When I was a freshman in college at this uppity liberal arts school in Manhattan, two kids in my dorm dressed as NYC tourists for Halloween. They wore jorts and mom jeans with $2 I Heart NY tees, mock turtlenecks, and baseball caps. Added to the mix were the obligatory athletic shoes, probably New Balance or something, and even a fanny pack made an appearance.
This is normcore. And it’s not just for Middle-American tourists anymore.
You know those people who like to do things ironically? The kind of people who call your bluff? These are the people who adhere to the tenants of normcore, the people who take the whole “being unique” thing and call bullshit–dressing, as NY Mag put it, as if they “realize they’re one in 7 billion.”
But before you start blaming American Apparel and mom jeans, you should know the true extent of normcore is currently more far-reaching than you probably suspect. And by far-reaching, I mean high-reaching. President Obama has been called President Normcore due to his recent visit to a Gap store and his penchant for dad jeans. High fashion brands like Opening Ceremony have been featuring varsity jackets and baseball caps for a while now; Marc Jacobs included Pantagonia-inspired sweaters and jackets in last year’s Fall collection; Chanel chose to hold its Fall/Winter 2014 show at Paris Fashion Week in a supermarket, complete with models carrying shopping baskets; and fashion bloggers and fashionistas all over Instagram have taken to posting pics of Nikes and New Balances, usually mixed with higher-end pieces a la a Louis Vuitton sweater with a pair of Adidas sneakers. Indeed, when head-to-normcore cannot/will not be achieved, throwing in bits and pieces like a baseball cap or running shoes is a popular way to go.
On the other hand, not everyone in the fashion world is totally on board with a look identical to 1982 outdoorsmen and tourists. GQ, the style bible for gentlemen, recently posted an article featuring normcore essentials “every man should have*”–the asterisk denoting the article was “in jest,” and no man actually needs such things (and probably shouldn’t own them at all).
But what normcore really is–what the ideology behind it reflects–is the long-running trend of “uncool” being cool. K-HOLE, the trend forecasting collective that coined the term, claims normcore is a “theory” instead of a look, and is about people trying to connect with others and find commonality in the age of the Internet. The look–ahem, theory–is distinctly ’90s (Jerry Seinfeld is the trend’s ubiquitous poster boy), arguably the last decade before the digital age took over. Young people are essentially throwing it back to a time before interpersonal connection took place over a digital screen. Instead of setting themselves apart, they’re trying to identify with others.
Of course, some people just think it’s lazy fashion. Polar fleece, Birkenstocks, and university sweatshirts–or, as most Midwestern college kids know it, what you wear to 8 am bio class. Or any class.
Already in the past two days I’ve seen three tweets from NY friends along the lines of “Are you a cute boy or are you a soccer mom?” and “Are you a cute boy who is fashion-forward by trying not to look fashion-forward or are you a clueless Minnesotan tourist?? UGH.” Clearly, the struggle is real.
Below are some trendy pieces that have snuck up on us in the past year, permeating the retail and runway scenes undetected at first–blending in, as normcore would.
Mom (and Dad) Jeans
Socks (with sandals, with sneakers, with everything)