What do mock turtlenecks with Tevas and Patagonia windbreakers, Uniqlo Khakis with New Balance sneakers or Crocs, souvenir baseball caps, sweatpants, fleece, and boxy jeans have in common? They’re all elements of the newest fashion, or anti-fashion trend, “normcore”. If you’ve ever felt out of step, or left behind, in the fashion world, this may be the trend for you. It’s 2014 fashion’s biggest buzzword. New York City based youth trend forecasting agency K-Hole called said “Normcore moves away from a coolness to a post-authenticity coolness that opts in to sameness. But instead of appropriating an anesthetized version of the mainstream, it just cops to the situation at hand. To be truly normcore you need to understand that there’s no such thing as normal.”
Some have referred to it as “stylized blandness”, a way of deliberately embracing sameness to be cool, rather than trying to be different, “mall clothes/chic.” Think Steve Jobs and his perpetual black turtlenecks, jeans and sneakers. The normcore aesthetic has its roots in the 1990’s but fast forward to the 21st century, normcore wearers are returning to styles they would have worn as kids,but didn’t because they were trying to establish an identity through fashion. To be unfashionable is now fashionable. Normcore fashion blends into the crowd with no trace of distinctiveness. ” It’s about dressing as inconspicuous as possible” is the way GQ describes it.
Lauren Sherman, editor at large of Fashionista, says “Normcore is the ‘Seinfeld’ of fashion – it’s about nothing. People are wearing mom jeans and dad jeans and fleeces and sweatshirts, all items that ‘uncool’ people have worn for years. The idea is to take the uncool and make it cool.” Vogue even named Kate Middleton as “The Duchess of Normcore” for her basic, no-flare sense of style.
The New York Times in an April 2, 2014 article posed the question as to whether normcore was a true fashion movement or just a massive inside joke. The article put forth three definitions of the normcore movement: 1. “a fashion movement, c. 2014, in which scruffy young urbanites swear off the tired street-style cliches of the last decade in favor of a less-ironic embrace of bland, suburban anti-fashion attire”; 2. a sociocultural concept, c. 2013, having nothing to do with fashion, that concerns hipster types learning to get over themselves, sometimes even enough to enjoy mainstream pleasures like football along with the rest of the crowd”; 3. an Internet meme that turned into a massive in-joke that the news media keeps falling for.” Either way, normcore has taken on a life of its own.
Normcore is popping up as one of the most googled terms in June 2014. From June 4 to June 18, the number of times normcore was googled doubled from 750,000 to roughly 1.5 million.
Whether normcore is a true anti-fashion statement or an Internet joke, whether it is ahead of the fashion curve, or behind it remains to be seen. Either way, like all fashion and social phenomena it will eventually be passe.