Normcore is a unisex fashion 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" referred to an attitude, not a particular code of dress. It was intended to mean "finding liberation in being nothing special." However, a piece in New York magazine that began popularizing the term in February 2014 conflated it with "Acting Basic", another K-Hole concept which involved dressing neutrally to avoid standing out. It was this sense of "normcore" which gained popular usage. The characters featured on the television series Seinfeld are frequently cited as exemplifying the aesthetics and ethos of Normcore fashion.
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."
This marks a drastic shift in how normcore is percieved. "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." Gawker, on the other hand, mocked the aesthetic ("lol, indeed.") Normcore is also associated, within pop culture, with liking mainstream things (Marvel movies, for example), enjoying popular bands, and choosing the most basic character in any given video game (choosing Mario in Mario Party is a very normcore thing to do.)
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.
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".