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Jean Seberg, wearing a newsboy cap.= in 1965.
Jean Seberg, wearing a newsboy cap.= in 1965.
Silver Screen Collection/Getty

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In Defense of the Newsboy Cap, Kind of

Now seen on everyone, but also me.

When I think of the newsboy, I picture an amalgam of the retro pop culture icons I discovered as a teenager — Edie Sedgwick, heroines of French New Wave cinema like Jean Seberg and Anna Karina, A Hard Day’s Night-era Beatles, Bob Dylan on the cover of his eponymous debut. These are the progenitors of 1960s style I’ve seen represented by singular items from their wardrobe, items that you too can buy in order to feel a little bit like a Factory superstar or a truth-telling folk singer: the breton striped tee, a sherpa lined jacket, leggings to be worn as pants, a newsboy cap. Most of these items I already own. But, much like a pair of breezy culottes, the newsboy is something I’ve thought about buying a lot but had until recently held back on. It’s somewhat tricky to style, a piece that can easily move into "funky" or "fashionista" territory. But more on that to come.

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Most days I stick to an outfit formula. A sometimes amorphous, impractical, perpetually-in-a-state-of-becoming type outfit formula, but a formula nonetheless. I recently discovered that I only look good in t-shirts if I roll up the sleeves and wear them with high waisted jeans, and this is pretty much what I wear every single day. I don’t do much in the way of statement necklaces, suspenders, or items that in magazine speak possess the ability to "take your outfit to the next level." I shy away from incorporating too many trend pieces or dressing via an overly curated algorithm (such as the one described in this genius essay), but I also know that no woman shops within a vacuum. I accept that my look is a sedimentation of cultural influences and consumed media. I absorb and I interpret and at the age of 24 I feel fairly content with the wardrobe amassed, though at times I wish I felt comfortable embracing more of the weird. At times, I wouldn’t mind taking a look into the realm of concept. Enter: the newsboy cap.

Blogger Lucy Williams wearing a newsboy in 2016. Photo: Melodie Jeng/Getty

I found my ideal newsboy cap on the first real spring day this past March and couldn't believe my good luck. Here I was, feeling like a little green shoot poking out of a sleepy flowerbed. I'd just bought a $7 drink made with matcha and almond milk, I'd shed my coat for the first time in months, and was feeling like the day's possibilities were limitless.

When I found myself on the doorstep of a small and refined West Village millinery it seemed fated. I stepped inside, took a look around, and immediately found the newsboy of my dreams. It didn't look costume-y or cheap. It was the first time I'd found one that wasn't studded or made of faux-suede. On the contrary, it was stiff wool and silk-lined, bearing a stamp inside that said "Made in Greece." The shop worker told me it was "the real deal," and I wouldn't find another hat like it unless it'd been on the head of Ringo Starr.

In love but still uncertain I decided to do a bit of crowdsourcing via Snapchat and see what my friends had to say about my potential new accessory. I sent a photo of myself looking a lot like this with a simple "Y / N ?" to my most trusted peers. Every single person responded "N" except for my roommate. Later I found out she thought I was joking. Undeterred and in the throes of a spring fever I forged ahead and bought it anyway. I spent the next hour walking around the city unabashedly feeling myself and feeling my look, running through a catalogue of items in my head that would go with my new purchase.

"Heyyyyy fashionista. The hat is what makes the look. Do you have a minute to talk?"

The future seemed bright until I had a run-in with one of those canvassers trying to raise awareness about bee extinction. In what I assume was a ploy to entice me out of $5 and into a newsletter sign-up, she called out "Heyyyyy fashionista. The hat is what makes the look. Do you have a minute to talk?"

As soon as I heard the word "fashionista" I thought: I've made a grave mistake.

I do not know any grown woman who would refer to herself as a fashionista. It seems like a word dreamed up at a department store's headquarters to try and create a sense of identity around bargain shopping trendy schlock that no one actually wants or needs. After being called a fashionista I was beset by an avalanche of regrets and second guesses, and no, I did not donate to the bees.

A few days later I saw the exact same hat I purchased in the West Village being sold at a Free People in Rockefeller Plaza. And when I say the exact same hat, I mean exact. Same red silk lining, same design on the bill, same stamp of authenticity duplicated across twenty different models. To add insult to injury, Free People was selling it for $20 less than the price I had paid. Needless to say, I felt duped. This was not a beloved item shared between me and young Ringo Starr, but something you could pick up alongside a pair of fringed pleather shorts destined to be worn at an outdoor music festival. I left Free People feeling hurt and confused. Soon after my roommate emailed me a few recent photos of Anne Hathaway, a person known for her notoriously bad taste in hats, shielding herself from the paparazzi in a newsboy of her very own. My roommate's intentions and that of the article showcasing the photos were not kind. Somehow, I found photos of yet another newsboy-wearing celebrity circulating online, this time featuring an uncharacteristically frumpy looking Harry Styles sporting one as the world looked on and begged to see his new haircut instead. You can see what I’m talking about here. Everywhere I turned a case was building against what I’d thought of as a solid investment purchase.

Anna Karina wearing a newsboy in the film Pierrot Le Fou. Photo: Keystone-France/Getty

Cut to the present and here I am with my newsboy, straddling the line between derivative and inspired, concept and gimmick, sloppy and chic. Do I bow to the naysayers? Do I try to sell it to a consignment store for 1/16th of what it cost? Do I concede to spending money recklessly all because it was a nice day outside? I can't return it, in my fit of spring fever I immediately threw out the receipt. I'm left with no choice but to lean into the newsboy. Despite whatever strikes one can level against it I'm still ultimately happy I bought it, for a number of reasons. I find it flattering to my face shape (cherubic). It's more seasonally transitional than a Carhartt. It perfectly compliments winged eyeliner. No matter what anyone in my coterie thinks it's more Jean-Luc Godard than Ashlee Simpson. In less than two months I’ll be starting graduate school and moving from Brooklyn to Manhattan, so if there was ever a time to embrace change and reinvent the self, it’s now.

Deciding to stand behind my newsboy has been a source of empowerment, not to mention the subject of a moving personal essay blasting my haters (the best kind of return investment there ever was, especially if you are paid to write it). Two against the world, my newsboy cap and I turn our faces to the wind, resting assured in the belief that when it comes to dressing yourself, your own opinion should be the only one that matters.


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