The Fourth Doctor’s iconic headgear can be yours, straight from its original creators
The word ‘iconic’ can sometimes be thrown around with careless abandon. But it’s a word than means an awful lot more than merely ‘really very good.’ Its an image, embedded in the perception an era or a person or a phenomenon that it embodies the fundamental essence of the whole. Even in isolation the icon kicks up a host of associated memories, images, feelings, or even smells and tastes. And the Fourth Doctor remains one of pop culture’s most potent icons. One sight of him brings on a flood of Daleks, running up and down corridors, quotes and jelly babies. But you can break even his iconic status down to its constituent parts. Nothing says ‘Doctor Who‘ to the general public, even now, like a long stripey scarf. But only just behind it, in the visual impact of the Fourth Doctor, is his hat. Or, more specifically, his Herbert Johnson Poet Fedora.
Herbert Johnson have a legacy of superior bespoke hats dating back to the 19th century
The Doctor actually wore three hats during Tom Baker’s tenure, not counting the occasional bowler or deerstalker, and all of them were Poet Fedoras, in varying colours and materials, provided by classic hatter Herbert Johnson. The bespoke hat manufacturer dates back to 1889. That was when a young apprentice called Herbert Johnson recovered a top hat that had blown off its owner’s head. Leading him quickly to offer his services to repair it. The hat, as it happened, belonged to the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, and the young Herbert had found himself a sponsor who encouraged him to set up his own business, where he soon he was making hats for royalty across Europe.
It’s the type of anecdote into which it’s easy to imagine the Doctor writing himself. (“Of course, Herbert was painfully shy but I gave him a bit of a shove forward towards dear Albert.”) And it’s the origins of a brand that has since woven itself into global popular culture.
From Doctor Who, to Indiana Jones and Peaky Blinders, Herbert Johnson is woven through a rich history
As if it wasn’t enough to have equipped Doctor Who with his headgear, they also created the hats as worn by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark and its first two sequels. And their legacy continues even to the present day. Currently they’ve been working to supply the wide variety of styles seen in Peaky Blinders. While other hats along the way include Jack Nicholson’s in Batman (1989), and John Steed’s bowler hats in The Avengers. But the most impressive, inspiring thing about Herbert Johnson is that its still in business as a retailer for all your hat needs, 131 years on.
Even through lockdown, their highly skilled teams continued crafting pieces of wearable art from home. Meanwhile, their legendary Piccadilly store has just reopened to the public. It’s as much a testament to the firm’s indominatble nature as when one of their hats was recovered, intact, from the Titanic a century after it sank. And it means that you can get your very own perfectly screen accurate hat.
The hat lends the perfect finishing touch to your Doctor Who cosplay with total screen accuracy
If you’re a cosplayer than being able to obtain a perfectly accurate version of a forty-five year old design, direct from the original provider, is a holy grail. It’s something the Fourth Doctor Poet Fedora is almost unique in. With so much of the detail behind these classic costumes lost, they’re subject to almost CSI levels of dissection. Every possible photograph is poured over to try and work out and recreate, say, an argyle cardigan pattern. Or a Prince of Wales check waiscoat. But Herbert Johnson allows you to combine the best of both cosplay worlds. Each hat is made bespoke to your measurements and requirements so they offer not just to sell you a hat identical to the one they handed to Tom Baker all those years ago, but also the option to recreate its condition in any given story.
And that’s a particularly nice touch, since Baker was notoriously rough with his hats. Over the six seasons it appeared on his head, his hat was bashed, pulled, worn backwards, and stuffed into pockets. It was even folded neatly in half more than once. So much so that in some stories it’s hard to believe it’s the same piece of head wear. And whether it’s the lopsided turn of Season 12, the tall, deeply dented look of Pyramids of Mars, or the flattened, lived in look of Shada, Herbert Johnson will make them all on demand and everything in between.
The quality and comfort of the Poet Fedora sets it apart from your average store bought hat
Blogtor Who recently scratched a long standing itch and finally commissioned one of these amazing hat for himself. Specifically, the dark brown Poet Fedora as it first appeared in Robot. A personal favourite, it’s how the hat continued, lagely unmolested by Tom, until about halfway through the following season. And it’s a perfect recreation down almost to the atomic level. The dramatic sweep from an upward turn on one side of the wide brim across to the low edge of the other is stunningly replicated. While the strong, tall standing crown is beautifully shaped. Blogtor lost the best best of an hour just gazing at it when it first arrived.
More than that, it’s without doubt an extremely cool hat in its own right. For those more used to cheaper mass produced hats, the rabbit fur felt material and perfect fit to your own head measurements makes for a real sense of luxurious quality and comfort. Of course many Doctor Who fans aren’t terribly invested in the whole area of cosplay. But the Poet Fedora remains an ideal way to signal your fandom on a sunny day while looking supremely stylish.
Commissioning from Herbert Johnson is an expensive treat for yourself, but a rewarding one
This level of quality comes as a certain price point, naturally. And that won’t be for everyone. For over half a decade, Blogtor Who had actually made do with an Indiana Jones hat purchased outside the Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril ride in Disneyland Paris. A hat officially licensed by Lucasfilm but most definitely not made by Herbert Johnson. And such hats continue to do the job of hundreds of Doctor Who fans not ready, or unable, to make the jump to the real deal.
But if you’ve spent the past few months working from home, and finding the spare cash building up from takeaway coffees Cafe Nero not drunk, and disappointing work canteen sandwiches uneaten, there will be worse ways to remember 2020 than to be able to tip the Hat that Lockdown Bought. And there may never have been a better time, with their website currently offering 10% off online orders with the code ‘BOB2020’. The team also offer the green long haired version of their Poet Fedora first introduced in The Brain of Morbius (details available on request). And are working to add burgundy long haired Poet first seen in The Leisure Hive as well.
You can shop now at Herbert Johnson’s Stage and Screen Collection. Blogtor Who’s experience was that the entire process took exactly one month from initial order to receiving delivery of the finished hat. While their master hatter Michelle Poyer-Sleeman was fantastically communicative as she worked to make sure the hat was exactly as we wanted it. As an investment in your time as well as money, it’s barely a drop in the oceans of time when you’ve been waiting a lifetime…