Midweek Musings: Normcore

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What would the Chanel girl wear to the supermarket?

Between the recent internet explosion promoting the poshness of suburban clothing and yesterday's Chanel couture show held at a constructed supermarket, the abundance of sneakers and chic sweatpants sweeping the closets of hipsters and fashionistas alike has me wondering what came first: Lagerfeld or normcore?

In fact, much of the internet has exploded over the idea of normcore so much so that the interweb's multifaceted fingers have misconstrued the true definition. (lol, don't you love the personification of the internet --- as if it were one big basic hand typing away at a Mac) In fact, according to K-Hole, the New York trend forecasting group that coined the term, normcore does not necessarily promote dressing like Jerry Seinfeld or a lost tourist, rather "#normcore means you pursue every activity like you're a fanatic of the form." Normcore is not so much a fashion phenomenon as it is social branding. Normcore comes from the idea of youth mode, (also defined by K-Hole) which refers to the equality of youth to freedom. Being in youth mode means you are "engaged with newness," "changeable," and "free." Normcore makes use of this freedom to refute the modern American dream of growing up to be an individual. Looking forward, American youth will be born individuals and grow up to fit in. Normcore asserts that as a society that has been so focused on standing out, we are reverting back to fitting in. Remember when only a few posh people owned an iPhone? I do. According to K-Hole, "normcore doesn't want the freedom to become someone. Normcore wants the freedom to be with anyone."

So how does normcore relate to fashion, and more importantly, Karl and Chanel?

In the most democratic sense, normcore from a fashion perspective means dressing reasonably for the activity at hand. Normcore is more than the baseball hat+Patagonia pullover+Nike trainers combination that has the interweb buzzin'. Normcore is about wearing a Georgia jersey to a Georgia football game. It's about wearing yoga pants and a racerback walking to 5 Points Yoga. It's wearing that baseball hat and pullover to the grocery store where that outfit combo belongs...

Lagerfeld precisely nailed this concept (it is unsure whether he meant to follow up the normcore trend, though Style.com calls the show "a piece of conceptual art" and "a critique of pop culture") in his Fall 2014 RTW show in Paris. The constructed supermarket I mentioned above was complete with Chanel brand everything. Chanel brand milk for your cereal and Chanel brand cotton swabs for removing Chanel brand nail polish from your typing fingers were all on sale for the models sashaying through the aisles. The show took couture week by storm because of the initial set of the show, but really took off when models appeared wearing sneakers. SNEAKERS. Each model's footwear was surprisingly everyday, and in fact, not a heel was seen during the entire show. Said Lagerfeld: "if you want to look really ridiculous, you go in stilettos in [sic] a supermarket." Isn't this very idea presented by the Chanel creative head the definition of normcore? You don't go to the supermarket in stilettos because you don't care about standing out. It's not quite a refute of individualism, rather a decidedly pertinent goal to be comfortable and normal looking whilst shopping for milk and cotton swabs.

I have a theory that normcore is persisting out of necessity. We've come to a point in the modern history of fashion where the possibilities have become so outrageous that it might be a good idea to take a step back and realize that Louboutins might not be the best accessory to traipse around your local Target in. In fact, even if we decide the blisters and bruises are worth it, there is still no guarantee we will be the only people in the check out line who made that decision. Individuality has become so commonplace, it is not very individualistic at all. Think of the progressive dressers you know. The non-trend followers are just as easy to spot as the trend-followers. They belong to different groups, but they belong to groups all the same. Yes, normcore is fitting in, adjusting to where you are, but remember, it is also freedom. Freedom from the pressure to stand out. Freedom from those stilettos.

Here are the articles I read about Normcore:

Normcore: Fashion for Those Who Realize They Are One in 7 Billion
Anti-Fashion Trend Normcore (Think Jerry Seinfeld's look) Sweeps Social Media
Internet Balks at Supposed New Style Trend: #normcore
Are You Normcore?
What Does Normcore Sound Like?
Everyone's Getting Normcore Wrong, Say its Inventors
Trend Forecasters K-Hole on Individualism, #NORMCORE, & What it Means to be Free
Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom by K-Hole & Box 1824

photos: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

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