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In ITV’s current Scandi-style crime drama Marcella – written by Hans Rosenfeldt, creator of The Bridge, hence its strong whiff of Nordic noir – heroine Anna Friel’s fur-trimmed green parka is attracting as many headlines as its wearer. The Teflon-coated, duck down-stuffed coat by US lumberjack label Woolrich has since become a high-street bestseller – both the £535 original and cheaper copycats.
Marcella’s signature jacket is just the latest in an illustrious line of iconic TV clothing. Some of these items were specifically designed to lend characters a distinctive look. Others snuck up by surprise, gaining a cult following among the show’s fans and even kickstarting fashion trends. From Columbo’s crumpled mac to Tom Baker’s stripy scarf, Robin Day’s polka dot bow tie to Hercule Poirot’s polished spats, clothing can play a surprisingly central role in our much-loved series.
So take a trip down memory lane by rifling through the rail of our top 10 TV garments…
Tom Baker’s scarf (Doctor Who)
Other incarnations of the Time Lord had sartorial signatures, from William Hartnell’s frock coat to Matt Smith’s bow tie, but none captured the public imagination like the Fourth Doctor’s scarf – said in the show to have been knitted for him by Madame Nostradamus. Its impractical length was due to a mix-up: inspired by Toulouse-Lautrec, costume designer James Acheson gave his friend Begonia Pope a bag of wool and asked her to create a colourful design. She proceeded to use all the wool provided, resulting in the absurdly oversized accessory. Baker teamed it with a felt fedora, jammed atop his wild mop of curls. Jelly Baby?
Emma Peel’s catsuit (The Avengers)
As the all-action sidekicks of gentleman John Steed (Patrick Macnee), both Cathy Gale (Honor “Pussy Galore” Blackman) and Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) sported black leather catsuits in the Sixties “spy-fi” series. They were originally chosen for practical reasons: black for burglar-style stealth, leather to prevent them getting ripped during fight scenes. Worn with “kinky boots”, the futuristic, fetishistic garb added to the cult show’s appeal, especially for male viewers. Female superheroes from Barbarella to Black Widow have donned them ever since.
Mr Darcy’s shirt (Pride & Prejudice)
Sure, it was a 182-year-old, school syllabus-beloved story but Andrew Davies’s landmark 1995 BBC adaptation sparked a huge Jane Austen revival – in no small part thanks to “that” scene. As Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle) strolled around Pemberley’s grounds, she chanced across a dripping Fitzwilliam Darcy (Colin Firth), fresh from a restorative swim in the lake after a long horse-ride. His wet white linen shirt was actually rather chaste – Davies originally wanted Darcy to dive in naked, Firth vetoed the idea – but was enough to make Lizzie (and millions of viewers) swoon.
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Sarah Lund’s jumper (The Killing)
The star-patterned sweater sported by Detective Inspector Sarah Lund became synonymous with Nordic noir when the genre took off five years ago, with BBC Four’s hit Saturday-night screening of the series known in its native Denmark as Forbrydelsen. To capture her character’s uncommunicative, emotionally distant nature, actress Sofie Gråbøl decided to “act like a man”, so her androgynous outfits – all anoraks, wellies and chunky knits – served a purpose. Made by Faroese brand Gudrun & Gudrun, the £290 jumper saw such a boom in sales that local sheep couldn’t keep up with demand.
Tommy Cooper’s fez
The comic conjuror chanced across his trademark Ottoman headwear by accident. While on national service, “Cooper the Trooper” joined a Naafi entertainment party and during one show in Cairo was performing a sketch in which he was supposed to wear a pith helmet. Having forgotten the prop, he instinctively swiped a fez from a passing waiter’s head. When it got big laughs, he decided to keep it. With Cooper standing 6ft 4in and weighing 16st, the fez provided a visual punchline to his manic appearance.
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Pauline Fowler’s cardigan (EastEnders)
The shouty Cockney soap’s original matriarch was an Albert Square stalwart for 21 years: working in the launderette, married to the luckless “Arfer” and forever wrestling with financial or family woes. As the years went by, actress Wendy Richard gradually shed her glamorous Miss Brahms from Are You Being Served? image and Pauline became a classic soap opera battle-axe, as signified by her ever-present baggy beige cardigan.
Columbo’s mac (Columbo)
The endlessly repeated Seventies detective drama, a “howcatchem” rather than a “whodunit”, starred Peter Falk as LAPD homicide cop Lieutenant Frank Columbo. The dishevelled, cigar-smoking sleuth was inseparable from his crumpled beige raincoat and it somehow summed him up: humble, unassuming, seemingly absent-minded, always underestimated by his foes – until he’d shrewdly solve the case with “Just one more thing…” One story saw Columbo’s wife buy him a new coat for his birthday. However, he “can’t think” in it and deliberately loses it so he can return to his old favourite.
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Del Boy Trotter’s sheepskin coat (Only Fools & Horses)
Ideal for those chilly days selling hooky goods down Peckham market, wheeler-dealer Derek Trotter’s shearling coat was often teamed with a poloneck, flat cap and medallion for a faux-sophisticated look that encapsulated the aspirational Eighties wideboy. Actor David Jason loved it so much, he had one specially made to wear off-screen. It came from Suffolk-based sheepskin specialist Nursey & Son, which also sold coats to guitarist Eric Clapton and football commentator John Motson, but sadly closed its doors in 2015 after 169 years of business. Not cushty, lovely or indeed jubbly.
Frank Spencer’s beret (Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em)
“Ooh, Betty – the cat’s done a whoopsie in my beret.” The travails of accident-prone Frank Spencer (Michael Crawford) and superhumanly patient wife Betty (Michele Dotrice) were the missing link between Norman Wisdom and Mr Bean, the Seventies sitcom’s slapstick stunts meaning it was exported worldwide. Frank’s trademark trenchcoat, tanktop and beret were a signifier of his naive, buffoonish, mummy’s boy nature. Crawford recently dusted them down for a Sport Relief special. Coincidentally, the era’s sitcoms starred a second beret-wearer: Robert Lindsay’s “urban guerrilla” Wolfie in Citizen Smith.
Tony Soprano’s dressing gown (The Sopranos)
In the game-changing HBO drama that began the trend towards boxset TV, James Gandolfini’s “Tone” was a new kind of gangster: an introspective depressive who was in therapy and struggled with his flesh-and-blood family as much as his Mafia one. His white dressing gown was a symbol of his relative normality. The New Jersey mob boss would wake up late, scratch his stubbly jowls like a domesticated bear, pull a heavy bathrobe over his vest and boxers, then amble down his driveway to pick up the newspaper – while looking eagerly for the ducks that visited his pool and brought him peace.
10 that didn’t make the cut
Hercule Poirot’s shoes (Agatha Christie’s Poirot)
Ena Sharples’ hairnet (Coronation Street)
JR Ewing’s 10-gallon hat (Dallas)
Robin Day’s bow tie (Question Time)
Saga Norén’s coat (The Bridge)
The Fonz’s jacket (Happy Days)
Walter White’s Heisenberg hat (Breaking Bad)
Daisy Duke’s denim hotpants (Dukes of Hazzard)
Tony Hancock’s Homburg hat (Hancock’s Half-Hour)
Sonny Crockett’s white suit (Miami Vice)