So Now It's Cool To Just Be Normal

by Tori Telfer

To a burgeoning sliver of NYC cool kids, Steve Jobs and Louis C.K. may be the most fashionable men on Earth. These youngsters aren't fashionistas, nor are they anti-fashionistas… they're just sort of there, hanging out in their mom jeans, thinking about other stuff. They're the devotees of a trend called "normcore," and they've got more important things to do than worry about weirdos like Dries Van Noten.

True, wearers of normcore fashion are clad, hipster-like, in Birkenstocks and off-brand baseball caps. But unlike the hipsters of years past — who'd keel over dead if they couldn't pair their mom jeans with a vintage crop top — a typical normcore outfit forgoes any sort of look-at-me-look-at-me-I'm-involved-in-the-zine-scene attitude for the sake of calculated blandness. (Note: a normcore aficionado may indeed run a successful zine, now that his or her brainspace has been freed from the burden of actually thinking about clothing.) In the world of normcore, you're far more likely to find those mom jeans paired with an inoffensive white turtleneck and maybe a pair of New Balance kicks. You know, just like Dad styles it.

After New York Magazine ran a think piece on normcore, the Internet exploded with both recognition and ridicule. Though it's easy to mock, normcore is refreshingly non-ironic, a bracing change from our Urban Outfitters-fueled overload of Millennial image-obsession. It's a simple abandonment of self-expression through fashion. The trend isn't minimalist for the sake of minimalism, or lowbrow in order to mock the highbrow — those who dress this bland simply have better things to do with their time. For those who've just spent the past few weeks in stilettos, the idea of abandoning brand names, outfit-planning, and color-coordinating may sound like pure relief.

On the other hand, the trend is incredibly pretentious. People have been dressing à la normcore for years — they're called parents, at least in popular clichés. They dress like this because they genuinely don't have time to think about fashion, not because they've decided not to care. And of course, fashion is an art form with a rich history, et cetera; implying that fashion is for anti-intellectuals is a pretty ignorant stance to take.

The true irony of normcore, like everything adopted by hipster-ish society, is that once you start to talk about it, it loses its authenticity. Steve Jobs was the apex of genuine normcore — he wore the same thing every day because it was convenient, which freed him up to change the world. But as soon as normcore is labeled, hashtagged, and analyzed, its idealism fails. Normcore enthusiast Jeremy Lewis, founder of Garmento magazine, opts for his "look of nothing," because being too interested in fashion can "mark you as a mindless sheep." Unfortunately, now that the style is trending on Twitter, being all into #normcore can mark those not interested in fashion as mindless sheep, too.