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.
(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
Part 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
Perhaps 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.