Normcore: cultural dissociation

Photo credit: Urban Outfitters

With the arrival of the latest buzzword “normcore,” comes both an air of excitement and suspicion. For some, it will signal the end of a trend-obsessed world, where fashion and culture have become increasingly homogenised. It will signal the start of an anti-trend, where everything we once deemed as norm, is brought into question, and all our cultural associations are thrown out the window. For others, it will be just another crazed fad seeping up from the underground into the mainstream, soon to be latched onto by hoards of fashionistas with an extra degree of irony. But if this new phenomenon provides any shakeup from the stranglehold that hipster culture has had over us during the past few years, then we’ll welcome it with open arms.

Regardless of whether you regard ‘normcore’ to be a coherent trend or not, it does nevertheless hold an intriguing position in the fashion dialectic at large; challenging ingrained and accepted norms, and posing the question as to why do we accept certain sartorial combinations and not others. The sartorial aim of ‘normcore’ may indeed be to avoid and eschew obvious signs of style, fashion and trend, in place for neutral looks which adhere to no distinctive fad or subculture. But if  ‘normcore’ is indeed this utter rejection of trends, then we cannot call it a style: in this case it certainly can’t constitute highly fashionable people wearing a uniform of consciously ill-fitting clothes, most probably from high-end stores, devoid of any obvious signs of styling and branding; the self-awareness of this makes their outfits far too ironic to capture the essence of what normcore is surely trying to give off. Indeed calling ‘normcore’ a trend in itself is paradoxical given the fact that its fundamental aim is to reject the concept of the ever changing fad.

Photo credit: Lucky Mag

Rather, ‘normcore’ may be more of a political or social gesture rather than merely sartorial; it can be regarded as an anti-trend, an anti-fashion, perhaps even a revolt against hipster culture at large which has swept over our entire generation during the past few years. Indeed, hipster culture was, and remains much more than a mere sartorial trend, it has become a cultural movement and a way of life, and a relatively prescriptive one, which went from being relatively underground to heavily ingrained in the mainstream in a short space of time. Whilst some people misunderstand the notion of ‘normcore’ and turn it into an ironic self-conscious unflattering form of dressing, it is, at its best, a rejection of the homogenisation of both the way we live and the way we dress; rejecting imposed codes and social norms that come hand in hand with the passing fads.

In modern society, class judgement and preconceived notions of people are still undeniably bound up with how we dress; we have certain pre-judgements linked to what we look like and how we present ourselves. ‘Normcore’, if it is indeed a new movement, is therefore a way of breaking down cultural association, mixing up looks and trends to present something that is not coherent, and which cannot give off a definite message, and in this respect avoids cultural homogenisation. This is what normcore should be, and what people so often fail to achieve.

Photo credit: death and taxes magazine

‘Normcore’ may also be closer to home than you would think. Unlike Britain, where people are seen heading out in minimal clothing in -5 degree weather, the same emphasis and prescriptive rules are not placed on clothes in Berlin. There is an attitude of “come as you are”, with no need for posturing, and in fact no need for much effort at all, and it’s this very ethos that ‘normcore’ is trying to tap into. So, unlike most fashion bloggers who spend hours searching for items void of structure, and any sign of luxury or branding, it might just arise here totally naturally. So, whether consciously or more probably subconsciously, Berlin appears to be ahead of its time, or at very least some sort of muse.

On the other hand, if ‘normcore’ is just a fashion fad which will fade out just as quickly as it appeared, then it might just be the most welcome and refreshing trend we’ve had in a while. Whilst it may not have the same longevity as some of the most iconic looks from the past few decades, it nevertheless liberates us from our oppressive fashion taboos. Socks and sandals, shiny nylon Adidas sportswear, fleece; who’s to say that these trends are an absolute no-no when celebrities like Mary Kate Olsen managed to make socks and sandals look distinctly sophisticated just in the past few weeks. If anything, ‘normcore’ forces us to question what we deem as rule, and consequently liberates us from imposed rules, and thus proposes a culture and fashion devoid of homogenisation, and for this reason, we welcome it with open arms!

Photo credit: Instyle magazine