Benedict Cumberbatch engaged: 'Sherlock' goes old school, shuns Twitter

British actor Benedict Cumberbatch announced his engagement to theater director Sophie Hunter in the, gasp, newspaper. Can Benedict Cumberbatch make newspapers de rigueur?

(AP Photo/Gero Breloer, file)
British actor Benedict Cumberbatch has announced his engagement to theater director Sophie Hunter, making the news public with a minuscule eight-line announcement in The Times newspaper in London.

Apparently it took Sherlock Holmes, or at least actor Benedict Cumberbatch who plays him on television, to uncover the fact that in both life and fashion, the classics never go out of style.

Cumberbatch’s decision this week to forego the use of electronic media to announce his engagement to director and actress Sophie Hunter, choosing instead a classic print ad in the London Times newspaper “is not new, but something very refreshing,” says Simon Collins, Dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons’ New School in New York in a phone interview.

Fashion followers may recognize The New School as the main setting for the Lifetime television series Project Runway with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. 

Asked if print news was considered “old fashioned” Mr. Collins replies, “No, indeed! Newspapers have not gone out of vogue, whatever people might have you believe. The most important things in style, in our lives, have not changed all that much,” says Mr. Colllins.

“Mr. Cumberbatch is at a very important moment in his life and he’s doing what people have done forever – placing an announcement in the local paper.” He adds, “That’s timeless.”

That puts print newspapers on a par with Chanel and the little black dress in the world of fashion.

Indeed, Amy Fine Collins, special correspondent for Vanity Fair Magazine where Cumberbatch has made the Best Dressed List, sees his choice of a newspaper announcement as “an elegant and modest decision very much in keeping with his personal style.”

 “We live in a world where everyone’s been breaking the fashion and social rules for so long they forgot what the rules even are,” says Ms. Collins, who is unrelated to Simon Collins, in a phone interview. “You almost have to have this kind of inversion to get people’s attention. To do things correctly in a world where people have forgotten how to be correct. Benedict Cumberbatch reminds us that we don’t need to wallpaper the world with our own egos.”

She adds, “He’s an influencer. That’s why he made Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed look. So I would expect people, particularly in America, to imitate his engagement announcement. I would expect more of a return to newspapers being seen in an elegant, fashionable light because of his actions.”

Mr. Collins says that while this move to use a newspaper may be traditional, he doesn’t view Cumberbatch’s style to be that of “a traditionalist” which he finds has a negative fashion connotation.

“I think he’s very much a modern man – in-step with fashion – who isn’t embracing being the modern man by grunting, wearing jeans and not shaving, but by being very intelligent,” Mr. Collins clarifies. “He’s showing us that it’s OK now to be intelligent. In his case both men and women clearly find that very attractive.”  

 The actor may have portrayed Wikileaks techno maven Julian Assange on screen, but in real life he went with print media over a publicist’s announcement or social media post as so many celebrities do these days.

“I am honestly amazed at the fact that people will trivialize such a moment in their life by making it into a tweet or a press release,” Mr. Collins adds.

 The six-line old school notice in the paper was understated and fell under the heading "forthcoming marriages” reading:

The engagement is announced between Benedict, son of Wanda and Timothy Cumberbatch of London, and Sophie, daughter of Katharine Hunter of Edinburgh and Charles Hunter of London.

Cumberbatch and Hunter have been understated in their romance in general with little being reported in the press that would have buffered the shock of swooning fans.

According to CNN, the couple met on the set of the 2009 movie "Burlesque Fairytales," but didn’t begin dating until around the time of the French Open this year.

Like any fashion accessory, it has its place.

“Social media is just another tool,” Mr. Collins says. “Anyone who knows fashion knows that some things, like printed newspapers, never go away. I still subscribe to a printed copy of Women’s Wear Daily even thought I read it online. I have to have the real thing in hand.”

The Cumberbatch and Hunter engagement announcement can be seen as good news for those who continue to value the look and feel of newsprint on the breakfast table beside their morning coffee or tea – despite the lamentable fact that eggs with Benedict is now off the dating menu.

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