BY Eric Rezsnyak
The legendary “Doctor Who” series will celebrate its 60th Anniversary in November 2023. That’s an incredible accomplishment that very few pop-culture properties will ever achieve. In addition to creating an episode devoted to the Best “Doctor Who” Companion, the Great Pop Culture Debate also wanted to give some love to the many incarnations of the Doctor him/herself (themselves?), so we put together our list of the Top 10 most iconic Doctor fashion accessories. Note that we’re not talking about “Doctor Who”-branded accessories you can buy at, say, Hot Topic. We are talking about items that were signature to the various incarnations of the Doctor, which set those versions apart from the others in the canon.
Honorable Mention: Eighth Doctor’s Ascot/Cravat
Poor 8, he barely made a blip. He only had one major filmed appearance in the doomed TV movie that introduced him, in which he sported a Wild Bill Hickok costume with an ascot/cravat. As that was his only significant filmed appearance — he has since gone on to appear in a few cameos, not to mention dozens of audio adventures — I am giving a nod to the ascot because it’s, well, something, and I like to give 8 attention where I can. In the audio adventures he sports a much more contemporary outfit, but for most people I think the TV movie is where 8’s look kind of begins and ends.
10. The First Doctor’s Cane
While I consider the First Doctor’s entire look to be iconic, the individual elements of it are somewhat less so. His signet ring is also very cool, but not necessarily eye catching — if you saw it on its own you probably wouldn’t immediately say, “Oh, that’s One.” But the curved cane is about as close as it gets to an iconic First Doctor accessory, with the thin black necktie as a close runner-up.
9. The Ninth Doctor’s Leather Jacket
When the BBC brought “Who” back in 2005 — almost two decades after it was initially cancelled, and practically 10 years since the aborted tv movie reboot — they knew they had to make the property look modern, look accessible, and most importantly look COOL. The answer for Christopher Eccleston’s one-season wonder was a thoroughly of-the-time aughts look, with the Caesar haircut and the most basic butch fashion staple of all time: a leather jacket. What it lacked in originality it made up in commercial appeal. Had 9 had a more peculiar look, the reboot may never have taken off.
8. The Thirteenth Doctor’s Suspenders
Thirteen’s run is polarizing — from my perspective, not because the Doctor was played by a woman for the first time (I wanted that for years!), but because the scripts just didn’t connect with many people, myself included. But I think the costume for Jodie Whittaker’s 13 was much more warmly received. The wide, high pant and striped top are singularly 13, but in my opinion, it’s the suspenders that are the standout of this iteration of the Doctor. They’re both practical and fashionable.
7. The Seventh Doctor’s Umbrella
Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor — the last in the series before its original cancellation in the 80s — is best known for his deployment of the question mark. It was all over his sweater in his most remembered look, and a big ol’ question mark also adorned the end of his signature accessory, an umbrella. I assume that someone in the “Who” costume department at that point must have been a Batman fan, as it’s giving Penguin/Riddler vibes. And yet, it still worked here.
6. The Tenth Doctor’s Trench Coat
I waffled between 10’s trench coat and his suit and tie. Both are quintessentially David Tennant — although the Doctor had worn suits before and since, including Three’s mod-inspired get-ups and Twelve’s more formal appearance. But I felt the trench was a signature item that no other Doctor really wore with any regularity.
5. The Eleventh Doctor’s Bowties
Matt Smith’s 11 is probably the Doctor that made the biggest explosion in pop culture, and I think the show specifically understood the power in visual branding here. They went for a hipster vibe with this version of the Doctor, and his signature, “Bowties are cool” line transcended the show and, I honestly believe, played a role in the bowtie’s brief resurgence for aspiring hipster dandies. Extra credit for also briefly making the fez a thing again.
4. The Fifth Doctor’s Celery Boutineer
My dude out here with a piece of celery stuck to his chest. That is a literally unmistakable accessory. It’s also weird as hell! But it is iconic. And also a good source of fiber.
3. The Second Doctor’s Recorder
Hold on to your hot crossed buns, because when Patrick Troughton took over the Doctor from OG Doc William Hartnell, he decided to bring a distinct flavor to the role: the flavor of the recorder. You know, that obnoxious, simple wood instrument we all weirdly learned how to play in grade school? That’s 2’s thing! It’s so weird and random and is perfectly early “Who.” And if someone shows you a recorder, you know EXACTLY which Doctor they’re talking about.
2. The Sixth Doctor’s Patchwork Coat
I want to make it clear that I am making these picks based on their iconographic power, not on their actual fashion merits. Because when it comes to fashion, 6’s coat of many colors is fucking hideous. It was very much a sign of the time, as Colin Baker’s outfit was garish, loud, and too too much — everything that defined the 80s. But again, it is a look that is unmistakable. If you see someone in a patchwork coat like that, they’re either cosplaying as the Sixth Doctor or as a Dolly Parton superfan. Which frankly we like to think is the same thing.
1. The Fourth Doctor’s Scarf
It’s only fitting that the longest-serving Doctor, Tom Baker, would be the top of our list. While I maintain that Matt Smith’s 11 probably had the most overall pop-culture penetration, I think Tom Baker is the actor most people aware of “Doctor Who” probably associate immediately with the character. Serving in the TARDIS from 1974 to 1981, Baker was a common sight on reruns of the series through the 80s, and none of his successors came anywhere close to his legendarily long run. Speaking of legendarily long: 4’s scarf, which followed him both literally and figuratively in many of his adventures. It is, in my opinion, the most Whovian of all “Who” fashion accessories.
That’s our list! Do you agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below, then check out our other Top 10 lists!