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What Is Normcore?

Instead of standing out from the crowd, the Normcore fashion trend is all about blending in.


Once upon a time, there were individuals who did not care about fashion trends and would wear anything that was comfy. Individuals who on their day off loved non-cool sneakers and non-trendy skinny jeans. These were individuals who did not care to know what hemline was out and what color was in. These were individuals who took the description of classic clothing (long-lasting, simple, and elegant) and removed the style and elegance from of the definition. These were individuals who unknowingly invented "Normcore."

They wore garments with nothing written on them, objects with no design on them, and this was just fine and an even refreshing trend. At the time, the sensation did not yet boast a name—after all, no name is necessary for something that is not anything.

But then the fashion trend became Normcore.

In fall 2013, a small group of New York creatives referred to as "K-Hole" used the word Normcore to describe the new, unisex fashion trend. It was an anti-fashion tendency much like how Kanye West's Yeezy = Unfashion. Normcore made millennials wear clothes that made them either look like art kids or middle-aged American tourists.

Since then, it has become hard to deduce who is who on all campuses worldwide. Be they a student, lecturer, techie, or director, the uniform of choice has become a hoodie, trainers, jeans, and a baseball cap with a random check shirt thrown in. And that is just the women. If you are one of these individuals, you may not realize it, but you are a part of a widespread tribe. And that tribe is Normcore.

K-Hole’s report (Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom) defines the universal—and entirely practical—fashion crusade that embraces traditional, mostly one-colored items of apparel such as trainers, sweatpants, hoodies, unbranded denim, and bomber jackets. For a better picture of Normcore, think of the late Steve Jobs who opted to dress a daily uniform of trainers, dad jeans, and black polo in order to give himself one less decision to make each day (among other fashion problems you have, solved).

How did they coin the term Normcore?

Initially born as a joke, the term Normcore is an amalgamation of “normal“ and “hardcore.” The idea behind it is sameness rather than standing out in a crowd. Normcore introduces sameness and grants everyone an emancipation in being nothing special. K-Hole took the cliché of millennials obsession with looking special and essentially turned it on its head.

However, being an art group, K-Hole was actually parodying the fashion sector’s dependence on costly trend forecasting news. Their intent was to enlighten fashion aficionados on how trend decisions that affect all of our lives are made and also how our experiences are essentially getting constructed by trend forecasting.

When did the term Normcore become popular?

Even though the term was invented by K-Hole in 2013, it was only dribbling on the internet until New York Magazine wrote an article about it in February 2014. Then, way too fast, it became the new catchphrase. In less than a month, Google search results boasted more than 55,000 results for the term “Normcore.”

Subsequently, Jerry Seinfeld became a fashion icon: The icon of the new fashion style of having no style. Better yet, two months after New York Magazine’s article, Normcore became so much of a thing an explanation was required for it.

That said, even though K-Hole’s invention of the term Normcore did not surface until October 2013, the fashion trend existed long before that. As mentioned before, Normcore—at its most basic level—refers to stylish individuals opting to dress unfashionably, which as you can tell, is hardly a new idea.

We can all agree that the Normcore trend has been in existence since the commercialization of ready-to-wear garments in the early 1920s. Any garment that is not commissioned particularly for a human or made by hand is ready to wear.

Almost right away after the foundation of ready-to-wear garments, it naturally became a trend to wear what everybody else was wearing. Particularly if you were a rich individual and would not like to share clothes with commoners.

In addition to that, this trope of rich individuals dressing below their pay grade appeared a couple of decades ago in several movies such as Disney’s Aladdin and Ever After: A Cinderella Story.

In the early 1990s, the introduction of the grunge fashion trend can be characterized as a Normcore predecessor, popularized by individuals who chose to wear oversized cheap flannels and men’s work boots. In 1990, for instance, supermodel Kate Moss was Photographed sporting Birkenstocks, a very Normcore shoe.

Photo via Wikimedia

While the term Normcore increased in popularity after New York Magazine brought the fashion trend into the spotlight, the street style has been in existence for far longer. Citizens in cities such as Austin and Portland have been wearing cargo shorts for years now. Furthermore, as early as summer of 2013, trendy individuals in New York were wearing fanny packs and nondescript pullovers.

K-Hole defines Normcore as more of a theory rather than an appearance. Normcore is not about giving into or rebelling against the status quo; it is about letting go of the desire to look distinctive, to make room for something new.

As of 2018, the demographic leading the Normcore fashion trend is, by far, digital natives and Western millennials. Stylist editors—such as Garmento’s Jeremy Lewis and Hot and Cool’s Alice Goddard—are children of the 90s and teens of the aughts. The aesthetic return to clothes they would have worn as children reads like a reset switch. It's going back to an era before puberty, long before we learned to distinguish identities through dressing.

Globalization and the age of the internet has challenged individuality as mere myth (we are all one in 7 billion people)—and it has done so while also making connecting with other people easier than ever.

It's not one of the top fashion trends of 2018, but it should be. Or should it?

I don't know, but Urban Dictionary claims:

“The word Normcore has become synonymous with cool in general.”
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What Is Normcore?
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