It was 2007, and the only website more notorious than the Gawker Prequel was every single British newspaper with a web presence. For each picture Us Weekly published of Britney Spears’s hair extension tracks, the Daily Mail was publishing a thousand word minute-by-minute recap of a bloodied Amy Winehouse’s “row” with her husband at a London hotel, for example, or the Daily Star was making bold, un-fact checked assertions about The Libertines and Babyshambles frontman Pete Doherty’s two hats.
Fourteen years later, there are only a few versions remaining online of the photo where Pete Doherty checks into rehab for a heroin addiction wearing two hats, the least pixelated and most head-on of which is on Metro’s website. In the photo, a smoking hot and chain-smoking Doherty wears at least three necklaces, one of which is chainmail-inspired, a sportcoat with an exaggerated winged lapel, and yes, two narrow-brimmed fedoras in slightly discordant shades of brown.
Though its own version of the photo has now been wiped off the website, the Daily Star’s original synopsis of the look remains:
Wearing his trademark two trilbies and dressed all in black, Doherty checked in with an A3 art folder and a guitar.
The Daily Star says some other deeply hurtful stuff too about a man who famously struggled with addiction in the public eye — I won’t link to the article directly, but it has to do with Kate Moss and ten cats. I’m not sure tabloids are nicer now than they were in 2007, but still, they likely would have couched this invasive, condescending style of reporting in some insincere, earnest-seeming language wishing Doherty a speedy recovery. It’s all disgusting. But the thing that still takes my breath away, all these years later, is that Pete Doherty’s trademark was not and has never been wearing two trilbies at once.
At the time, NME commented on this audacious statement by the Daily Star, offering an easy explanation:
The Babyshambles singer is pictured wearing two hats at once – his ‘trademark two trilbies’ suggests one paper,” NME wrote, “Although as Doherty rarely wears two pieces of headwear they might well be confusing him for one-off ‘Mighty Boosh’ character – Johnny Two Hats – as he enters a detox clinic in Harrogate, Yorkshire.
I didn’t, and still don’t know what any of that means, as in 2007 I was a high schooler of indeterminate but far-away British-ish origin in suburban Chicagoland eating a 9 p.m. burrito bowl and scrolling the tabloids after wrapping high school newspaper production. I had enough time to read about cool guys who were hot, but not enough to care about what the Mighty Boosh might be. I just Googled it; it’s a sketch about a “rocker” guy in the vein of Pete Doherty telling his bandmate, the guy from Bake Off, that he wears two hats. This must be that dry British humor I’m always hearing about.
But even I was savvy enough to know that Pete Doherty, known hat raconteur, had never worn two hats at once before this. I was furious. The frequency with which the British tabloids wrote about these troubled musicians was puzzling and thrilling for me, but I often noticed lazy editing and lack of contextualizing. To me, Pete Doherty was alt, and he contained an ancient melancholy. Online, he was an addict who somehow bagged famous women. The only thing I could compare it to on this side of the pond were those photos of Conor Oberst and Winona Ryder kissing in a Holiday Inn parking lot in 2003, wherein he was simply called her “latest conquest.”
The attention lavished on Doherty’s two hats excited me, but the Daily Sun’s laziness irked me. And that’s the day I decided to become a blogger. And maybe that’s the day Pete Doherty decided to become a hotelier. He is alive, kicking, and running a seaside inn called The Albion Rooms in Margate alongside his Libertines bandmates.