Buckle up and grab your Connell chain, because there’s a new Sally Rooney book on the horizon. What’s that—got some sun in your eyes? Worry not. There’s a hat for that.
While the best-selling Irish author’s third novel, titled Beautiful World, Where Are You, isn’t out until September 7, the hype has become impossible to ignore. Advanced reading copies (as well as some accompanying promo tote bags) have apparently already sold for hundreds of actual dollars on eBay and Depop. (Books! On Depop! Depop!) The book’s publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux is keeping the fervor up, announcing a giveaway on its social channels earlier this week. The box of promotional swag includes the usual suspects, like a few pencils, and a cotton tote bag. There’s also one mind-bending newcomer: a bright yellow bucket hat embroidered with the book’s title in black. Behold: the Sally Rooney bucket hat.
If you’ve poked around the culture of contemporary popular literature, perhaps you’ve heard about the status galley, and the social allure that comes with toting around an highly anticipated advance copy ahead of its publishing date. (And that’s even when it’s not fetching real American dollars on a resale app. Indeed, even a released Sally Rooney book is an established piece of status merch in itself.) Elsewhere in the crux of covetableness and anticipation, we’ve now arrived at the era of status merch. The marketing team over at FSG is almost certainly aware of the cheekiness on display here—the sheer incongruity (or perfect synergy?) of a Rooney book title emblazoned on the hypebeast headwear of choice, winkingly referring to it on their site as “a very special Sally Rooney bucket hat.” In a wild instance of publishing-world retaliation, Random House (which published Rooney’s two previous novels) tweeted, “We don’t have a tote bag or a bucket hat for you, but we do have the two Sally Rooney books you can read right now.” Sheesh!
The hat’s particular shade recalls the sunshine-yellow, Alex Katz-adorned cover of Rooney’s previous book, Conversations With Friends. You may remember its cover from your Instagram feed circa summer 2019, perhaps photographed against a beach towel alongside a color-coordinated Rockaway nutcracker. (Even Shiv Roy read that damn book on a beach!) The Sally Rooney bucket is also curiously similar in hue to another literati status cap: the Paris Review baseball hat, which I recently clocked on two separate people in the East Village in the span of five minutes. If you’re looking to make an outré statement about your fondness for words on paper, now is your moment.
This isn’t coming out of nowhere. A New York Times article yesterday took on the proliferation of reusable cotton tote bags. As designer Rachel Comey put it, “There’s a trend in New York right now where people are wearing merch: carrying totes from local delis, hardware stores or their favorite steakhouse.” Even Carrie Bradshaw is carrying a WYNC tote. Everyone seems extra down to wear their interests on their sleeves, so to speak, in a curious slurry of sincere interest, a desire for connection, the pervasive cache of recognizable clout. Surely, the Venn diagram of someone who might carry a New Yorker bag and someone who might wear a Sally Rooney bucket hat might look pretty much like a circle. Someone should put that on a T-shirt…