Sherlock’s Scarlet

For any of my non-UK readers, if you haven’t yet seen the BBC Sherlock trilogy you are in for a treat of gargantuan proportions.

For any of my UK readers who have seen the episodes, please please can you answer a question that maybe only Sewists care about? What’s with the red stitching around the button hole on Sherlock’s collar? Why? Why?! Why would wardrobe departments torture themselves with this? What does it signify?

This question is driving me demented!

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47 Responses to Sherlock’s Scarlet

  1. I’m an American who is a huge fan of the Sherlock series. Funny, my son and I had a big discussion about that coat the other day. He tells me that it is from a designer who does a limited run and that it is hand sewn and discontinued but is now a collector’s item thanks to the show. He also mentioned the price but I can’t remember it other than it was expensive but not surprisingly so if handmade. Don’t know about the red detail though. I’ll have to ask him if he knows.

  2. gingermakes says:

    It’s strange, right? I googled that a while back and a “Sherlock” fan site said that Benedict Cumberbatch wanted the red buttonholes added. I don’t really understand why– they’re a bit jarring, no?

  3. aleah says:

    Hmmm, what do you suppose Sherlock would deduce about himself from that red buttonhole? I love the show, just watched the Baskerville episode last night. I’m sad there’s just one left – why have they made so few?!

  4. Tina says:

    It may be an homage to Valentino Garavani who in turn is giving a nod to the French Legion of Honor (see here:!/StevenMVose/status/158730479640657921/photo/1) which he won in 2006. There’s also this interesting NY Times article about the red button hole on the lapel. Other actors that have worn the red button hole on the lapel include Donald Sutherland in the short-lived “Dirty, Sexy, Money,” Tim Roth in “Lie to Me,” and Courtney B. Vance on “Law and Order: Criminal Intent.”

    Story wise, it may be a nod to the original stories and the honors given to Holmes because of his super sleuthing.

  5. Dibs says:

    I don’t anything wise to contribute about the coat, BUT, I LOVE the series. I think it helps that I am in love with Monsieur.Cumberbatch.

  6. People who have received the Legion d’Honneur have the “right” to edge their lapel buttonhole in red thread. If you look closely at the politicians on the French news, you’ll see plenty of people wearing this. It’s kind of a way of saying “hey look, I have the Legion d’Honneur” without wearing your medal every day. But it’s also seen as bit pretentious, I think, and many people who have the Legion d’Honneur never bother doing this.

    • How interesting – thank you!

    • Alex says:

      Sherlock (in the books) was awarded the Legion d’Honneur. Can’t remember which story now, but it’ll come to me at about 3am!

      • Alex says:

        Got it! The Golden Pince-Nez – it was for “the tracking and arrest of Huret, the Boulevard assassin—an exploit which won for Holmes an autograph letter of thanks from the French President and the Order of the Legion of Honour”. Cue geeky excitement and sense of satisfaction!!

  7. Jeni says:

    I always assumed it was a purchased, rather than made coat, and that it was just a feature. A bit like Michel Roux Jr’s wardrobe for Masterchef: The Professionals – he has some of the most funky stitching on his suits I’ve ever seen! But perhaps they are custom as well. Couldn’t find some of the more elaborate ones, but see:

  8. Right here’s what I think….Molly deals with dead bodies. Basically he jumped off the building but somehow (this is the bit I am not sure of) he didn’t hit the ground, somehow jumped into something. They then used a cadaver complete with Sherlock mask to make it look like him. No one actually saw him hit the ground, also that bike that hit John? Planned. To disorientate him so he wouldn’t notice the body wasn’t really Sherlock……Only probably a YEAR till I find out if I am right lol
    Good spot with the red thing – didn’t even notice

    • I think you’ve pretty much got it, Huggie! Sherlock says to Molly (after spurning her for so long): ‘I need you.’ And there was definitely something odd about that cyclist. And dead Sherlock had really long hair!

      • Other people also noticed a truck passing about the time he jumped which he could have jumped into……..I may have missed that due to looking down at my knitting lol

      • Roisin says:

        Yes! Also, I think that moment when you see the dead Sherlock’s face, you’re seeing what a very disorientated Watson is seeing – so not really Sherlock’s face at all. And I totally agree about Molly – also the cyclist must have been in league with Sherlock, ditto the paramedics.

    • So, where John is standing, he can’t see the place where Sherlock lands.
      Sherlock jumps into the rubbish sack wagon (which a Baker Street Irregular has arranged).
      Molly injects Sherlock with a tranquilising drug to give the appearance of death and bursts a blood bag on the pavement. (but the substitute body theory is good too)
      John is delayed by a Baker Street Irregular cyclist. Maybe.
      The body really wasn’t damaged enough, given the height of the fall, but since John is in shock he doesn’t notice.
      Body taken to morgue, where Molly certifies him dead.

  9. Jane says:

    Can’t say I’ve noticed the red buttonhole I’m afraid, too busy pointing out Watson’s military gait to my husband. For some reason this REALLY annoys him, “Yes I KNOW he was an army doctor” he hisses.
    YES, I agree with Huggie about Molly, huge credit to her for working it out, I just had a feeling Molly was involved. It’s a fantastic series in every way, especially the casting, wasn’t Moriarty just PERFECT?! x

    • Susan says:

      Yes, it was really noticeable as Watson left the graveside wasn’t it? My son (RAF ) walks just the same way. I thought Molly had something to do with it, but I hadn’t worked it out as well as Huggie.
      If I was a little younger, I’d be madly in love with Sherlock!

  10. Susan says:

    Military gait, it’s something in the way they hold their shoulders. When they walk, their arms swing by their sides and the whole upper body is sort of straight. It’s the exact opposite of the head down hoody shamble along.

