The Whoodie: Novelty or Nuisance?

Last Christmas certainly raised more than its fair share of eyebrows… No, not because of the story’s topsy-turvy twists and turns, and it most certainly wasn’t Nick Frost’s sarcastic, ‘cool’ Santa Claus that had the laundry mats buzzing with gossip – it’s time to starting living in the real world, sweetheart: the real shocker of last year’s annual Slade Fundraiser was the Doctor’s, dare I say it, rather unusual choice of clothing. The ‘Whoodie’, as it’s come to be known as in some hip circles, is not much more than a simple dark hoodie but it’s who is wearing it that is causing the controversy. For a man such as the Doctor, whose eminent sense of fashion once led him to embrace nothing short of a rainbow frock, this new development has some Whovians wondering if the last of the Time Lords has finally gone barmy.

A hoodie? And not even a single question mark on it!? Oh the humanity.

In all serious, there have been many who have felt the Whoodie is a betrayal of the initial vision for the Twelfth Doctor’s costume that was presented to fans – the ‘no frills, no scarfs, no messing, just 100% rebel Time Lord,’ tagline captured the ‘minimalism’ of the Twelfth Doctor’s design – its straight lines, buttoned shirt, black and white (with the slight indulgence of red inside). Call it the Magician look, the David Bowie look, the Mod look, the Punk look, the no nonsense look: it seems as though everyone saw something different in the stark, plain concept that Deep Breath introduced. For those attached to the initial minimalism though, the various additions that have been added to the Twelfth Doctor’s outfit in Series 8, and Series 9 especially, appear to have muddled that vision – holey jumpers, plaid trousers, t-shirts and, the last straw: a hoodie.

If given their way, the minimalist would see the Time Lord’s costume stripped of its idiosyncrasies, kept simple and deconstructed with only those costume elements that are necessary – no sweater vests or floppy hats.

Death in Heaven - 05DWCapaldiEp9-691x1024

(Left: The Doctor’s earlier minimalist look as last seen in Death in Heaven. Right: the Doctor’s controversial new digs from Series 9 filming, including the infamous Whoodie.)

One could question just how ‘rebel’ and ‘tough’ minimalism really is. I mean, frills don’t seem to be the sole article of clothing that might disqualify a Crombie frock with a buttoned collar from the ‘tough guy fashion awards’ (presumably held in Glasgow), nor do I think the Doctor, Time Lord Rebel or not, has ever attempted to look the part of a cold, hard-nosed cutthroat – some lies are too big, even for the Doctor, after all. Overall, while I understand the criticism that the new look planned for Series 9 has received, I don’t share the same opposition – in fact, I’m looking forward to the new vision that Ray Holman, returning costume designer, will bring to the Doctor’s look for Series 9. We last saw Holman’s work in Doctor Who with Series 5 when he designed the Eleventh Doctor’s original tweed ‘boffin’ look – a personal favourite of mine – and I’m sure he’ll wow us once more with eye-catching new designs.

But I’ll admit, just as I look forward to Ray Holman’s return, I’m also looking forward to seeing the Whoodie return – and here’s my case for why you too should welcome a little Whoodie in your life:

1) Subverting Your Expectations

Last Christmas, written by Steven MoffatPart of why I love that the Doctor wears a hoodie now is because the hoodie in our society is normally a stigmatised article of clothing – an association with poverty, gang crime, race and urban violence – which has led the hoodie to be seen in a way that has ‘justified’ distrust of its wearers, as far as some are concerned. I think society has come to expect, when it sits down to watch television, for the characters wearing hoodies to fit the profiles they assume of them; the hoodies are to be worn by the ‘bad guys’, the junkies – low brow and untrustworthy – not characters ‘like the Doctor’.

