The Deerstalker Hat History, Purpose and Style

Just call it The Case of the Mysterious Hat. If you’ve never heard of the deerstalker hat, chances are fairly high that you’ve laid eyes on it more than once. It’s the distinctive cap that Sherlock Holmes historically perched on his head. Surprisingly, the fashionable hat was never mentioned specifically by name in any of the Holmes books, but the illustrator who brought the vision of the storied detective to life used it to paint a visual of someone especially distinctive and trustworthy. Indeed, the result was both handsome and enduring.

The deerstalker hat is commonly called the Sherlock holmeH hat, shown here with pipe and magnifying glass
It’s the hat that Sherlock Holmes made famous, as characteristic as his pipe and English tea.

So do you have to be a detective to wear this cool men’s hat? Don’t worry—you can put the magnifying glass away. There’s a certain practicality to the style that makes it perfectly acceptable in some situations. Of course, you probably wouldn’t want to wear it, say, on the train or to a football game, but there are many instances in which a deerstalker hat could fit the bill nicely.

The deerstalker hat is, admittedly, most often sported in rural environments. It’s not quite a city dweller’s hat, although a man with an adventurous streak would probably attempt to pull it off—and get away with it. Otherwise, the deerstalker is a favorite of deer hunters who seek something that is comfortable, warm, and ideal for a number of different weather conditions. It was particularly popular in the English countryside.

Woman wearing deerstalker hat outdoors.
A deerstalker hat is the perfect outdoors hat for hunting, hiking and siteseeing.

Given its association with Mr. Holmes, it’s no surprise that deerstalker hats are sometimes sold as a “Sherlock hat” and not associated with its given name. It boasts an extremely distinctive, recognizable appearance characterized by a low brim that faces downward. The hat features between six and eight triangle-shaped panels that are rounded and sewn together to meet at the top, resulting in a slightly puckered finish. It also has a rear visor, which, along with the front brim, is stiff thanks to a layer of canvas or cardboard inside.

Since it’s designed to keep you warm, it should be no surprise that the deerstalker also boasts earflaps. It’s available in a wide range of neutral colors, as well as classic patterns such as houndstooth and plaid. They are crafted primarily of lightweight or heavy wool fabric. Many are even treated with Teflon to prevent damage due to rain or snow.

A pile of deerstalker hats.
Deerstalker hats come in a simple plaid pattern and make for a sporting accessory to the country wardrobe.

Can you make it work for you? You certainly don’t need to stick a pipe in your mouth and walk around in a trench coat to rock this fashionable hat for men. That’s because it’s just that—fashionable—and it deserves its time in the spotlight if you know how to wear it. Try it on a rainy night when you want to keep your coif in check without ruining your hair.

Some styles are designed specifically with a deep opening, so that every strand will stay in place, while others are cut closer to your scalp. The beauty of the deerstalker is that it’s typically lined with satin, which is a soft, silky material that won’t mess with your style. You could even rock it on a snowy day while shoveling the driveway or taking an early morning walk.

Is it a bit unusual? Sure, but it’s not completely out of the realm of styling possibility, particularly for anyone who appreciates a men’s winter dress hat with a little pinch of unpredictability. This is suggestive of a dressy occasion, thanks to its polished finish and handsome fabric, but is casual enough to wear whenever you want to warm up a little bit. And, really, is there any harm in taking some style inspiration from one of history’s most beloved fictional book characters?

Stuffed bear wearing a deerstalker hat.
This stuffed bear is sporting his own deerstalker hat in a true Londoner’s style.

On that note, it should be noted that this is a look typically associated with fashionable hats for men. But the adventurous woman who doesn’t mind pushing the envelope and stepping outside of her comfort zone could certainly wear a deerstalker hat with grace and panache. It’s only once you try that you’ll know if it fits well into your wardrobe. Whether or not you live in the country or in a big city, you can easily give it a shot on a day when the weather calls for it. It’s elementary, my dear Watson.

Whether you’re a deerstalker yourself or not, you can easily make this unique fashionable hat a part of your wardrobe. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone when you put it on—this is one hat that definitely calls for a little moxie.

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