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
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’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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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.