Is normcore the new normal?

Has boring somehow become fashionable?
Has boring somehow become fashionable? Photo: iStock

We gents have come a long way when it comes to putting our best-dressed foot forward. We've (mostly) navigated successfully through the minefield that is seasonal trends, tempering fads with common sense to create a pastiche of individual style that is probably the best we've collectively looked in decades.

So with the sartorial bonanza of Spring Racing Carnival on the horizon and a rails run beckoning in the style stakes, why would we throw in the proverbial towel for the sake of some whimsical notion of resistance against fashion?

I'm talking about the blandness that is 'normcore'.

Not to be confused with minimalism - which places emphasis on subtle detail, such as construction and fabric, instead of more obvious branding - normcore is the result of fast fashion, the primary goal of which is to make everyone look like everything and everyone else.

It's also a movement drawing style inspiration straight from the wardrobe of '90s-era Jerry Seinfeld and the cast of Friends, actually priding itself on looking bland. Normcore's ethos embraces universal sameness as the new way of looking cool.

So insidious, you may not have noticed

You may not have even noticed it, that's how insidious the whole trend is. Think double denim teamed with white sneakers, or cargo pants and hiking sandals worn by someone you think is a middle-aged tourist but is in fact a 20-something art student who lives in the inner suburbs. Mass manufactured, easy to mix and match, and notable for the unflattering silhouettes it creates, normcore is the new polyester camouflage for urban dwellers.

Is this where we are now? Has the world of fashion and style become so jaded that the only way to move forward is by moving backwards?

If you hadn't guess it already, I'm not entirely impressed by this return to the  'new normal' if that's what you can even call it - but that may be because I don't see the point.

The antithesis of fun

On the one hand, even if it weren't a self-contradicting portmanteau of two words that I loathe more than any other in the entirety of the English language (and that's including selfie, YOLO and upsize), I'd probably be against the whole normcore phenomenon because it literally goes against everything that makes the idea of fashion and personal style fun.

Even grunge, with its unwashed rejection of mainstream culture, is more appealing than the idea of normcore because that's exactly what it is – mainstream, and deliberately so.

However, I can sort of understand the lure of normcore's homogeneity. Fashion can be an intimidating concept to grapple with. What was 'in' one minute can just as quickly be passé the next. As the self-proclaimed anti-fashion fashion movement, normcore's dedication to bland similitude fixes all this because when everyone looks the same, no-one's different and no-one gets left out.

But therein lies the catch.

Like any other notch on the belt of fashion history, normcore is still a trend and a trend is, at its heart, all about who wears what and how they wear it. By being so mainstream that it sits outside it, normcore does the exact opposite of what it pretends to reject. Instead, it has created just another fad for us to follow.

So I guess you have to ask yourself – are you that eager to be fashionable that you're willing to look bad just because everyone else is doing it?

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