  11. Tamsin says:

    Maybe it’s a design feature to get people talking! Although the other suggestions seem much more sensible! Husband & I def though Molly was involved and maybe Mycroft/MI6. I also think that Holmes landed on the refuse truck that had a load of big bags on it, that you see just driving out of shot from one of the aerial views (it’s also blocking Watsons view of Holmes on the ground just as the cyclist knocks him over), cyclist was definately planned. And, no, I haven’t replayed the relevant section several times, just to work it out, honest(!!??)

  12. Whoa! I think this series was being rerun last night on BBC…and I was wondering what it was about. Another intriguing series was the new Call the midwife… it was on while I was having dinner with friends…any thought about that?

  13. Karen says:

    I’m in the US and have watched the Sherlock series as it has been broadcast. I love the series but haven’t noticed the buttonhole before! PS – I just did a successful button and buttonhole on my Singer 403B last night!

  14. Sarah says:

    I love Sherlock!! Good theories about Molly & the bin lorry!!

    The thing is I’m not sure they’ll be another (not with Martin Freeman anyway) as he is now the hobbit and will be shot into full-on A-lister. I saw him interviewed the other week and he was asked if now he had got such a huge Hollywood role would he still come back and do Sherlock and although he said yes he would he was a little vague.

    I really liked “Call The Midwife” (I wanted to be a midwife years ago and am a trained antenatal teacher) – as well as the good storylines I love all the vintage clothes (floral housecoats, gorg!!) and props. Looking forward to next weeks and hoping the arrival of Miranda Hart won’t spoil it (I’m not a fan)….

    S x

  15. oonaballoona says:

    we’ve been watching this series and i LOVE that red stitching!!! i looked at a shirt for ruggy this christmas that had contrasting button holes (and a price tag of $200, hence “looked” and not “bought”), and i thought it was such a neat detail. i wondered about the meaning, because of course sherlock does nothing without purpose. i’m aching to read the comments but i’m not as far in the series as everyone else…

    that said i’m working on a sarah skirt knockoff this very moment.

  16. Thank you all. What a great conversation!

  17. Chris says:

    Well you learn something new every day (the red buttonhole).

    Watched last night and loved it, just assumed that he’d somehow managed to throw Moriarty’s body over the side – but now that seems too simplistic. Might have to go and fire up the iplayer!

  18. Janice says:

    I’m not in the UK, but I love The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes! There’s only three episodes of it on Netflix here so far.

    I think it’s a random red buttonhole?

  19. MrsC says:

    Is Martin Freeman still Watson? What a busy bunny he is, as he’s been prowling around down under making the Hobbit too.

  20. Sarah says:

    I love the red buttonholes! It’s idosyncratic, yet purposeful, much like Sherlock. I love, love, love the series and wish they would do more than 3 episodes / series.

  21. Dey says:

    Single coloured button holes are quite common on suits in the UK. You might find that the cuff buttons have one coloured button hole or that a shirt will have one coloured button hole. I’ve seen it quite a lot here in London.

  22. Heather says:

    I noticed that the coat on the body (whether Sherlock or cadaver) had the red buttonhole…

  23. LinB says:

    A red buttonhole is a brand feature on Daniel Cremieux shirts and trousers, but it is in a position that would be hidden in normal wear. I’d just chalk up the red one on the costume to some idiosyncratic notion of the ‘tumer; as so excellently noted in above comments.

  24. Jo says:

    I thought the body may be Moriarty too. He won’t be dead though (Sherlock that is). These things always end up with some great convoluted story which you just have to make yourself believe. The Baskerville episode was scary I had to stop myself hiding behind the sofa, if I had that house I would not sit right in front of all that glass if I thought something was out to get me, I’d be under my duvet!!!!

    • Sensible Sewer says:

      Oh, you must be talking about Series 2 (the link above was to Series 1). The story name has been updated to “Reichenbach Fall.”

      No, in the Conan Doyle story Sherlock Holmes died. But the death was so unpopular ACD had to bring him back. In addition to the older movies, I was a big fan of the Jeremy Brett series. He was a friend of Benedict Cumberbatch’s family.

      Cumberbatch is great, but for me Brett will always be the definitive S.H. Just as Joan Hickson was the definitive Miss Marple.

  25. Sensible Sewer says:

    Are you kidding? I’ve seen “Sherlock” several times in the States. PBS is playing Series 1 yet again. I’m waiting for Series 2. I Googled it today, and apparently, “A Scandal in Bohemia” has been updated to “Belgravia.” I can’t wait to see Irene Adler circa 2012. It debuts in May.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that IA was an American, born in New Jersey.

  26. Sensible Sewer says:

    No idea about the choice of the red buttoniere, but it’s not hard to do. A matter of using red thread instead of black.

  27. kslaughter says:

    Wow—such an interesting conversation here! I love these little bits of trivia. And I adore your blog, by the way ;-). Sadly, I’m out of the zone for much of the BBC dramas, being in Belgium. Maybe some day I’ll purchase the series on DVD. Thanks for sharing~~

  28. fly says:

    Just to add mdd more gas to the fire, Donald Sutherland wore suits with the same detail in something called “Dirty Sexy Money”.

  29. PT says:

    They talk about the red buttonhole stitiching here:

  30. jimshilton says:

    Many high powered members of society have the red woven button hole in the lapel
    It is signatory of the legion d’honor a “secret” society who’s members are given membership by the French government for contributing to the glory of France

  31. johncmahoney says:

    The holder of the French Legion of Honour has the right to wear a red thread sewn into lapel butonhole. Sherlock is awarded one in The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez

  32. Matzdad says:

    Apparently it signifies the French legion of honour. Sherlock was supposed to have been awarded it in one of the stories

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