting his companions more these days - imagine if River had tried to shoot the scarf! She'd never have been permitted to get to know the rest of him. (I'd love to have heard Nine's explanation for the scarf, too - "Haven't you ever been bored? Stranded for a decade on a desert planet with just a sheep, two sticks and a few packets of kool-aid?")

Colin Baker's suit - well, he wasn't fond of it either. But one thing I do think is really noteworthy is that he managed something of the same thing Lynda Carter did as Wonder Woman. She looked pretty ridiculous too, or she would have if she didn't have such an absolute sense of dignity and rightness in the costume. At the end of the first episode I remember thinking "Wow, the Doctor's turned into a real asshole" as opposed to "Wow, this show has really jumped the shark." It was still the Doctor in there. I think a lesser actor would have been eaten by the suit instead of living to chew the scenery another day. :)
7. Makeda
Actually, what I've noticed with the long coats--including Captain Harkness' coat--is how much they are like capes. They look fitted through the body and swing loose like capes at the bottom. Both the Captain and the Doctor are "super heroes" and must have a super hero like cape.
8. Anthony N. Emmel
I wear bow ties about once a week while lecturing at the Uni. One day this semester I was handing back papers and one of students was staring at my bow tie. I look down at him and said, "Bow ties are cool." One of my other students said, "You watch Dr. Who, don't you?"

Note that this was in Est Texas. :)
Ryan Britt
9. ryancbritt
Thanntos- I'm wearing tin foil now.

Zenspinner- I choose to believe that the 9th Doctor's coat is some kind of faux-leather. But only to make myself feel better about it. I happen to sort of like Colin Baker on some days, but I couldn't bring myself to write about the outfit.

Makeda- I think you're totally right. In the whole "Last of the Time Lords" arc, I kept thinking it was a super-hero team-up based on their coats/capes.

Anthony- I said "bow ties are cool" to a friend of mine at a party this summer, a girl nearby overheard me say it, and kissed me without saying a word. (I was wearing a tweed jacket at the time, so between my friend and I, we made one Doctor) I never saw her again after that night, so maybe she's like my River Song or something. :-)
10. IoniaFletcher
Seriously, well done. No one rocks his clothes like the Doctor. However, a section on the need for brainy specs would have been awesome.
11. Tyler Childers
The pictures are lost in time; only the Doctor could help me retrieve them, but I wore powder blue chucks with me tuxedo to the Senior Prom. They matched the cumberbund, and they matched my date's dress. I was born the same year as Tennent, and am as skinny.

Who the man?
Irene Gallo
12. Irene
Ya'll should be attaching pictures to these comments!
Ryan Britt
13. ryancbritt
Tyler- You the man.

Ionia- I know! Oversight on my part. Pun intended.

Irene- You've seen my tweed.
Warren Ockrassa
14. warreno
I suspect I wear bow ties occasionally (yes, the real ones, not clip-ons) for the same reason I occasionally shave with a straight razor: It's a kind of manly skill throwback to a different age, and has a real effect on how I feel about myself.

Few people bother with bow ties or straightedges, probably because they seem archaic or dangerous or not worth the fuss (or all three); I can't help suspecting that we've lost a little bit of civilization as a result of that.

Sometimes, even if no one else knows you've made the effort, you do; that can make all the difference.
Ashe Armstrong
15. AsheSaoirse
I would actually really like to get a straight razor.
16. Maren T
warreno - I suspect the same. Also, the very small number of people wearing hats these days has affected me deeply. (I mean hats like this, and those other old-fashioned hats no one ever wears now except very few people.) As I discussed with someone else not so long ago, no one ever doffs their hat anymore. I didn't even know what "doff" meant before that discussion! (Probably because I'm not a native English speaker, but still.)

I also think there should be more people with suits out there. And ties. Ties are cool.

I don't wear suits. I'm a girl, and the kind of girl that looks ridiculous in any kind of suit-y thing. (Might be because I feel ridiculous in suits.) But I wear long, floppy, flying-in-the-wind sweater-cloak-jacket-coat-y things. I feel somewhat like a superhero or an elven queen in them.
Ashe Armstrong
17. AsheSaoirse
@Maren T: "long, floppy, flying-in-the-wind sweater-cloak-jacket-coat-y things."

That was brilliant. And further more, I totally agree about the hats. NO ONE seems to appreciate a good hat these days, at least in a wear-it-unironically, non-hipster way. If I had the cahs, I would already have a very specific hat that I've had my eye on for a while. And I would doff it.
Ryan Britt
18. ryancbritt
Hey Maren-

I have to say, the best Doctor Who costumes I've seen in the past couple years have been women as The Doctor. In Brooklyn I saw a girl dressed as the 11th Doctor. So cool!
19. Novashannon
You are forgetting one thing when you talk about the relatability of normal folks to what the doctor wears: times change. When Tom Baker wore what you refer to as a "ridiculous scarf" was not unusual when he was on television and long scarves were in style! Ditto things other doctors wore. They may be out of style now, but were once in style.
Ashe Armstrong
20. AsheSaoirse
The Doctor's style is irrelevant to times. Because, he's who he is. Although to be perfectly honest, I think fashion trends are bollocks. But that's cause I want to wear a mishmash of eras.

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