What exactly is “normcore”? Even after reading a plethora of articles on the topic that—seemingly from out of nowhere—proliferated the Internet late last week, I must admit that I’m still not sure myself.
A recent article, written by Fiona Duncan in New York Magazine, credits trend-forecasters K-Hole for branding those with a stylistic preference for clothing that is generic, practical, and decidedly anti-fashion as “normcore.” Think athletic wear from Nike, Adidas, or Reebok, paired with a nondescript polar fleece, your Dad’s weathered old jeans from the 90’s, and a very sensible pair of shoes. According to K-Hole, normcore can be thus defined not just as a trend, but as an ideology that values “embracing sameness deliberately as a new way of being cool, rather than striving for ‘difference’ or ‘authenticity.” This perpetuation of “conformist cool” brings to mind the flock of Queen’s students who, come the winter season, emblazon themselves in Canada Goose jackets, swaddle themselves in sweatpants, and encase their feet in uniform styles of weather-appropriate footwear. Sartorially, normcore fashion might seem a contrived comparison to the aesthetic of a stereotypical Queen’s student, but what these two factions have in common is an amalgamation of style and practicality that drives one’s outfit choices. What could be more inclusive than a trend that caters to the crowd? A parody on the cultural negativity oft-attributed to consumerism and commercialization, the ideas behind normcore present a valid argument supporting those who use fashion to embrace their identity as one of the many.
Normcore is not only trending on the streets—the normcore aesthetic has recently been validated by some of the most major (say it with me: “may-jah”) fashion houses and brands. Moreover, this market-driven validation of what can be categorized as “anti-fashion,” further emphasizes the normcore philosophy of embracing a style to which anyone and everyone can conform. Within the past year, it seems as if the fashion world has experienced a shift towards pieces and silhouettes that are perversely pedestrian. From the fur-covered, Birkenstock-like sandals seen at Celine last spring, to the couture sneakers worn by models at Chanel’s Spring 2014 show (albeit, with a $3000 price tag), it is evident that designers have been inspired by the idea that it is in fact, hip to be square.
Although the notion of fitting in might seem supa-fly to some, to others normcore is better in theory than in practice. My friend Sarah hit the nail on the head when she described normcore fashion as: “athletic apparel that you would’ve worn to Disneyland in 1998.” The deterrent of actually presenting one’s self as normcore is the paradox inherent within the idea of a fashion whose purpose is to look unfashionable. This past reading week, I had my own strange encounter with normcore when I spotted a couple at the airport wearing a matching combination of white athletic socks snuggled into Adidas rubber shower shoes. My eyes practically lurched out of my skull as I motioned to my friend to take a look at the heinous fashion-faux-pas that was taking place in our presence. Through the lens of normcore fashion, this couple’s outfit choice would have been an A+ but from my perspective, they were crossing the line of fashion in the name of practicality. Maybe I’m not “cool” enough to comprehend the normcore aesthetic, or maybe—like some works of contemporary art—normcore is more about the message behind the fashion than the way it is presented to the public. Either way, I think I’ll stick to my own style for now and leave the shower shoes and sweatpants to the normcore pros.
Emma Hoffman, Editor-in-chief
Images: Elle Canada, NY Mag