How NOT To Be A Basic Newport Tourist: Attire

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Your Newport memorabilia gets judged wherever in the world you may be.

In an effort to try adulting, I made the decision to leave Newport last fall and move back to suburban Connecticut. I am now a part of the growing statistic of young adults moving back home to save and trying to build a real life offset by student loans—but this doesn’t stop me from visiting Newport often and passing the occasional judgment on Newport tourists.

One day in suburban Connecticut, I was casually blogging and sipping my mint mocha at a local coffee shop in town when a man walked in and joined the beeline of well-dressed housewives at the register.

As the man placed his order, his posture denoted an absolute, self-possessed confidence—he wore madras shorts (a combination of canary yellow, robin’s egg blue, and wild caught Alaskan salmon), a well-worn leather belt (note the impressive brass anchor closure)…

And a graphic T-shirt with “NEWPORT” emblazoned on the front.

Let’s face the facts.

The town where this coffee shop is located is less than an hour away from New York City. Authors have written about this area. A lot. This town and the neighboring towns around it are the reasons why some people have this preconceived notion that everyone from Connecticut lives their life like a Ralph Lauren catalogue.

Based on the area’s demographics and psychographics, chances are that almost everyone in line at this coffee shop represents a solid constituency of Newport’s tourist population.

To put it simply, The Man in the Newport Shirt was probably definitely loaded.

He probably had a wonderful vacation in Newport sitting in one of the white Adirondack chairs at The Lawn at Castle Hill Inn, watching yachts sail by; dining at The Mooring with his family and dancing unabashedly at The Boom Boom Room with his wife and other loaded tourists trying to escape their everyday lives…

And after all of that, he was compelled to buy a shirt from one of the kitschy souvenir shops.

basic newport tourist

When I initially started writing about The Man in the Newport Shirt, I wanted to knock this man for his “basic” choice. I wanted to say “People can do what they want with their money, but a cheap T-shirt as a souvenir? Really? Wouldn’t you rather buy some real clothing from a few local shops and pick up a few bottles of local wine and beer instead?”

It wasn’t until I thought about it more that this choice was far from basic.

The allure of the Newport tourist’s graphic T-shirt is that people actually want to show off in this casually pretentious air. Because why waste your breath and tell people about your fabulous vacation in Newport or the Vineyard or wherever when you can just wear a shirt that says it all instead?

It’s even more interesting when every family member gets a T-shirt or sweatshirt or [insert article of paraphernalia here]—intentionally or not, it’s a way for parents to say “Yes, we can afford a great family vacation. Can you?”

On a parallel basis, it’s this level of pretentiousness and privilege that drove the success of clothing brands like Abercrombie & Fitch through the early 2000s… We all know how that turned out.

If you’re a local and you see someone wearing a “Newport” T-shirt, you’re not judging them because of their boring fashion choice. You’re judging them because they’re coming off as pretentious people who think they know your city.

The truth is, unless you have lived in Newport, people like The Man in the Newport Shirt don’t know anything about the crazy and beautiful insanity of this Aquidneck Island community.

So keep on keeping on, Newport.

And if you and your tourist friends are going to buy graphic T shirts anyway, at least choose something only the locals would wear.