If you had to guess, what would you say Jerry Seinfeld, Liz Lemon and Louis C.K. all have in common? Aside from being funny, they are also considered the celebrity ambassadors of the emerging cultural trend: Normcore. Described by industry experts as “stylized blandness”, “conspicuously unpretentious” and “endearingly awkward,” Normcore focuses on the fundamental idea of sameness being cool. It’s not the most intuitive concept, and you may be asking yourself, “How can blandness be stylized or awkwardness be endearing?”
In fact, it is the tension within these questions that makes this cultural trend so fascinating – and maybe even attractive. Currently represented through fashion, Normcore is defined by its defenders as an attitude, a mindset, and potentially even a way of life. It is much more than just “a look” or “a style” to them. As a result, Normcore challenges us all to think about our culture in a new way. As individuals, as brands and as ideals today, is it cooler to be the same or different?
Pioneered by the children of the nineties, the Normcore fashion trend captured the attention of stylists as early as 2011, but has really gained momentum within the past year. Today, Western Millennials and digital natives continue to set the bar with their mock turtlenecks, white sneakers, baseball caps, sweatpants and boxy jeans. Think Birkenstocks. Think The Gap. Think 1995. That’s Normcore.
On one hand, it is not surprising that Millennials have embraced this trend of fashion conformity. Based on a trends report Kelton conducted a few months ago, we know that this generation has grown up in an era of disruption and rapid change. In a time of fragmentation and divergence. And as a result, Millennials are likely seeking some type of convergence in their lives. We know they look for the reassurance of others and relish in the communal experience. They love to socialize and belong. While Instagram is their social media community, Normcore may be becoming their fashion community. It allows them to adapt through their clothing, which leads to belonging. Ultimately, Normcore is about making a connection.
On the other hand, the Normcore trend could be surprising when you think about Millennials as individuals. We also know that they are a generation seeking independence and identity. However, Normcore defenders claim it is not about dissolving your identity or losing your individuality; rather, it is the idea that one doesn’t need their clothes to make a statement. It is the idea that you can find liberation in being nothing special. That being practical and no-nonsense can even be considered “sexy.” Normcore defenders consider their clothes more honest. In other words, there are no bells and whistles to hide the real essence of the individual.
The term Normcore was coined on October 19, 2013 when the trend-casting group K-hole published “Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom.” According to K-hole, the goal of Normcore was to “blend into the crowd” and be “the new world order of blankness. “ However, within the past six months this initial definition has been expanded and changed by popular culture. I have a feeling its evolution is not over and I’m curious to see what’s next with this trend of baseball caps and mom jeans. Will it expand beyond fashion? Will it span generations? Will it become mass? In the meantime, as individuals today we should all be asking the question… “Do I want to be the same – or different?”