Normcore: Less Is More
Caitlin Doyle | Monday, April 14, 2014
When New York Magazine published the article “Normcore: For Those Who Realize They’re One in 7 Billion” this past February, it unleashed a whirlwind of controversy and debate within the fashion world. “Normcore,” as the fashion trend was dubbed, is characterized by its adoption of severely normal fashion — to the extent that it almost can’t be called “fashion” in the traditional sense anymore. New York Magazine describes it best as “stylized blandness.” Named for the character Norm from “Cheers,” the look focuses on unexceptional clothing choices that, honestly, look like something a dad from a 90s sitcom would wear. Birkenstock sandals, grey sweatshirts, white New Balance sneakers and light-wash Levi’s dad-jeans all bring to mind the image of Jerry Seinfeld or Chessy from “The Parent Trap.” The sitcom-dad trope of the late 90s has turned fashion icon; Bob Saget’s sartorial style is finally covetable and cutting edge.
This isn’t the first time that NY Mag has been ahead of the curve when it comes to fashion and lifestyle trends. In 2010, they published an article about the death of the “hipster” as a sociocultural trend. In the article “What Was the Hipster?”, NY Mag asserted the “hipster” ideal had been “over” for years, while the rest of the world thought it was still very “in.” Since it has been almost four years since the NY Mag obituary featured a PBR can on display in a museum, the trendy and forward-thinking youth culture hasn’t had something this intriguing to glom onto and make its own.
On its surface, Normcore seems like the obvious choice to inherit the void left in the fashion and lifestyle world by Hipster-dom’s demise. Both are broader ideological concepts that manifest themselves most obviously as fashion choices. While hipster-culture embraced counterculture to the extreme and clothed itself in the outrageous, Normcore does the exact opposite by embracing our non-individuality and dressing in the most unobtrusive, unremarkable way possible. Hipster style was full of irony, but Normcore doesn’t take itself that seriously.
The fashion world has been showing signs of moving toward a Normcore-inspired aesthetic for the past few seasons, before the term Normcore was ever thought up. In 2012, Birkenstocks re-emerged on the runways as part of Celine and Giambattista Valli’s spring collections, and that year’s fall runways were awash with graphic sweatshirts straight out of an episode of “Boy Meets World.” In 2012, the style mavens tended to pair these overtly-normal, drab items with very high-end, fashion-forward pieces, with the mix of high-end and low-end providing an interesting contrast. Now, this type of outfit is being eschewed for a completely Normcore look. Instead of Birkenstocks peaking out from under a Stella McCartney dress, Birkenstocks are being worn with a graphic sweatshirt and high-waisted, stonewashed denim jeans.
And in a way, the idea behind Normcore is incredibly liberating. By embracing conformity when it comes to your clothes, you’re saying that you’re interesting and important without displaying that on your person. You don’t need to dress individualistically to be a fully-formed, interesting and valuable individual. In the face of fashion trends that have embraced individuality over the past decade — take Marc Jacobs’s skirts or Miroslava Duma’s fashion week ensembles, for example — embracing the unremarkable is somehow the most daring fashion trend of all. Normcore is about putting yourself out there without the mask of fashion as a defining characteristic of you as a person, and in that way, it is much more than just a fashion trend — it’s a lifestyle ideology that we should all embrace.