In fashion, Normcore is a trend characterized by unpretentious, average-looking clothing. "Normcore" is a portmanteau of the words "normal" and "hardcore". The word first appeared in webcomic Templar, Arizona before 2009 and was later employed by K-Hole, a trend forecasting group, in an October 2013 report called "Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom".
As used by K-Hole, "normcore" refers to an attitude, not a particular code of dress. It was intended to mean "finding liberation in being nothing special." However, an influential February 2014 piece in New York magazine conflated it with what K-Hole terms "Acting Basic", a concept under which dressing neutrally is a means to avoiding standing out. This broader sense of "normcore" as referring to understated and noncommittal attitudes to fashion gained popular usage. At the same time, many cultural references that are tied to broadly neutral fashion aesthetics, such as the characters featured on the television series Seinfeld, also exemplify to a significant extent the ethos of normcore in the more radical sense proposed by K-Hole.
History & Philosophy
Normcore was the name of a fictional population in the webcomic "Templar, Arizona", starting after the webcomic began in 2005 and recognized sometime before 2009, where its first Urban Dictionary definition was added on March 27th, describing normcore as "a subculture based on conscious, artificial adoption of things that are in widespread use, proven to be acceptable, or otherwise inoffensive." It was also was named runner-up for neologism of the year by the Oxford University Press in 2014.
This interpretation of normcore fluctuated wildly in the years after the definition, with some taking it as a source of pride and "anti-stature", while others used the term mockingly. The beginning of its rise was trend forecasting group K-HOLE's "Youth Mode" report, which heavily contrasted generational views of individuality and its connected ideas with consumerism and exclusivity (or lack thereof) by "understand[ing] the process of differentiation from a nonlinear perspective ... In Normcore, one does not pretend to be above the indignity of belonging."
K-HOLE's analysis was impactful in bringing normcore to mainstream attention. "Youth Mode" and its focus on normcore was reported on by several publications, such as The Cut, Lucky Mag and Fashionista. Bullett described normcore as "like the smiley face emoticon ... inclusive, basic, and human; an invitation to engage." At the same time, widespread dissemination of normcore throughout the popular press tended to progressively emphasized the superficial markers it shares with Acting Basic, leading to a set of fashion prescriptions that were both consumeristic (since brand names are one prominent way of standing out while in blank, basic fashion) and facile, leading many commentators (such as Gawker, which reacted with "lol, indeed.") to mockingly dismiss it.
As analyzed by K-Hole, normcore is less about a specific set of fashion statements, but about blending in and allowing oneself to belong. Therefore in many circles, normcore is associated within pop culture, with inventing memes, liking mainstream things (Marvel movies, for example), enjoying popular pop bands and choosing the most basic character in any given video game (choosing Mario in Mario Party is a very normcore thing to do.) On the other hand, K-Hole claims that in Williamsburg (a gentrified New York neighborhood with many creative professionals and attitudes, somewhat comparable to the Portland depicted in Portlandia) it's normcore to be a hipster. Therefore many of the specific visual, fashion, consumer and intellectual prescriptions of normcore are heavily contextual: for example, peanut butter is normcore for many Americans, but if it's not easily found in your area (and you're not in a wealthy social milieu where importing random foods is commonplace), then going out of your way to emulate it is antithetical to normcore.
Therefore, the following examples are influenced by the general experiences of the wiki editors, which should match that of most readers; but it doesn't mean that you have to emulate them to be normcore, nor that emulating them makes you normcore.
A popular element of Normcore is none other than the store: CostCo, which is renowned for their amazing deals and the world-famous CostCo Food Court, which has received rave reviews for some of their food (especially the pizza). Costco visuals can also incorporate other elements of the Costco shopping experience, such as the Costco Connection magazine.
The Normcore aesthetic can also include:
- Makeup, especially neutral palettes
- Current trends
- The latest phone brands
- Social Media
Normcore is characterized first and foremost as a fashion aesthetic. Normcore wearers are people who do not wish to distinguish themselves from others by their clothing. This is not to mean that they are unfashionable people who wear whatever comes to hand, but that they consciously choose clothes that are undistinguished – except, frequently, for a highly visible label to impart prestige. The "normcore" trend has been interpreted as a reaction to fashion oversaturation, resulting from ever faster-changing fashion trends.
Normcore clothes include everyday items of casual wear, such as plain T-shirts, sport jackets, baseball caps, straight jeans, chinos and sneakers, are typical apparel, but not items such as neckties or blouses. These clothes are worn by men and women alike, making normcore a unisex style.
Clothes that meet the "normcore" description are mainly sold by large fashion and retail chains such as The Gap, Jack & Jones, Superdry, Jigsaw, Kirkland, and Esprit. They are generally cheaply produced in East Asian countries. Many other retailers, such as Marc O'Polo, Woolrich, Desigual, Closed and Scotch & Soda produce normcore-like clothes, combined with individual design ideas.
An example of this aethetic is the wardrobe on "Seinfeld", or, more recently, "The Middle".
- Brand name or varsity hoodies and sweatshirts
- Leggings (usually dark-coloured)
- Cropped t-shirts
- Striped t-shirts
- Jeggings/close fitting jeans
- Vans, converse or expensive shoe brands
- Ripped boyfriend jeans
- Ankle socks/demi-crew socks
- Anklets/simple jewelry
- Neutral scrunchies
- Plain T-Shirts
Stores and Brands
- The Notebook (2004)
- Highschool Musical (2006)
- P.S. I love You (2007)
- Modern Classics or any movies within the current zeitgeist
- Friends (1994)
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997)
- 90210 (2008)
- Currenty popular shows
- Making memes
- Taking photos and posting it on social media
- Ordering coffee
- Following trends
- Watching cartoons