Fashion trends often make us laugh — seriously, designers expect us to wear that? — but the latest look is more of a head-scratcher. And, by the way, you may already be wearing the trend.
By now, even the most remote person has heard of “hipsters,” which, as a refresher, is a person, usually in their 20s or early 30s, who makes a point of defying popular culture, such as rejecting tablet computers in favour of typewriters, or donning vintage clothes when “fast fashion” is all the rage. Outside of esthetics, hipsters value independence and uniqueness — which helps to explain why, for example, ordering coffee has become a harrowing process (organic, soy-free, shade-grown, half-calf, anyone?).
There was bound to be a backlash against this individuality, and it’s called Normcore — or, as New York Magazine summarily calls it, “Fashion For Those Who Realize They’re One in 7 Billion.” The slideshow which accompanies the article features people — albeit, all urbane twentysomethings and not mundane suburbanites — wearing things as quotidian as Nike ball caps, plain white running shoes, “freebie” t-shirts, and — horrors! — non-designer jeans and chinos.
Vox.com defines Normcore as a deliberate choice to look average. The same article provides some Normcore style icons, notably Jerry Seinfeld during his sitcom days, in light-wash tapered jeans with baggy button-downs or mock turtlenecks. (I should point out that I look utterly Normcore right now, sporting pajama pants, beat-up sandals and an ancient sweatshirt from my Alma Mater. Was it a deliberate fashion choice? Of course — everything else is in the wash!)
Now, you may be wondering: Is this a joke? Isn’t this all stuff that most of us wear on a regular basis? Trend analysts are trying to make sense of this — how can clothing so normal, so omnipresent, possibly be cool? Is it an inside joke amongst the cool kids, now that everyone’s Dad is shimmying into skinny jeans and you can buy Converse All Stars for the entire family at Sears, that bastion of suburban chic?
It’s interesting that the hallmarks of the early ’90s — Velcro Teva sandals, Adidas track pants, and plaid shirts — are also hallmarks of Normcore. Fashion seems to reminisce in quarter-century cycles; a few years ago, the ’80s were back; and, during my impressionable teen years in the early ’90s, we were wistful for the late 1960s. Nowhere is the adage of “everything that goes around comes around” more true than in the fashion business.
Most of us don’t put much thought into our clothes; pieces fit, or they’re clean, or they suit the occasion at hand. But there is a certain segment of the population for whom dressing is an art form, a supposed sign of individually, or of rebellion (most of us are merely rebelling against the perils of public nudity).
As someone who’s now lived long enough to see the looks of their youth cycle back into style, this Normcore thing is new only by name. It’s simply a revolt against the hyper-aware, hyper-individual hipster look that’s since come to dominate the market; if everyone’s wearing skinny jeans, they’re no longer cool, and it’s time for fashion-forward types to break out the stonewashed, relaxed-fit styles.
I haven’t seen mention of it online yet, but I’m sure that some would like to believe that this Normcore thing is a rejection of the commercialism of fashion, and a return to being practical. Call me jaded, but I’m sure that the cool kids will shell out for fanny packs and sweatpants to maintain the look.
And if you think all this fashion stuff is silly and you don’t follow trends? Thanks to Normcore, at least you’ll look cool… for a while.
Interestingly, Normcore food may have foreshadowed Normcore fashion. How else do you explain the proliferation of classics like hamburgers, Mac’n’cheese and all-day breakfasts on menus?
My sister whipped these up for our Easter meal this past weekend. The recipe comes courtesy of the good people at Kraft — so Normcore! — and is as satisfying as an old sweatshirt.
Easy-Bake Cheddar Biscuits
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
¼ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup cold butter, cubed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp. milk
Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, sugar and salt in medium bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cheddar. Add milk; stir until mixture forms soft dough.
Place on lightly floured surface; knead 8- 10 times or until smooth. Pat dough into six-inch square; cut into nine smaller squares. Place, two inches apart, on baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown.