Three Holmes Costume Comparisons

Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes


Jonny Lee Miller from CBS Elementary

Jonny Lee Miller

Benedict Cumberbatch from BBC Sherlock

Benedict Cumberbatch

Robert Downey Jr., Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch all play an iconic role: Sherlock Holmes. We all know who he is, and what he does. This character has been portrayed by many, but in today’s day these are the three most popular and relevant of all of the adaptations, minus the original of course, and there’s a lot to say about the different styles, time periods and context.

The Warner Bros’ Sherlock Holmes takes place in Victorian London, typical of Holmes adaptations.. And you can immediately imagine what he’ll look like.. Well dressed, buttoned up vest with the hat of the day, coat and slacks… This is very true to the Robert Downey Jr. version… But if you were walking down the streets of London in the 1880s you’d be able to find him in a crowd.. There’s a sense of extravagance, class, and sophistication in him.. It’s in the patterned vest, velvet coat, hair that looks like it’s been grown out a little too much. Costume designer Jenny Beavan places RDJ in the time period and gives him the unique Holmes look.

In CBS’s Elementary, Sherlock Holmes is placed in modern day New York City as a detective… Already we see a change between his and RDJ’s Holmes because of the time differences. Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes is modernized in that he has a haircut that suits a man of his age today, but we can still see the similarities between the older and newer Holmes’... Both still wear vests with and hints of patterns… Miller’s Holmes has a muted palette that reminds us of autumn. It gives a rustic theme and hints at Victorian styles as said by costume designer Rebecca Hofherr. In today’s context, we see a scholar in Miller’s Holmes.. Not typically what I would imagine a NYC detective to be wearing. It’s casual but maintained. It’s very Holmes.

And of course, the (arguably) most popular of the three: BBC’s Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role of a modern day Holmes, like Elementary… But now he’s placed in modern day London, where fashion is mutually as important, but different from New York City. Cumberbatch is dressed in a sleek suit, matched with a large overcoat and scarf. From this we can tell he is very well off. Compared to Elementary, he does look more sophisticated, the wig Cumberbatch wears gives the impression of a intellect. This Holmes differs from the two before, he’s meant to look sexier, suave, maybe to appeal to a newer generation.

All of these roles are fulfilled by the specific and meticulous style of each individual costumes and all bring together the same idea of who Sherlock Holmes is, despite the difference of context.

Three Holmes Costume Comparisons