They say clothes maketh the man, and when it comes to TV characters they couldn’t be more right. Where would the myriad Frank Spencer impersonators of the 1970s have been if it weren’t for that beret? How would The Avengers’ John Steed have managed to look simultaneously deadly and dapper without his bowler-hat-and-umbrella combo? And just how cool would a leather jacketless Fonz have been? (Still very cool, actually, but you get the point).
Of course, clothes don’t just maketh the man, they very much maketh the woman, too – which is why Danish detective Sarah Lund heads up my list of seven sartorially significant TV characters…
Sarah Lund’s jumper
Who would have thought a hand-knitted Christmas jumper could ever say “hard-nosed detective”? But Sarah Lund pulls it off – figuratively if not literally. During series one of Danish crime drama The Killing (above), she wears that jumper for days on end, removing it only briefly to wash out the blood and patch up the knife hole.
Much imitated but never bettered, the Faroe Islands sweater by Gudrun & Gudrun is coveted by Lundalikes everywhere (and here’s the proof).
His beat is Los Angeles, city of near-perpetual sunshine, yet Peter Falk’s detective rarely removes his raincoat.
As well as providing an array of pattable pockets in which to mislay notepads, pens, evidence and cigars, Columbo’s coat helps create his trademark crumpled look. If he didn’t look crumpled, murderers might start to take him a bit more seriously, and if they took him more seriously, he’d find it harder to catch them.
Oh, just one more thing – the raincoat was not simply functional. Mrs Columbo once bought the Lieutenant a new mac that would have done the job just as well. But it wasn’t the raincoat, so Columbo “accidentally” mislaid it. Columbo loves his raincoat.
Steed’s bowler hat and umbrella
The Avengers’ top agent (right) is the model every English gent should aspire to – bowler hat, black umbrella, deadly martial arts skills.
The Fonz’s leather jacket
“Don’t touch the leather” – Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli
Chicks dug it, guys coveted it but few people ever got permission to lay their hands on the Fonz’s leather jacket.
The undisputed coolest man on the planet was so attached to the enchanted garment that he even wore it waterskiing – in this scene from Happy Days that inadvertently coined the phrase “jump the shark”.
The fourth Doctor’s scarf
No actor embraced the Time Lord’s eccentricity more enthusiastically than Tom Baker (on or off screen). And what better way to express such wanton weirdness than to wrap 30 feet of chunky knitwear around your neck and never take it off?
Number Six’s blazer
“I am not a number! I am a clotheshorse for this excellent blazer and badge combination!”
They may have been holding The Prisoner against his will without any explanation, but that jacket had great piping, and you can’t argue with great piping.
Frank Spencer’s beret
In his trademark beret and belted mac, the hapless hero of 70s sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em looked like a member of the French Resistance, which only served to highlight his complete lack of sophistication or guile. Did you ever see a member of the Resistance on roller skates being dragged behind a lorry? No.