Why it’s kinda great that we’re all dressing like Jerry Seinfeld…
I realise normcore is probably, what? So 2014. Nevertheless I’m going to divulge some thoughts on it anyway since you’ll probably forgive me at some point for bringing it up again. I was reading an I-D article alluding to Cindy Sherman from a while back and came across something mentioned about her views regarding fashion that stood out to me; it was on Sherman’s reluctance to the way that fashion can shape our sense of self (the plethora of selves she takes on in her own art seems a fairly poignant example of this). Aside from the industries’ own movement towards a more laid-back, non-branded approach, it’s a movement that has leaked it’s way into mainstream style too. I’ve seen it in the way people dress at university: a casual avoidance of the ostentatious.
We spend so much time wondering whether personal style is an expression of our selves, or whether it is the selves we want to be- perhaps normcore is our way of explicitly trying to navigate away from the idea that our persona’s are so intrinsically linked to how we dress ourselves at 5:30am when it’s probably dark outside and life seems a bit shit because you even have to be awake at 5:30.
While I’m all for not having judgements made about my self based on decisions made pre-caffeine on a Monday morning; it would probably lead to the assumption that I’m edgy because my socks don’t match when, in reality, I just couldn’t find two matching socks. Regardless, it’s an interesting notion for reasons beyond my own inability to match make undergarments accordingly. In the same way that Sherman both embraces and scolds fashions’ ability to affect our sense of selves, making us feel more confident or more obscene or cooler, normcore seems to be rejecting the association of the labels and brands we wear to our persona’s. There’s something humble in celebrating the idea that we aren’t what we wear: that we could emulate our father in the late nineties and it be acceptable and not related to our character. Just because I wear a polo shirt doesn’t mean I also watched Seinfeld and played little league. Clothes have the opportunity to be a blank canvas that requires no elaboration. That being said, rendering such an artistic industry distinct from the choices we make regarding it’s key medium (clothes) will hinder our ability to express who we want to be, or who we are, or what we like. Maybe that’s too much of a key aspect of fashion to aspire to lose, maybe that’s where its’ power lies.
Going even further, the unisex aspect of normcore is yet another way of separating fashion and styling from society; the branding of gender. It is, almost, entirely brand neutral. The entire grounding of normcore seems to aspire to be a complete lack of expression. When tied to gender, that’s fairly monumental. It’s one thing for women to embody a stereotypically masculine style via the use of tailoring and tradition male attire but an entirely new accomplishment when an entire trend is unisex. No appropriation (not a necessarily negative term in this instance) of another gender’s sartorial stereotypes but the simple act of wearing clothes, regardless of gender and character and person.
Just. Wearing. Clothes. Why isn’t the simple beauty of that appreciated?
While we might like to invest a lot of our personality in our clothing choices, or we might not, the fact that there is neutral ground at all seems to be worth discussion. When in the past has clothing not been used to allude to something beyond the clothing? If we’re losing the desire to self-express through our wavey or preppy or masculine or feminine garms (to coin a Bristol phrase) what does this mean for brands who themselves try to emulate and project a certain aesthetic and personality? Maybe people are bored of buying into a persona.
Runway collections displaying plain polo shirts, cropped pants and button up shirts; plain, simple and generic. Steps like these seem to be a blunt reaction to the mass media frenzy regarding branding (see: Moschino by Jeremy Scott, Chanel everything). It takes fashion back to a base level whereby label is almost irrelevant, both by making the biggest of statements by denouncing materialism in branding and the subtlest of victories by celebrating the norm.
It is not showy: it is the statement that I am not what I wear. Normcore borders the line between lazy and refreshing. I hope it is representative of a generation who are not concerned with labelling, but something further. Maybe normcore is old news, but are the motives that started the trend gone?
I think one of the most potentially powerful things about it is how it has trickled down to the masses; the definition of ‘cool’ has shifted from a focus on labels to a focus on simplicity. While you might argue that buying £200 Isabel Marant Stan Smith lookalikes seems counter productive to the idea of rejecting labels and materialism, the very fact that people want to dress in a way that is not ostensibly expensive seems like a step in the right direction.
Perhaps this is the start of something new; perhaps this is really just another trend
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