Two Cent Thoughts: Normcore

If you have been hanging out on the interwebs recently, you may have heard the phrase “normcore”. It’s a phrase used to describe the recent trend of anonymous clothing or even anti-fashion, and The Cut has a great piece about this trend. 

Of course, there are people who are upset at fashion becoming so incredibly plain. Leandra from The Man Repeller wrote about how bored and frustrated she is with dressing as a pared down version of herself. You know what? If you want to let your fashion freak flag fly, all the more power to you. I appreciate the Leandras of the world reminding me that fashion should be fun. Yet, at the end of the day, if you’re not interested in aesthetics at all, you never will be, and there’s no changing that (ahem, penguin pajama girl in my 8am class). Sweatpants and Tevas becoming fashionable is not going to sway that group one way or another. If you are interested in how you present yourself to the world, this is a great time for practical luxury. I agree with Sophie of Les Anti-Modernes that all a woman wants is to look pulled together and chic in clothes that are practical and comfortable. The renewed interest in comfortable chic is definitely the upside of the normcore trend.

While the result has been interesting to observe, as usual I am much more interested in the cause. I think (and please, chime in with your own opinions!) that this idea of blank clothing is a reaction to our society right now. Fashion does not exist in a vacuum, it has always been either a reaction against or a prediction of cultural events. I feel as though there’s a sort of ubiquitous, low-grade paranoia and anxiety in our culture right now. Politically, socially, and even in technology things feel like they have been so out of control, I think people are starting to bunker down and try to protect themselves.

It’s not just in fashion of course. We’re protecting ourselves by focusing on our finances with a renewed interest in financial literacy and safeguarding our assets, embracing minimalism and a leaner and meaner lifestyle than we have in the past, escaping with media that seems to be focused on super-heroes swooping in to save the day, and yes, by deeming fashion out of style and donning anonymous clothing in order to find safety by blending in.

So is my interest in “practical luxury” a result of this social climate or my own personal style? Possibly a little bit of both… or maybe neither. All I know is that I’m glad that retailers are starting to cater to it. I like my anonymous clothing because while aesthetics are important to me (and I do find fashion interesting and enjoyable), I want clothes that support my lifestyle. I need them to be practical and reliable, because I have more pressing concerns day to day than fussing over my outfit. I need them to be quiet, because I want to be remembered for my contributions and accomplishments, not my wardrobe. I also need them to be comfortable and comforting, because life can get crazy and sometimes I need that psychological armor and cocoon that clothing can provide.

What do you think about the normcore trend? Are you against it, or for it, and more importantly where do you think it is coming from?

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6 Responses to Two Cent Thoughts: Normcore

  1. Kali says:

    That’s a very interesting trend, I’d heard the term “normcore” before but didn’t know what it was. After reading the article from the Cut and your post, it made me think about different aspects of it.

    The “non brand” aspect – the idea that it is a brand-less, plain style. Could this be a reaction to high end brand who capitalize (too much?) on their image and offer items too expensive for their actual quality? The price/quality discrepancy is getting higher and higher every year, maybe more people are starting to think they are being fooled by these brands, and go for a much plainer look – opposite of the statement looks from recognizable high end brand. A reaction against these big brands taking their consumers for idiots or something. Although, there seem to be “Normcore” brands too, like Nike new balance or Birkenstock, so I’m not sure of this one.

    The “minimalist” aspect – When you see minimalist blogs, it’s all about giving up big houses, nice cars, big TVs and otherwise “bling” items to focus on smaller, more minimal living spaces and objects to redirect our energy toward more meaningful pursuits. What if normcore was the fashion version of paring down? Giving up high end brands and sophisticated looks just like you abandon big houses and fancy cars, to focus energy, attention and money toward something else? And maybe, a statement saying “hey, look how plain my clothes are, I’m not wasting time and money in fashion” or something.

    The reaction to consumerism aspect – this is a bit of the two above too, but maybe dressing in opposition to current trends dictated by the big fashion shots is a way to show that normcore people don’t adhere anymore to the classic definition of “success”. It links to the part about not wanting to show one’s identity though clothes. Maybe it’s a way tyo say “I don’t need clothes to be who I am. I don’t need marketing to tell me what to buy and how objects define me. Objects, and my style, don’t define me.”

    Maybe I’m overthinking this, but that’s how I see it, especially seeing the average profile of normcore people – millenials from the later generations, those who have seen more of the crisis than the golden age of consumption. Those who have seen their student loans explode and job perspectives dwindle. Maybe it’s one of the expressions of a much bigger social tendency – maybe people are getting more skeptical about the consumerist dream.

    That’s just hot feedback though, I may have more/different ideas popping up once I give it more thought.

    • Erin says:

      I always tend to over-think everything as well :) I like these ideas as well, and maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s less about fear and more about rejecting consumerism. Either way I’m interested to watch and see how it develops.

  2. liesbeth says:

    I’d never heard of the term ‘normcore’ but I have definitely seen people with this look before. I always love reading ‘sociological’ interpretations of fashion phenomenons – my local Elle magazine did an editorial on the new casual last fall that I really enjoyed.
    I think you make some good points here. In my opinion, this trend (normcore but also the larger trend of comfortable / casual fashion) has to to with the financial crises and people becoming wary of established brands and institutions. But also with the general shift in society of individualism to connectivity. Connecting with people calls for authenticity, which I feel people nowadays associate more with a certain blandness and practicality than with extravagant self-expression. I don’t think one is better than the other and people need to find their own path towards authenticity though!

    • Erin says:

      Such great points also! And I’m glad you enjoyed it, I always like reading more thoughtful posts about fashion as well. There’s only so many times you can say “I like this because it’s pretty!” right? :) Also I do believe that facets of fashion can be very interesting and intellectual.

  3. miss sophie says:

    hi erin – catching up on my blog reading and wanted to thank you for this post :) so interesting to see the interplay of social and cultural forces at work in how we choose to present ourselves…

    • Erin says:

      Thank you for being one of the inspirations for this post! That’s my favorite part of fashion to be honest, dissecting it and see the social and cultural influences.

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