The best and worst Doctor Who fashion – ranked!

14. Matt Smith

Matt Smith might have the most memorable Doctor costume of recent years – and not in a good way. Thanks to that bow tie, the braces and the tweed jacket, he resembled a cross between the lost fifth member of the Libertines and a cartoon mad scientist. This was, apparently, Smith’s doing: he chose the bow tie because it harked back to a costume worn by Patrick Troughton in the late 60s.

13. Peter Davison

Peter Davison, the Doctor from 1981 to 1984
Howzat?! Peter Davison, the Doctor from 1981 to 1984. Photograph: Keith Butler/Rex/Shutterstock

By the early 80s, the Doctor Who eccentricity aesthetics were shifting – and, you might say, struggling. Davison’s look is the result. An Edwardian cricket outfit – complete with umpire-like hat and striped trousers – is a curio. Add the unexplained celery corsage and ball in Davison’s pocket and the full look feels a bit self-consciously “kerazy”.

12. Peter Capaldi

Peter Capaldi, the Doctor from 2014 to 2017, with Pearl Mackie and David Bradley
Surgical spirit… Peter Capaldi, the Doctor from 2014 to 2017, with Pearl Mackie and David Bradley. Photograph: BBC/PA

Peter Capaldi’s Doctor has something vaguely medical about it – the long frock coat and waistcoat could be worn by a Victorian surgeon. Speaking about the costume when it was debuted in 2014, Capaldi said “he’s woven the future from the cloth of the past. Simple, stark, and back to basics. No frills, no scarf, no messing, just 100% Rebel Time Lord.”

11. Paul McGann

Although the Doctor Who series was suspended on the BBC in 1989, fans did get a TV movie in 1996 – with McGann in the role. His outfit skips over the studied eccentricity of 80s Doctors and goes back to the classic Victoriana-inspired look of William Hartnell. It is also part of the plot of the film – newly regenerated, McGann’s Doctor steals a fancy dress costume – wild west hero Wild Bill Hickok – to wear. Either way, the result is less memorable than some of the other costumes.

10. William Hartnell

Doctor Who first came on to our screens in 1963. While the concept of the show had the futuristic bent of time-travelling sci-fi, William Hartnell’s costume seems to hark back in time. With the loose bow tie, suit, cane and sometimes a monocle, he has an Oz-like energy – one that influenced future Doctors.

9. David Tennant

David Tennant, the Doctor from 2005 to 2010, with Billie Piper
Geek chic … David Tennant, the Doctor from 2005 to 2010, with Billie Piper. Photograph: Collection Christophel/Alamy

When David Tennant became the Doctor, he doubled down on his lanky frame, going for a geek-chic kind of style that Jarvis Cocker would be proud of. Wearing a pinstripe suit and long coat with Converse (a combination weirdly inspired by an outfit Jamie Oliver wore on Parkinson in 2005), it was perfect for an era when indie style was at its height.

8. Patrick Troughton

Patrick Troughton – the Doctor from 1966 to 1969
‘Cosmic hobo’ … Patrick Troughton, the Doctor from 1966 to 1969. Photograph: Everett Collection/Alamy

Dubbed the “cosmic hobo” by fans, Troughton’s Doctor was partially based on Charlie Chaplin’s “tramp” look, and the result of discussions with the production team and the actor. As with Chaplin, Troughton goes for a dishevelled look – his coat is too big, and his trousers are held together with a safety pin. While this cosplay as a homeless person feels problematic, Troughton’s Beatles-style mop of hair (or wig?) – not to mention sardonic expression – is charming.

7. Jon Pertwee

Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning in Doctor Who
The frill of it all … Jon Pertwee, the Doctor from 1970 to 1974, with Katy Manning. Photograph: Everett Collection/Alamy

The first 70s Doctor, Pertwee adopted a look that was, appropriately, peak maximalism; the style dominated the decade. Rather than a concept carefully developed by the costume designer, it was originally found in the actor’s closet. For a 1969 photocall, before his first series, Pertwee wore velvet, frills and a bow tie. The image stuck. More than 50 years later, it gets top marks for resourcefulness.

6. Ncuti Gatwa

The time travel of Doctor Who is immediately evident in the fashion for the upcoming 2024 series, judging by the images released of Ncuti Gatwa and his companion Millie Gibson. The duo wear outfits that send them back to the 60s. Gatwa’s striped double-breasted suit, sideburns and neat afro have the feel of James Brown in the latter part of the decade, or even some Blaxploitation movies of the 70s. For the present day, Gatwa’s brown check suit is lifted by its orange jumper – a colour that nods to Colin Baker’s rainbow factory (below) – without going OTT.

5. Colin Baker

Colin Baker, the Doctor from 1984 to 1986
Rainbow connection … Colin Baker, the Doctor from 1984 to 1986. Photograph: Everett Collection/Alamy

If Baker was keen on a sombre costume, he was overruled. Instead, he wore what he later described as “an explosion in a rainbow factory” – including a frock coat patchworked with colour and print, and often a cat pin on its lapel (fans sent them to him, and he claimed to have worn every single one). If purists of the show find the outfit distracting, it’s very fashion friendly – patchwork is something of a trend in 2023.

4. Jodie Whittaker

Jodie Whittaker, the Doctor from 2017 to 2022
Colour field … Jodie Whittaker, the Doctor from 2017 to 2022. Photograph: Everett Collection/Alamy

The first lead female Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, has an immediately appealing costume, but it also deserves a zoom-in approach. If the stripes across her T-shirt nod to the colours of Tom Baker’s famous scarf, the culottes and braces come from an image Whitaker found online, of a model wearing overalls in a 1988 issue of Sassy magazine. “I just love the androgyny of it,” she said. Other nice touches include the violet lining of her coat, a nod to the colours of the Suffragettes. The colours purposefully contrast with the neutral shades worn by her companions.

3. Christopher Eccleston

Seriously … Christopher Eccleston, the Doctor in the 2005 revival, with Billie Piper.
Seriously … Christopher Eccleston, the Doctor in the 2005 revival, with Billie Piper. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

The actor’s costume shows the influence of the Matrix franchise on sci-fi of the 00s. Eccleston, who starred in the series’ revival in 2005, wears a black leather coat not unlike that worn by Keanu Reeves’ Neo. The jacket, paired with plain trousers and a V-neck sweater, was designed to look a bit more serious, to contrast with the previous foppish Doctors and blend into a crowd.

2. Tom Baker

Tom Baker, the Doctor from 1974 to 1981, with Lalla Ward
Close knit … Tom Baker, the Doctor from 1974 to 1981, with Lalla Ward. Photograph: RCC/Shutterstock

Tom Baker was the Doctor responsible for the still-famous Doctor Who scarf – or, rather, that was knitter Bagonia Pope. Given wool to make the scarf by costume designer James Acheson, rather than select different colours, she used it all up and handed back an extra-long version. The mistake became a signature for the new Doctor.

1. Sylvester McCoy

Sylvester McCoy, the Doctor from 1987 to 1989, with Sophie Aldred.
Any questions? Sylvester McCoy, the Doctor from 1987 to 1989, with Sophie Aldred. Photograph: Shutterstock

The last incarnation of the Doctor in the original Doctor Who series, Sylvester McCoy’s turn has all the playful madcap maximalism of late 80s style. See the contrast shoes, tweed trousers and – most importantly – the sweater vest covered in question marks, a design that could quite easily find a place on the Gucci catwalk today.