Thursday, 13 November 2014

Sherlock Holmes in London: 'The man who never lived and will never die'

The world-wide fascination in Sherlock Holmes' tweed cape
By Steven McKenzie
BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter /

The organisers of a Scottish fashion event have announced plans to reinvigorate interest in the Inverness cape, a sleeveless tweed overcoat made famous by Sherlock Holmes.

Highlands Fashion Week will officially launch its Bring Back The Cape (BBTC) project on its website on 4 December.

Describing it as an "exclusive" and "secret" project, the organisers have said that they hope to revamp the clothing that is usually worn with a kilt and "make it current".

For hundreds of people across the world, the cape as worn by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous fictional sleuth, continues to have great appeal.
How the popular image of Sherlock Holmes' look came about is a curious case.

The illustrated monthly magazine, The Strand, printed many of Conan Doyle's mysteries in the 1890s, with the author's words accompanied by engravings by talented Finchley-based artist Sidney Paget.

According to The Sherlock Holmes Society of London, it was Paget who gave the detective his "now iconic image" - the "hawk-like features, deerstalker cap and Inverness cape".

Paget produced 201 Sherlock Holmes's illustrations between 1891 and 1893 and a further 155 between 1901 and 1904.

But Paget had been sent the commission for the artwork by mistake.

Pinacotheca Holmesiana, a website dedicated to Sherlock stories and illustrations, said the job was meant for his younger brother Walter.

Walter still managed to put his stamp on the sleuth. He modelled for his brother's illustrations for the magazine.

Decades later, in television adaptations of the stories, the cape and cap continued to be a key part of Sherlock's wardrobe.

More recent TV portrayals, such as BBC's Sherlock and CBS series Elementary, have since restyled the detective.

In Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch's character wears a Belstaff Milford Coat - a heavy, wool tweed overcoat first made in the 1920s and inspired by the late 19th Century great coat.

Yet the image of Holmes in an Inverness cape of more than 120 years ago endures.
Mister Antony (Inverness Cape Specialists) in Newton Mearns, near Glasgow, makes Inverness raincapes in various waterproof fabrics for pipe bands all over the world.

About 90% of the business's work is concerned with manufacturing this garment for pipers and drummers.

In 2003, the firm developed a new waterproof cape called the Bandspec Raincape. The company worked with Robert Mathieson, at the time pipe major with Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band, on the new design.

Sherlock outfit
The Museum of London has a new exhibition on Sherlock Holmes
Mister Antony is also one of the few business that makes and supplies traditional wool and Harris Tweed Inverness capes to "professional, discerning" customers.

The patterns on offer include stony blue fleck, grey herringbone and brown and tan houndstooth.

Antony Mistofsky, who has run the firm for 32 years and whose family has been making waterproof clothing for more than 100 years, said the custom-made items represented "a specialised, niche market".

He said: "It would be fair to say that they are not a big selling item.

"We sell hundreds and not thousands of them. They can cost upwards from £600 depending on what the customer wants."

Mr Mistofsky added: "We export them all over the world. Sixty to 70% of the woollen capes are exported, mainly to the USA.

"The customers who want these items are mainly professional individuals - lawyers and doctors, a High Court judge - and they buy either to wear with a kilt or as an alternative to a heavy overcoat."

'Global icon'
A few of those buying the woollen capes also have a keen interest in Sherlock Holmes, he said.

Other Inverness Cape enthusiasts include fans of steampunk, a genre that mixes Victorian-style clothing with science-fiction technology and draws inspiration from writers such as HG Wells. Various online retailers offer the capes in colours suited to steampunk aficionados.

Highlands Fashion Week's BBTC project, meanwhile, is timely.

Last month, Museum of London opened the exhibition Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die.

It features displays of Conan Doyle manuscripts, copies of The Strand and some of the 27 surviving original drawings Paget did for the magazine stories.

The museum also commissioned a new tweed of a design and colour inspired by the trademark deerstalker and cape.

Alex Werner, head of history collections at the museum, said: "Sherlock Holmes is a global icon indelibly linked with London, so it is fitting that we are able to host this major celebration of Conan Doyle's creation at the Museum of London.

"This exhibition is really about gaining a deeper appreciation of the stories and it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see such a diverse collection of Sherlock Holmes artefacts and material under one roof."

The museum exhibition runs until April next year, while Highlands Fashion Week takes place in Inverness next month.

Sherlock Holmes in London: 'The man who never lived and will never die'
A new Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London looks at the life and times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's eccentric creation

Sherrinford Holmes, consulting detective, and Ormond Sacker, medical doctor, sharing lodgings at No 221b Upper Baker Street. There they were in black and white, brought to life in a masculine hand on a sheet of paper now on display in the Museum of London.
'That’s the Holy of Holies for Sherlockians,’ murmured Alex Werner, the Head of History Collections at the museum, 'the first notes for A Study in Scarlet.’
Sherrinford and Ormond! What a lucky escape that was, chaps. But escape they did, only to reappear – now named Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and living in plain old Baker Street – in the pages of Beeton’s Christmas Annual 1887. They have gone on to enjoy stellar careers on the page, on the stage, in film and in television, right up to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Belstaff coat-wearing cyber-geek of today.
The exhibition Werner has created, Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die, examines the extraordinary longevity of Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional creation and in particular the vital, filthy, teeming metropolis of Victorian London that spawned him.
He emerged when the London CID was about ten years old and New Scotland Yard was under construction, when forensic science was in its infancy and the concept of a detective, fictional or not, was still a novelty. People were reading as they had never read before. A few months later, Jack the Ripper started his grim work in the East End.
To enter the exhibition you push open bookshelves packed with the sort of tomes the Great Detective would have used for reference – plus one or two of his own works, such as The Tracing of Footsteps – to find banks of screens flickering with his moving image in black-and-white, later in colour.
A soundscape evokes London at the turn of the twentieth century and includes the voice of William Gillette, one of the first actors to play Holmes on stage. It complements a film of jerky omnibuses, their tops thicketed with bowlers, boaters and toppers, of horses, urchins and braziers, of Nestle advertisements and familiar, if smoke-blackened, buildings.
It’s worth going just for the prints and paintings, some released from private collections for the exhibition, revealing London in all its grimy glory. There are wonderful maps, including sections of Charles Booth’s 1889 poverty map showing Baker Street and its environs, which vary from red (well-to-do) to yellow (outright rich), and there’s a portrait of Arthur Conan Doyle in his prime; a vigorous-looking man, burly, with a fine waxed moustache and a challenging gaze.
Then there is stuff, lots of it, arranged to represent five Holmesian attributes: the analytical mind, the forensic scientist, the master of disguise, the Bohemian, and the model Englishman. You can find everything from a phrenology model – skull shape was thought to express character, especially criminal – to a fingerprint set from the Galton Archive, from an Ulster, or caped coat, to the deerstalker hat introduced by the definitive Holmes illustrator, Sydney Paget.
There’s a fiddle ('We decided not to source a Strad,’ said Werner, a little wistfully), a pair of boxing gloves, a syringe for the 7% solution of cocaine used by Holmes in his Bohemian, between-cases moods, stage make-up and a wig used by the actor-manager Henry Irving.
And finally, there is his last bow, the high-drama denouement with… but I don’t want to give the game away. Stride along and see it for yourself. As long as you’ve got a head for heights, that is.

"Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die" runs from October 17 2014 to April 12 2015 at the Museum of London (020 7001 9844; From £10.90 adults, £9 concessions and children aged 12 to 15 and £8.50 for family tickets (with at least one adult and one child). Friends and under 12s go free.

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