The anatomy of a cult object – The deerstalker

Great title, right? Not something I came up with, mind you, I purloined it in a dastardly manner from an old friend who wrote a painfully meticulous book detailing every little component of the early Jaguar XK120, definitely a cult object in it’s own right. Todays post though? The deerstalker hat. Traditionally a hunting cap first heard of in the 1860s and indeed used when hunting deer. A cult object? It’s hard to pass by a deerstalker without at least a passing thought to the great detective Sherlock Holmes. What would he be without his pipe, his cape, his trusty sidekick Watson and the deerstalker to contain his busy mind?

The classic image of Sherlock holmes wearing his cape and deerstalker

If we are to get anatomical though, how could it be described? It has brims for and aft, ear-flaps that can be worn up or down and a dandy bow on top. Most commonly found made in tweeds, though there are plenty of variations in various fabrics. The lining of a proper deerstalker should be satin, for sirs comfort and there are ribbons attached to to the ear-flaps to allow them to be worn raised. Manly ribbons, mind you. And a button on top as the crowning achievement, so to speak.

If we we’re to take one apart though, what would we end up with? How many pieces of tweed would there be in our pile? The hat itself is usually made up of 6 panels of fabric. The brims have a top and bottom, so another 4 there. Then the ear-flaps have an outside and an inside. And the inside of the hat is satin lined, and no doubt the brims have something to keep them rigid. So the vital number here is 14. Let’s just jot that down for the time being while I indulge in a bit of a hat-related whinge.

Benedict Cumberbatch wearing his splendid dearstalker in his portrayal of Sherlock

Hats are something I often find myself gazing at. I’ll take them down, rotate them, observe how nice they are, ponder as to what level of sophistication I would reach if I strolled around wearing one, and sometimes even feeling the urge to purchase one. At which point the fantasy invariable screeches to a halt when the words “You look ridiculous wearing a hat!” reach my ears. Yes, my partner in crime, the Watson to my Sherlock, ‘er indoors, she who must be obeyed and so forth, does not support my head-covering coveting of hats. Or flat caps. Or anything similar. Not even a splendid British-made straw hat or a vintage looking hat made of rabbit fur. Though a knitted wool hat will pass.

This time though, I am going all in.

While I feel like Cumberbatch, this is what I’m told I look like when wearing a hat. We’re in disagreement about how cool John McCririck looks.

When I visited Campbells of Beauly this Summer I couldn’t fail to observe that they made deerstalkers. Lovely ones. In proper tweed. And knowing the Campbells have supplied Scottish outdoorsmen with their hunting gear since before deerstalkers stalked, an idea was hatched. So I had a word with John, genial and enthusiastic new owner of the traditional country outfitters, about my desire for a piece of classic headgear. “Certainly, squire”, John chirped, “and how would you like it?”. Well, given how Beauly is only an hours drive from Ullapool, which is only 90 minutes by ferry from Stornoway, and that Stornoway is home of the HQ of Harris Tweed, and how Harris Tweed isa major cult object to me, I was hardly going to not utter that exact pairing of words, was I?

“Yes, we can do it in Harris tweed”, John obligingly agrees, “any particular variant from the massive selection?”. A question that would normally have me flailing, trying to decide on which piece of wonderful wool would be the absolute pinnacle of perfection. This time though, I had an inspired moment. Remember the magic number from further up? Yes, indeed, 14. I told John that I didn’t want one tweed, I wanted 14 different tweeds, one for each panel. “Sir, are you sure?”. Oh yes, serious like a hand grenade. “I’ll have a word with the good folks at Harris Tweed Hebrides“.

And so became the deerstalker you see before you. The Harris Tweed Hebrides supplied 14 distinct pieces of their finest tweeds. The craftspersons at Campbells in Beauly did their masterful sewing and the result is a deerstalker that had me giggling with pleasure when I unboxed it. One tweed is good, two better. Fourteen different tweeds? Mindblowing! And at most you can see maybe 6 at a time, so it’s a visual treat that just keeps on giving. The fact that is was hand made in the very workshops I visited this Summer only adds to the allure. I immediately bonded with it. In fact, I had to allow the relationship to settle a bit, otherwise this post would just have been two words (“It’s awesome!”) and 200 photos in excruciating detail.

And if I do indeed incite merriment among my fellow men when wearing it, to such a level that it hinders my rapid progress along the footpaths of the parish, then I will save it for special days. And in the meantime it will be proudly on display in the library of the mansion so that I can gaze upon it in my moments of happy reflection and salute it with a solid mug of builders tea.

With a proper tweed deerstalker we can all be a laird.

PS: I’ve you’re wondering what it looks on, stay tuned for an Instagram photo later today! The truth will be revealed!



1 Comment

  • Darryl 22/12/2016 at 22:29

    Brilliant and rather crazy!
    It reminded me of an old schoolteacher of mine who wore not only a deerstalker but the full ‘sherlock’, as in the coat and cape (an ulster?). He proudly marched through our local town in full regalia much to the amusement of some sections of the townsfolk, but I remember thinker what a splendid chap he was with his inependent spirit.


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