Why I'll Never Stop Wanting to Be Joey Potter
Remember the 1998 J.Crew fall catalogue featuring the cast of Dawson’s Creek? If you don’t, click here for pictures of Dawson, Joey and the gang shot on a gorgeous east coast day and clad in the label’s signature khaki, knitwear and cotton (you’re welcome). It’s a match made in preppy nineties heaven.
All of the sun-soaked, rosy-cheeked images are truly perfect, but there’s one I seem to turn to again and again. It features Katie Holmes (aka Joey Potter) being hoisted in the air by Joshua Jackson (aka Pacey Whitter, aka every nineties girl’s forever crush). Hair pulled back in a low pony, she’s clutching a football, smiling and wearing a massive sweater in heathered mocha.
Joey’s really fricking adorable, but it’s the sweater—J.Crew’s classic unisex rollneck—that makes the snapshot so insanely memorable. The knit is oversized, with a cut that’s slouchy yet structured. Extra-wide sleeves bell at the elbows and extend well past the wrists. And the piece’s signature detail, a narrowly rolled mock turtleneck, feels both throwback and modern.
Upon its introduction in the early nineties, the sweater became something of a phenomenon, and an instant cornerstone of J.Crew’s offerings. Available for men and women, the style was made in lambs wool and cotton, and came in colors and prints ranging from blush pink to oatmeal to navy-and-red striped. There was truly a rollneck for everyone. And everyone—or really, any New England liberal arts co-ed worth their salt—had one.
And then, somewhere along the line, the rollneck went the way of the discman, Tamagotchis, and asking your hairdresser for “The Rachel.” In 2003, Jenna Lyons was appointed J.Crew’s vice president of women’s design, ushering in the era of neon colors, tomboy tailoring, and fresh collaborations with brands like Comme des Garçons and New Balance. Catalogs—one of the company’s signature marketing tools—showcased all-American looking models styled in slightly undone layers, thick-framed glasses and slicks of poppy-red lipstick. I loved this quirky-cool new vibe—and totally attempted to pull off denim-on-denim with a flash of hot pink something. But I still held out for my beloved rollneck.
And, finally, there it was. It came back. As part of their spring 2018 campaign, J.Crew reissued a number of archived styles. Among greatest hits like the 1984 rugby striped shirt and 2007 toggle coat was the rollneck—in pink, navy, and mustard. There were even striped and cashmere iterations. As the site explains, “friends and customers have been asking us to bring back a few iconic styles from years past—and since we love a good throwback, we did.” The current cut is slimmer and more structured. It’s good—and not without some high-profile fans—but not as deliciously mushy as my beloved original, which I gave away at some point (was I drunk?).
To fill the void, I recently found and purchased a true vintage one on eBay. It’s heavy wool in dark charcoal flecked with white, and magnificently humungous. I loved that sweater then, and I love it now. I wear it with jeans and trousers, sometimes playing up the bulkiness with wide-leg culottes, sometimes balancing it out with slim denim. Because the silhouette is timeless and oddly flattering (I blame the elegant curled neck and extra-long sleeves), it always, without fail, elicits compliments.
But the very best part? Every time I put it on I feel like Joey Potter. And seriously, what can beat that?