Elementary, My Dear Roger

There’s someone I know — I shall refer to him as “Roger” for anonymity — who has a problem with hats.

Not “a problem with hats” in the sense that he’s a strung-out hat junkie, standing on the corner trying to bum nickels to buy a new cap.


Roger can’t identify hats.

I say this knowing it might be a challenge for just anyone to pick say, a fedora, out of a lineup. And if I were to ask you to identify a snap-brim/C-crown fedora apart from a safari-brim/C-crown, a safari-brim/pinch-crown, a flat-brim/C-crown, a flat-brim/pinch-crown, etc., you might have difficulty.

Or you might walk away thinking that, in fact, I am the one who has a problem with hats.

Roger’s hat-identification problem is rather different.

Think of Sherlock Holmes.

Got a visual?

Let me guess — pipe, Inverness cape, and a distinctive hat, right?

Now, I don’t expect you to know the distinctive hat is called a deerstalker.[1]

Nor do I expect you to know the term “Inverness cape,” and I’ll admit I have trouble remembering that myself.

Finally, were I to set out a fedora, a deerstalker, and an ivy cap — that last post is making sense now, isn’t it? — I would not expect you to necessarily be able to correctly name all of them.[2]

However, I bet if I asked which hat Holmes wore you would point to the deerstalker.

Roger, on the other hand …

In winter, I favor a trench coat and fedora, both in black; this is my standard cold weather garb.

The first time Roger saw me so attired, he remarked, “It’s Sherlock Holmes.”

I looked around to see what the hell he was talking about it.

When I realized he was referring to me, I began to wonder if, perhaps, Roger was a moron.

For reasons I won’t go into, I have to be polite and respectful to Roger, so my response to him was not “Are you a moron?” but more along the lines of “No, sir, Holmes wears something different.” Roger, as he is wont to do, ignored my opinion, confident in his assessment that I was a ringer for the famous detective.

Since that day, Roger has, nearly always, made a similar remark whenever he has seen me so attired. (He, uh, has a thing about repeating himself.)

On occasion, he has said such things in front of other people, who, I am comforted to report, have appeared as baffled as I was the first time. (Other people generally also have to respond to Roger with polite respect, so I’ve had no luck gaining anything other than silent sympathy.)

Obviously, this has been bugging me, mostly because I can’t figure out why Roger looks at me and sees Holmes, unless, perhaps, he is unfamiliar with the popular depiction of the character. Maybe his mental image is based on something odd, like an obscure theater production of a Holmes story, one in which the director creatively re-imagined the detective as a resident of 1920s gangland Chicago.

WATSON: How did you know the murder weapon was a Tommy gun?

HOLMES: Elementary, my dear Watson.[3] Only such a weapon could have delivered so many bullets into the victim in so short a span of time.

The Case of the Mistaken Hat doesn’t end there, though.

While trench coat/fedora is my standard, preferred, way to go about winter, I do occasionally wear other cold weather garb. For example, when called for, I sometimes don a suit. My usual is a grey pinstripe, and I typically top that with a grey fedora.

One fine winter day Roger saw me wearing the suit/fedora combination, whereupon he promptly greeted me as Holmes.

{imagine here the smell of my brain smoking slightly}

I decided to put it all out of my mind, to simply accept a few ignorant comments through the winter, smile politely, move along. Zen.

Then came spring.

In spring and warmer months — which, in Georgia, is most of them — I don’t often wear a fedora, but as winter turns to spring the mornings usually have a slight chill, and on such days I typically wear a light jacket with an ivy cap.

Picture Holmes in his Inverness cape and his deerstalker cap, all in taupe or grey or tan.

Now, picture an ivy cap.

Go back to my previous post, if you must. Stare at that cap good and hard.

Imagine a man wearing that hat with a light, zippered cotton jacket, both in black.

I walked up to Roger in said attire.

“How are you, Mr. Holmes?”

I think I’m going to buy a fez, just to see where this goes.


1 — You may know, however, that Arthur Conan Doyle never described any of these, save the pipe, in his Holmes stories; the popular image of the character comes from illustrations, TV, and film. In some of these, he wears a greatcoat, not an Inverness cape, but the look is very similar about the shoulders.

2 — Or maybe you would, but you’d call the ivy cap by one of its many other names, such as newsboy cap, 8/4 cap, baker boy cap, etc.

3 — You probably know Doyle never wrote Holmes speaking that phrase. That’s from TV and film. While I’m rambling here in a footnote, let me say I rather enjoyed the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film, if only because that phrase ain’t in it. Also, Holmes and Watson are much livelier characters, not the stilted fellows so often portrayed in film. Also, to kind of get back to the point, the hats are pretty good in that film.