Bottom line: easy, menswear-influenced style is always cool. Inspired by classic muses, we asked for expert advice from writer Lizzie Garrett Mettler, the founder of Tomboy Style whose eponymous blog and book chronicle women who blur gender lines by mixing rugged sensibility with understated elegance.
We challenged Lizzie with a daunting task: to share her own top five tomboy style icons. As she explains, her picks pull from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, and all "relate to each other in some way [with] a style that is boyish, unfussy, and seamlessly balances masculinity with femininity. Most importantly, what I love about these tomboy icons is they never look like they’re in costume or trying to make a statement; they just always looks completely themselves."
1. Tina Weymouth
During her tenure as the bass player for The Talking Heads, Tina Weymouth was subtly androgynous. Her paired-down punk wardrobe of tight t-shirts tucked into high-waisted jeans, a New Wave hair cut, and that Fender Precision bass guitar over her shoulder just made her oozed cool.
2. Jane Birkin
Jane Birkin embodies the French tomboy look, the je ne sais quoi that most tomboys’ style seems to envelop. Her hair was always tousled and her style always minimal, yet somehow with little adornment and effort, Birkin always looks the height of chic. The fact that one of the most coveted ‘it” bags (the Hermes Birkin bag) is named after her and she casually adorns hers with stickers and worry beads and wears them out until no longer usable, is another example of why she’s the ultimate tomboy.
3. Ali MacGraw
Ali MacGraw has that girl next door look that makes her super relatable and so incredibly classic that her look will never be irrelevant. On screen she was known for playing tomboys like the sporty tennis racket-wielding Brenda Patimkin in Goodbye Columbus, the tough-as-nails Jennifer Cavallari in Love Story, and bank robbing Carol McCoy opposite of Steve McQueen in The Getaway; off screen her tomboy style and spirit are just as present.
4. Jean Seberg
What the late actress Jean Seberg did for the striped boatneck shirt and short hair may never be fully credited. Seberg was originally from Iowa, but embraced French style in a way that charmed everyone, even the hard-to-impress Parisians. Her gaze may have won the hearts of her lovers, but those outfits won over tomboys the world over.
5. Patti Smith
Patti Smith’s style is both authentic and incredibly purposeful. Everything she wears is always just so, from the bandana tied around her wrist to the pins on her lapel. She has noted that she even made early choices as a child about what cloth she preferred (flannel and not polyester). Even though Patti Smith looks like the type that couldn’t care less about fashion, she read French Vogue and would shop on Fifth Avenue. Once she bought a green silk coat from Henri Bendel and then immediately threw it in the washing machine to complete the look. She knows how to make things her own.
Book images originally published with permission and © Tomboy Style: Beyond the Boundaries of Fashion by Lizzie Garrett Mettler, 2012. Top image of Patti Smith performing at Cornell University, 1978. Licensed under Creative Commons.