Sherlock Holmes' hat - the deerstalker fashion

The Sherlock Holmes hat is one of the most identifiable aspects of the fictional detective yet there is not a single mention of the word ‘deerstalker’ in any of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories or novels.

This is unsurprising since the hat was traditionally worn in rural settings, especially for hunting as its name suggests, and the urban detective would have little need for a deerstalker in Victorian London. Yet the hat has become characteristic of Sherlock Holmes and, more broadly, any kind of sleuthing. 

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So how did Sherlock Holmes come to be the most famous wearer of the distinctive hat?  

The answer lies with the original illustrator of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Sidney Paget.  His illustrations of Holmes in a deerstalker have led to it being an intrinsic element of the detective’s attire.  Holmes first appears in a deerstalker in the illustrations for The Boscome Valley Mystery in The Strand magazine in 1891. He probably opted for the deerstalker because, in the story, Doctor Watson describes Sherlock as wearing a ‘close-fitting cloth cap’.  The following year, Holmes is described wearing an ‘ear-flapped travelling cap’ in The Adventure of Silver Blaze. 

So whilst Arthur Conan Doyle omitted to use the word ‘deerstalker’, the descriptions were close to it and Paget must have felt it fitting headwear for a detective tracking and hunting down criminals.  His illustrations led to one of literature’s most enduring images. 


The persona of Sherlock Holmes in his trademark deerstalker was cemented with the popularity of films.  In 1939, Basil Rathbone starred as Sherlock Holmes, first in The Hound of the Baskervilles and then The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  In both, the actor was shown wearing the deerstalker in its appropriate setting – that is, Holmes wore it in the countryside but not in the city.

This year, it is 159 years since Arthur Conan Doyle was born and Sherlock Holmes Tartan thinks that’s worth a wee celebration.   To mark 159 years, the 159th person to order a deerstalker from Sherlock Holmes Tartan will receive their hat completely FREE.

The hats cost £75 and, just like all the Sherlock Holmes Tartan products, they are made in Britain. They come in four different sizes – small, medium, large and extra-large – and are suitable for women as well as men.  

Traditionally, the deerstalker is worn in the countryside but the recent fashion for flat caps mean that it is a look that could be pulled off by a city dweller.  It’s perfect for the autumn, especially the frequent drizzle of Edinburgh as the season turns.   

Why not put in an order?  If yours is the 159th order to come in, the deerstalker is on us.