Dressed down: Welcome 'normcore', the latest fashion buzzword

An unbranded approach to attire whose adherents resemble bewildered Icelandic exchange students, circa 1984

Paging all male readers, especially those who are wilfully and violently indifferent to fashion, which, I suspect, is pretty much all of you. (No offence.) I have a surprise announcement: you are now, at this particular moment in history, whether you like it or not, at the very apex of style. You are normcore.

Normcore is grey tracksuit bottoms pretending to be trousers. Normcore is a seen-better-days faun-coloured golf knit. Normcore is an unlogoed trainer. Normcore is the opposite of wearing a pair of white patent-leather bejewelled Versace assless chaps.

Normcore knows nothing of fluorescent-studded Louboutin sneakers. Normcore is safe. Normcore is samey. The normcore look is a knowing piss-take of the heterosexual male’s desperate desire to be sartorially unremarkable. Normcore is not brave or butch or swaggering. Normcore is about dressing like a mild-mannered mental patient or a bewildered Icelandic exchange student circa 1984.

The normcore phenomenon was identified by a trend-forecasting company named K-Hole and then called out by New York mag in February.

It would be easy, based on the flurry of subsequent articles, to come away with the impression that normcore is a bogus flash-in-the-pan niblet of seasonal fashion ephemera. Au contraire. Normcore was a long time coming. Normcore is for real.

The idea, more or less, is that in an era that embraces the distinct, bespoke and quirky, the final fashion frontier is dressing like a big fat anonymous nobody. My first encounter with this new I-would-rather-die-than-wear-anything-flamboyant aesthetic occurred in 2012 when the Parisian designer Alexandre Mattiussi launched his menswear collection under the label AMI. The look was nonthreatening and tidy. These simple clothes – a camel-coloured blouson (pardon the un-normcoreness of “blouson” but there is no other option), a decent pair of slacks, an innocuous dad sweater – were stripped of any flourishes. Reflecting the name Ami, the brand identity was friendly and nonthreatening. This is one of the deceptive things about normcore.

It appears good-natured but, as I will illustrate to you, it can be deadly and venomous. This is the terrifying paradox of normcore.

The very nature of normcore – in which a trendy, goal-post-moving, fashion-obsessed bloke cunningly disguises himself so as to appear fashion-oblivious – makes it profoundly hazardous. Booby traps and potential landmines abound. Sorting the unwitting normcore dude from the intentional normcorer is one of many perils. Do not assume that the person before you is a normcore dude just because he is wearing squishy caramel-coloured Mephisto shoes and a fully buttoned cardigan with pockets. I found this out the hard way.

Last week, I complimented a female friend’s new beau on his normcore stylings. He had no idea what we was talking about. By the time we bumbled through an explanation – “it’s a nuanced anti-fashion look... for people who are... badly dressed... I mean... people who are disinclined to dress in a more overtly stylish manner”– he was thoroughly offended.

Even if a guy is, in fact, a genuine, card-carrying normcorer, it is best not to address him as such. Like hippies and punks and metrosexuals, normcore adherents are wary of declaring their affiliation with their group. Don’t argue with them. It’s best to just compliment your normcorer on his dusty, plum-coloured made-in-Romania anorak and leave it at that. If normcorers start to feel that they have been cornered or “busted” God only knows what they will come up with next. If they sense they have been “exposed” they will feel obliged to concoct some new and even more terrifyingly perverse mode of dressing.

While I am sensitive to the needs of the normcorporation and its flock, I must confess to a certain ambivalence. Normcore loathes the flashy, the parvenue, the nouveau riche and everything else I hold dear.

Normcore defenders would doubtlessly claim that simple clothes are more honest. Without the distracting bells and whistles of fashion, the real essence of an individual is permitted to shine.

Though I applaud the optimism inherent in this point of view, I am concerned that the defenders might be overestimating the shine potential of the average dude. Most of us need all the packaging and promotion we can get.

For those earnest sweatpanted readers who find themselves unwittingly caught up in this fashion madness, I have the following advice: stay calm. Don’t freak out. Do not attempt to normcordon yourself off from the trendy normcorers. Do not attempt to distance yourself by running out and buying a pair of white patent-leather bejewelled Versace assless chaps.

Why should you change your spots? The comfy, nondescript, low-key clothes you are wearing are authentically yours, which is more than can be said for the normcore crew. They are just faking it. You are the real deal. So enjoy the spotlight. This is your moment.

A version of this article appeared on Slate.com

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

    £13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

    £18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

    Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before