Undercoat: the Mystery of the Ninth Doctor’s Leather Jacket

Doctor Who is back. In just a few weeks we’ll see new adventures of the Time Lord, earth’s protector, as he battles foes from other planets. We’ll gasp as he whips out his sonic screwdriver to solve problems liked locked doors and smile in admiration as Christopher Eccleston runs, leather jacket flapping in the wind. Ah yes. The “leather jacket”. Or as it will forever be known in Doctor Who fandom, the “Leather Jacket” (that’s with capitals).

Clogs might have been quite a fashion statement, but no doubt would have required a Brian May-like perm. Similarly a stovepipe hat would have appeared archaic and frankly silly, whereas a loud, multicolored shell suit would have given the wrong impression totally.

My own preferences were either a futuristic suit of armour (yes, I know it is Doctor Who, and that our hero is rarely violent; but it would look kind of cool!) or a slightly disheveled wedding suit, giving the Doctor a post-Lazenby Bond back-story. Anything, really, to stop the public thinking about that bloody scarf!

To the British public — and probably most of the world — Doctor Who is a mad wide-eyed bohemian in a long scarf and brown coat. He pops up in “The Simpsons” from time to time, and Tom Baker’s portrayal of the Time Lord is renowned across the globe. It was these 7 years of episodes, plus the Pertwee era, that endeared the show to its many millions of fans from the 1970s onwards, depending where on earth you lived. But the bohemian look of the Fourth Doctor was common in the 1970s, an era when hippies were growing up and either changing the world through business, or just wandering. Similarly, many a dashing wave could be cut in a smart velvet suit of the type favoured by the Third Doctor. London fashion spots were full of velvet-clad dandies and musketeers in the late 1960s and early 1970s — just look at Hendrix.

On the other hand, perhaps a smartly-cut, velvet two piece would have worked in 2005? Not in the post Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen world it wouldn’t. It was old hat when he adopted the style and just imagine how odd Christopher Eccleston would look! Meanwhile, how would the new Doctor look in a beige or brown trouser and jacket two piece? Simply hideous — the Seventh Doctor couldn’t make it work!

So what about a sporting motif? Tennis, anyone? A Formula One driver’s jumpsuit? Somehow Peter Davison got away with that look, although it would have been interesting to see some variation in his appearance — it was of course at the beginning of the Fifth Doctor’s era that the clothes of the Doctor became his “costume”.

While the term “costume” is of course perfectly sensible in the realm of a drama production, within the confines of the narrative the audience considers the actor’s clothes the character’s own. So why did the Fifth Doctor wander around for 3 years in that ridiculous cricketing outfit when it was:

a) Obviously not suitable for playing cricket in, and

b) easily soiled?

Perhaps the giant figure that Christopher Eccleston cuts would have looked more appropriate in a Dickensian costume? Stooping around like Bob Cratchit? The First, Second and Eighth Doctors all pulled off the 19th century look — possibly too well. That leaves us with little to work with as an alternative really, although I doubt the production team looked at it that way when Eccleston’s look was decided.

If we take the Doctor’s attire during his heyday (the velvet dandy or the bohemian) we see two iconic looks inspired by the attire of the mid-twenties male in the sixties and seventies. Perhaps not the typical twenty-something – who no doubt was covered in post-puberty spots and greasy hair — but certainly the student or young teacher of the time, regardless of their reading. What we have in Christopher Eccleston’s costume is the look of a teacher — casually dressed, brown Leather Jacket.

If a link can be made to the character of the Ninth Doctor from his costume (and attempts have been successfully made to marry previous Doctors with their attire in ways such as this) we should perhaps expect the Doctor to act as Rose’s teacher and guide as he takes her on a fantastic voyage through the history of the human race. If no link can be made however, at least Christopher Eccleston looks damn fine in that jacket…

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