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Hardcore normcore hits the core of the fashion problem

When I think of fashion, my mind snaps to some of the high-gloss get-ups I’ve seen on the covers of popular magazines: dresses made entirely of feathers and pant-shirt combos coloured with fluorescent highlighter dye. But no more!

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By Katie Stobbart (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: June 4, 2014

Image: Fabio Neves/Flickr

This bold fashionista daringly pairs a sweatshirt with jeans.

When I think of fashion, my mind snaps to some of the high-gloss get-ups I’ve seen on the covers of popular magazines: dresses made entirely of feathers and pant-shirt combos coloured with fluorescent highlighter dye. But no more!

Normcore is the new fashion. Normcore says T-shirts. Normcore says maroon button-ups. Normcore says plain running shoes, warm hoodies with block-letter logos, baseball caps, and — yes — fanny packs. I can’t wait to see this on the cover of Fashion or Vogue while I’m unloading cans of soup onto the belt at the grocery store.

Unfortunately, this creates a slough of problems for the fashion-forward. What exactly is normal? Are Nikes normal? What about socks with sandals? Is normal the thing we’ve been suppressing while we attempt to convey our amazing uniqueness via our individual fashion choices, or is it nothing more or less than what everyone else is wearing?

Furthermore, it is an impossible undertaking to tell if normcore has actually taken root. I’m sure there’s a kind of sexy, mysterious appeal to not knowing whether someone is following a fashion trend or dressing like they would on any normal day. But how will other people know I am normcore?

Stop. Before the fashion world starts setting up montages of people posing sexily with sweaters tied around their waists (a trend I’ve always been on the fence about — so convenient, but often aesthetically awkward), we should remind ourselves what fashion is — or should be.

There is some controversy as to whether normcore is a legitimate fashion trend — it was not originally supposed to be one. 

While some fashion-watchers have noticed “normal” wear is becoming more and more common (how they measure this I have no idea), the original usage of the term normcore is a broader social one, and comes from a group of New York brand consultants called K-Hole. Since then, however, it has been reported on by a number of fashion magazines and apparently picked up by a few celebrities, and from there… you know how these things go.

The way normcore has been twisted into a trend reminds me of Covergirl’s Capitol collection. There’s a look for each district from The Hunger Games, so you can look just like tributes that have been made over for their appearance in the Capitol (you know, right before two dozen teenagers kill each other for the amusement of well-dressed onlookers in the urban metropolis of Panem).

The irony here is the fashion industry twisting a negative association of shallow fashion and horrific violence into a competition to see how feminine and superficial it can make coal-mining and agriculture. But let’s not go too far into that can of worms.

Normcore is not a fashion trend — or at least, it didn’t start out that way — but an abdication of haute couture, of high fashion, of designer blouses, and of those strategically-placed sequins loosely fitting the definition of “dress.” It’s ditching Covergirl’s blue lipstick (District Four) and stylized burlap or birchbark hair-pieces (Districts Nine and Seven respectively) in favour of simplicity and comfort.

Yet it looks like normcore may have become the newest fashion trend: anti-fashion becomes fashion. The fickle fashion tidal wave may bring sweatpants to the runway, but it’s only a matter of time before they wash up with metal studs, lace, or floral print.

Perhaps the only way to emerge victorious is to wear what you like, and avoid adopting fashion-friendly buzzwords (from either extreme) entirely.

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