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The New Normal or Passing Strange

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By Kristopher Fraser

At some point in the second decade of the twenty-first century the young, fabulous, and broke (or just cheap) crowd brought about a new subculture in fashion: normcore. In late 2013, K-Hole, a trend forecasting group, cited normcore as a trend in their report “Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom.” The desire to look like one just rolled out of bed, or as if one was a college student who woke up five minutes before class started, was started because the styling and clothing choices of the fashion elite left them feeling pretentious and disconnected.

Normcore in itself does have an heir of snobbery to it, in a sense it is almost mocking those aren’t associated with the fashion elite. That young lady on the streets of Bushwick trying to look like she doesn’t care what he looks like doesn’t know the true struggle of rushing to put on a lumpy sweater and sweatpants to drive four kids to soccer practice. The precise moment at which normcore began to explode on the fashion scene can be traced to sometime around the year 2013.

In a spread for Vogue Paris Edie Campbell slipped into a pair of Céline sandals that were identical to Birkenstocks. Around the same time, the “enduring appeal of Patagonia fleece” on the runways was noted by T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Normcore was really taking the care for minimalism, to say the least. It was about the most casual human form, rebelling against traditional elite fashion conventions, and looking like the everyman or everywoman.

It should come as no surprise that those leading the normcore pack are Western millennials and tech geeks who have a traditionally downplayed sense of style regardless. However, once celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow started embracing the normcore trend it was easy to see how this movement became so big. In a March 2014 with People StyleWatch, Paltrow stated that she had a uniform of sandals and overalls planned for the entirety of her vacation.

The public is finally seeing looks by celebrities and on the runway that are readily available in their closets (even if their hooded sweatshirts and sweatpants don’t bare the designer labels.) Of course someone should remind these rebels that a pair of sweatpants won’t automatically place you outside the fashion elite (especially if that Lanvin label happens to slip out during your dash to the subway.) Like all terrible things in fashion (bell-bottoms and side cut-out dresses anyone?) normcore will eventually come to an end.

For a brief moment it may have seemed like normcore could have had some staying power when Craig McDean shot a normcore photo shoot styled by Edward Enninful for W magazine in July, but, in a spread in a high fashion magazine featuring Stella McCartney dresses and Nike shoes most of those readers will be aspiring for the Stella McCartney dress. On the other hand, there is the argument that normcore is not a real fashion trend, but, rather, a sociological attitude toward fashion.

In February 2014, New York magazine published Normcore: Fashion for Those Who Realize They’re One in 7 Billion. Fiona Duncan, the author of this piece, referred to normcore as “the kind of dad-brand non-style you might have once associated with Jerry Seinfeld, but transposed on a Cooper Union student with William Gibson glasses.” On the other hand, we have those in the fashion world who shun normcore, like fashion editor Alexa Chung.

Chung has been famous for sporting sneakers at the front rows of fashion week, and was quoted by Grazia magazine saying that she found the categorizing of what’s long been part of her personal style as a trend, “the most offensive thing.” For her it’s an, “I just exist” thing, and she is not buying into any trends. Normcore may not have staying power on the runways, like all trends it shall come to an end, but, while you are out on the streets of Williamsburg there will forever be that kid who is trying so hard to look effortless you’ll confuse them for a suburban mom or dad, or a rushed college student on their way to class.

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