The Whoodie is thus a serious subversion of what some might expect from a hoodie – its wearer is heroic, intelligent and compassionate. For a show that is about identity (Doctor ‘Who’) if there ever was an overarching theme, it’s important, I think, that the Doctor keep us on our toes and challenge us to not judge him pre-emptively. The Doctor really shouldn’t ever be ‘just’ as we expect him to be, there’s something just a bit too cozy about a constant return to Edwardian fashion. We expect eccentricity from frocks and scarves, civility from knitted jumpers, and intelligence from glasses, but the Doctor rarely fits our expectations – he wasn’t raised with the same social understanding – he picks and chooses from human fashion from the full span of time and space like a neophyte would… A child, even – ‘ooh, a Fez!’; ‘ooh, a big scarf!’; ‘ooh, a hoodie!’ – without much of a conscious understanding of what each article of clothing might say about him, but when he does there is much more there than what meets the eye…

2) Expressing Yourself

whoodie_last_christmasPerhaps the starkest of costume designs for the Doctor was the Ninth Doctor’s leather jacket with a simple, plain jumper – it played a role in the larger deconstruction of the Doctor as a character which the revival carried out with Christopher Eccleston as the face of this unraveling. Just as Russell T Davies instructed the show’s other writers to scrap the ‘indubitably’ and write the Doctor’s voice as just a bloke in the pub who is smarter than he looks, the Doctor’s fashion also was plainer and allowed Eccelston’s performance and the genius of the Doctor to shine through the costume, instead of being screamed at audiences with fashion that was already associated with eccentricity or intelligence.

The hoodie is to Doctor Who now, what the leather jacket was to us in the Nineties and onward. It’s the contemporary urban apparel for a Doctor who strikes me as quintessentially urban – hard-nosed, thick-skinned and markedly Glaswegian – Capaldi’s Doctor expresses himself with his outfits to communicate that (like, say, Jon Pertwee did) he is concerned about his appearance and puts a great deal of effort in making sure that what he wears is well put together (nothing the Twelfth Doctor wears is short of £85), but that there is a hardness there, a steeliness – the casual genius who has lived through hardship and rejected the principles and privileges that his home had afforded him.

While the Twelfth Doctor’s frock reminds us the Doctor is most certainly the Edwardian ideal, eccentric and far removed from his homeland’s social values, his Whoodie reminds us the Doctor is most certainly not the Edwardian ideal. Deep Breath shows us just how much he secretly cares what others think of him and how much it hurts him to not be accepted, and In the Forest of the Night reveals just how much his departure from Gallifrey has left him yearning for a home of his own. Every great character is the sum of its contradictions and the Doctor is no exception. His outfit, a seemingly contradictory patchwork of anachronistic fashion, helps sum up the man himself.

3) Adding Some Personality

John Nathan-Turner famously suggested the addition of a stick of celery to the Fifth Doctor’s costume to add a bit of idiosyncrasy to what was otherwise a rather ‘designed’ affair. In some senses, I think the Whoodie works for the Twelfth Doctor’s outfit as the celery did for the Fifth Doctor. Admittedly, I was never totally convinced by the initial minimalist vision we saw in Deep Breath, its straight lines and navy and white look seemed just a tad dull for the Doctor of all people. Real people rarely dress as shop dummies do because, not only are our outfits not designed each morning by professionals, but we cling to little articles of clothing which clash with what we’re wearing that day, but have some personal significance to us – for example, I won’t be caught dead without a pair of sneakers on, just as a friend of mine rarely departs from his favorite baseball cap.


The Whoodie, in that sense, feels more personable than designed. Something we wear, not to look good per se, but because we don’t feel quite like ourselves without it. Clothing with a story behind it.

If this has left you itching to get your hands on your own Whoodie, Steve Ricks, bespoke tailor and devoted Whovian, suggested on his blog that a good place to start (and finish) your search for an accurate Whoodie would be All Saint’s Mode Merino Zip Hoody, priced at £88.00, although the Fashion Neanderthal in me says any black hoodie might do (blasphemous, I know). Regardless, the Whoodie will make its triumphant return to our screens with the premiere, The Magician’s Apprentice – but it also, interestingly enough, looks set to be a constant for Series 9 (barring Episode 10) – with the Whoodie reappearing in some shape or form in shooting pics from The Girl Who Died, The Woman Who Lived and the two other two-parter episodes so far. Could this be the Year of the Whoodie? I know one thing for sure: you wouldn’t hear any complaints from me.

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32 Responses

  1. FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    Love the hoodie. Why not? At least he’s still a guy and that’s the really important thing 🙂 I’m sure if the Doctor was real he wouldn’t lose any sleep over what the haters though of his garb so neither will I. Can’t wait for the new series!!!

  2. TimeChaser says:

    I’ll admit I was surprised by the initial Last Christmas promo shots with the hoodie, but I had already been surprised earlier by the spotted sweater he also wears, which at time of filming I always assumed was just Capaldi’s own clothes, like he was perhaps half dressed waiting to start filming, but no, it’s what he wore in the actual episodes.

