NORMCORE (WHY YOUR FRIENDS ARE SUDDENLY DRESSING LIKE DADS)

WILLA NIELSEN, '17, Online Culture Editor

If you’re fashionably challenged (like I am) or frequently confused (like I am)  I am here to help (kind of). Recently, I’ve become fascinated by the emerging trend “normcore” and have noticed the look more and more around campus. Seeing as I know very little about it, or fashion trends in general, I decided I was completely qualified to write about it. I began reading some articles and interviews with fashion designers to get a sense of what the fashion industry feels about the turn from high end designer looks to more basic styles. Then, obviously, I Googled it.

If you search Google images for “normcore,” the first result is a photo of the cast of Seinfeld. It is followed by shots from New York Magazine and countless fashion blogs. Then more Seinfeld. The term “normcore” was first coined by the New York trend agency K-Hole, who presented it as a theory, rather than a style. The theory is that our youth is moving away from the colorful, patterned, attention-calling fashion trends of recent years towards a more nondescript and understated style. Rather than experimenting with bold statement pieces, those who have embraced normcore sport plain T-shirts, beanies, baseball hats, and sneakers. Normcore is an anti-statement. Which is, in itself, a statement.

The theory is that by dressing more simply, or casually, people are able to call attention to their “inner coolness,” something I put in quotes because I understand how lame that sounds. But it’s true that by styling yourself in such a simple outfit, you seem to acknowledge the fact that because you’re already cool, hip, and in the know, you don’t have to show it off. Why bother planning an extravagant or bold outfit when you can rely on the fact that your “coolness” comes off in your attitude? This is just one theory about the trend, and there are many others.

The most interesting theory about normcore involves its connection to our changing economy. It takes us away from the expensive clothing made from materials like silk, fur and linen towards minimalist, simple, and frankly, cheap cotton T-shirts. Of course, there are a million ways to dress this look up and buy designer versions, which are more costly, but assuming we all play by the rules and buy our Hanes T-shirts and non-designer brand jeans, we are significantly redirecting our attention from the elitist fashion world to that of the average person.

Whether or not we are aware of this shift in attention, there is something to be said for wanting to look more “normal” or “average.” Many fashion critics believe that by means of normcore, we are holding onto the rapidly disappearing middle class. Some say that normcore exhibits a sense of authenticity since the look is more comfortable and manageable, and leaves few labels or proof of wealth to hide behind. I can’t help but question how authentic it is when most people who dress in normcore buy the designer version of the plain white-T for upwards of $60. Is our sense of authenticity and our connection to the middle class flawed because of our willingness, or even desire, to spend money on fashionable clothing, especially when the trend we are trying to portray is hinged on the premise of dressing down?

I don’t mean to sound condescending or snarky, and I don’t mean to push this article is any one direction because the thing is, I kind of love normcore. Not only because it’s incredibly easy and hassle-free, and not only because it’s soooo comfortable to wear sneakers, jeans, and a T-shirt and be called “hip,” but because there’s something about it that feels real. This trend brings with it a sense of connection to those around you. It’s a trend that aims to fit in rather than stand out. Many articles I’ve read compare it to the growth of social media and our desire to connect the dots that earlier generations have spent so long spreading out. Whereas most clothing usually represents a means of standing out and distinguishing yourself from the crowd, the normcore looks seem to pull us all in a little closer. It calls attention to the wearer not as a fashion icon or trendsetter, but as a cool, fashionable, and most importantly, approachable person. There’s something that feels almost unifying in the fact that suddenly everyone wants to dress like everyone else. I like the idea that, as most articles about the subject will point out, this trend reflects our generation's desire to fit in with each other and connect the dots.  This could also be wild speculation. Either way, go out and enjoy normcore.


Things I learned while writing this:

-Do not call people normcore if they don’t know they’re normcore.

-Fashion is a reaction to our current state as a nation (who knew?)

-People don’t want to hear you talk about normcore all the time