Thwarted by the popularity of skinny jeans and fat beards, original hipsters have retreated spitefully to a place they thought no one would ever follow – the ‘90s. But, they underestimated their own trendiness, because now everyone wants to wear backwards baseball caps and oversized overalls and look like a bemused Icelandic exchange student circa 1993.
Sure, normcore is basically Mugatu’s ‘Derelicte’ collection from Zoolander. But, at its core, it’s a backlash against the exhausting effort to be different. It’s an attempt to free ourselves from trying to be someone.
Emily Segal, co-founder of the trend forecasting group K-Hole, explained to Vogue magazine that part of normcore’s impetus is that “people are genuinely tired by the fact that to achieve status you need to be different from everyone else around you.”
The goal here – in a world where ‘street style’ blogs emphasise uniqueness, but, tellingly, tend to post pictures of people who have somewhat similar aesthetic tastes – is to be as inconspicuous as possible. The achieved effect, as NY Mag’s Fiona Duncan amusingly put it, is to be unable to tell if your “fellow Soho pedestrians are art kids or middle-aged, middle-American tourists.” By venerating things like nondescript sneakers, oversized jeans, and fleece, normcore is, in a sense, a look that says: ‘I’m hiding my coolness.’
Normcore is an attempt to subvert the status quo by taking oneself out of the game. It’s a look that arises from a fear that one’s uniqueness will be exploited by a consumerist culture that seeks to pervert it for mass consumption. It’s the thought: ‘if they can’t see me, they can’t use me.’ It’s an attempt to protect one’s soul.