    I think people do sometimes get a preconceived notion of how the Doctor should look, or more exactly how A Doctor should look after that first promo image. David Tennant changed up his shirts under that suit once in a while, not always even wearing the necktie. I think this new approach also speaks to Capaldi’s own youth, I mean he played in a punk band during his university days.

    • FrancoPabloDiablo says:

      What I really found odd about the JN-T era (especially the start of it) was that the characters stopped wearing clothes but rather started wearing a single costume – 5’s Cricket outfit, Adric’s pyjamas, Tegan’s air stewardess uniform, Nyssa’s brown thing. Followed by Turlough’s school uniform and 6’s technicoloured dreamcoat!. I’ve read somewhere (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that this was an intentional choice on JN-T’s part as he thought that having one ‘look’ for the characters would make it easier to market their images? Anyway, I digress, I just love Capaldi and all the clothes he has worn. If you are going to be put off Capaldi because he is wearing a hoodie then that is your loss – the rest of us aren’t going to feel sorry for you.

      • TimeChaser says:

        The JN-T era was certainly more costumed, which I think detracted from the series in a way. The use of the question mark motif, taken to an extreme with McCoy, certainly shows this. Doctor Who from 63-79 and 2005 on feels more natural, like the Doctor actually did go into the wardrobe and grab various bits and pieces to put together an outfit rather than having it all on one rack.

        • Dr. Moo says:

          Time & the Rani takes it to the extreme. The moment he tries on Five’s cricketer costume and you hear glass shatter is the point at which the serial goes too far beyond being a bit dull into the territory of utter crap.

  3. Dr. Moo says:

    I fail to see the issue. Why not allow a little variation in the Doctor’s clothing? Consider the Third Doctor. Or the Fourth Doctor. Or the Seventh Doctor. Or the Tenth Doctor. Or the Eleventh Doctor. Variable costuming is not a problem unless you decide to make it one — which is (forgive my blunt honesty) really really stupid.

    Peter’s gone on record that he wants his costume to be easily replicated for cosplay; surely the hoodie (I can’t bring myself to call it the ‘Whoodie’, I just can’t) is a step in that direction?

  4. John McJohnson says:

    Proof once more that some people will pick LITERALLY ANYTHING to be a target for mindless hate. If they’re gonna let that ruin their enjoyment then that’s their loss.

    • Mrs F says:

      Some people are never happy, that’s the sad truth. I remember when his costume was first announced it recorded criticism for the lack of gimmickry, now this is happening and it’s being criticised for the exact opposite reason. *sigh*

      • Dr. Moo says:

        They should just bring back the question marks and have done with it, haters be dammed!

      • FrancoPabloDiablo says:

        I think it is more appropriate to say that some people are only happy when they are unhappy about something. Some people (especially on the anonymous internet) live for things to complain and be angry about, regardless of how petty the things are. There are topics and issues I enjoy debating and discussing that are important to most of us as fans (especially on this wonderful website), and then you have people crying because the Doctor wears a hoodie now!!! Not being sarcastic or anything but either A) we should pity them really, their lives must be pretty empty and devoid of meaning. Or B) we should be jealous of them if that is the biggest issue in their life that they have to worry about!

  5. It made sense in Last Christmas that he’d wear something warm at the North Pole but to see it again strikes me as unusual. It’s at odds with what the Doctor tends to wear, with the quintessential Doctor costume being that seen in The Web of Caves and this is the standard by which all Doctors’ clothing should be judged.

  6. TimeChaser says:

    I’m less worried about the clothes and more about Capaldi’s hair. It seems to be getting bigger. I hope he doesn’t grow the second coming of Pertwee’s bouffant. 😉

  7. James Guthrie says:

    Um, people change their clothes, I guess. No biggie.

  8. Edward Delingford says:

    Looks like we all have a bad case of anticipatory exhaustion syndrome waiting for some fresh goodies out of SDCC. Peter is on record as saying he doesn’t like the idea of the doctor having a rigid costume and he’d like to mix it all up a bit. As Do Moo has also said, Peter wants to have clothes that any kid can pull of their own clothes drawers and use those to play act being the doctor. (a great sentiment) I am sure the mix of clothing is all down to Peter wanting to be comfortable, not wanting to conform to the Edwardian type and wearing things that any kid might have easily to hand. Clothing does not maketh the doctor. There is a hilarious audio somewhere (perhaps a commentary track) where David Tennant is wittering endlessly about the combination of buttons he does up or leaves undone on his coat and the amount of effort he invests in deciding this depending on how the doctor will be in that episode. Can’t remember if it is Moffat or Gatiss who absolutely takes the mick out of him for being such a ‘luvie’ about such an unimportant thing and suggesting better to focus on the actual acting itself. While it was banter, it was clear that David was absolutely serious and seemed slightly offended to be called out about how self-obsessed this was. Discussions about whoodies or T-shirts or whatnot fall into a similarly nitpicky and rather silly category. Fortunately the person wearing them is 100% doctor regardless.

  9. Planet of the Deaf says:

    I quite like the whoodie, and it makes sense that the Doctor wouldn’t stick constantly to his original costume as
    1) People change their clothes, so why shouldn’t Time Lords
    2) The Doctor himself has expressed doubts about his original costume (it was him not Clara who mentioned the resemblance to a magician)

    Besides having a slobby looking Doctor contrasts nicely with the impeccably dressed Clara!

  10. Planet of the Deaf says:

    I’m quite sad that Howard Burden isn’t doing the costumes for S9, I don’t think the 12 costume is brilliant, but his outfits for 11 in S7B, 8 in Night of the Doctor, War in Day of the Doctor and above all Clara’s stunning outfits have been brilliant.

    Perhaps he now has to concentrate on Cat for the return of Red Dwarf!

  11. Rick714 says:

    I see no harm in the hoodie what so ever, and it’s not like Capaldi’s the first to mix up the wardrobe, although he may have taken it farther than any before, keeping only the coat and boots the same each Ep. Mixing it up has long been the mark of Time Lord excellence.

    Hartnell wore different cloaks and hats and carried different walking sticks.

    Troughton would go even wilder with giant fur coats.

    Pertwee had at least half a dozen different outfits or more throughout his era.

    Tom Baker altered his ensemble almost every year during his run, most notably his last.

    Unfortunately, the JNT era was again a disappointment in this department. Aside from McCoy changing to a darker jacket and Colin altering crazy elements during “Trial”, there wasn’t any changing of those goofy costumes. Anyway, back to quality:

    McGann — even with is limited exposure, he mixed it up and even adopted a different look for BF.

    Ecceston changed his jumper a few times even though he stayed only briefly.

    Tennant did an interesting job of changing up the shirts and even the suits.

    Smith changed frocks and suits when he changed companions.

  12. Vader the White says:

    While some of the variants of the Twelfth Doctor’s costume I don’t like (in Series 8, that weird polka dot shirt in “Robot of Sherwood” and in Series 9, that t-shirt and the Troughton pants just…I don’t know, it doesn’t work and this is coming from the guy who doesn’t hate the Sixth Doctor’s coat of many colors), I like the Whoodie. It also makes it easier for me to cosplay as the Twelfth Doctor one day as all I really need is the coat.
    Also, while I said I don’t like some of the variants, I know that he isn’t always going to wear them and I can deal with them. It’s not going to ruin the episode for me. Hell, “Robot of Sherwood” is one of my favorite episodes!

    • TimeChaser says:

      Actually it was worn in Listen and In the Forest of the Night. Sorry, but I can’t help being pedantic. But at least now you can go back and enjoy Robot of Sherwood even more! 😀

  13. Briann Audet says:

    I like the ‘Whoddie’ myself. It makes sense for the doctor to have a few different pieces of clothing. Both Tennant and Smith changed up their looks in subtle ways. The hoodie reflects both the doctor’s and Capaldi’s youthful/rebellious ways. I’m not a huge fan of the pants, but it may only be for one episode.

  14. The Earl Fleabag of Turdshire says:

    I’ve always preferred an more elegant Doctor, but notwithstanding, I quite like it. Much better than some of the cheap looking coloured shirts they had him in for some of series 8.

  15. Michael Aguiar says:

    I don’t care for the new look and I don’t like the hoodie. But I also don’t see how that will detract from my enjoyment of the show. I don’t watch the doctor for his fashion sense and for me The Doctor is a weird guy and there is nothing weirder to me then that picture on the right. As long as good EPs of Who keep coming in I don’t much care what he wears, Matt Smiths look was ridiculous in my opinion and didnt detract from how awesome those episodes were.

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