Sometimes a trend comes along which, in retrospect, is so predictable that it’s like a mathematical equation. In this case, it goes something like: hipsters + the desire to differentiate oneself from other hipsters = normcore.
Normcore—of course.Practically, normcore means dressing like you just don’t care, in “normal people” clothes like Patagonia fleece and New Balance sneakers. Philosophically, it’s a textbook progression of the hipster movement, a natural leap from the hipster catnip Bill Cosby sweaters of yesteryear to normcore’s Jerry Seinfeld jeans—people wanting to be seen as too cool or preoccupied with their lives to care about what they wear. But there’s always a wink. The outfit may owe a debt to a mom from Red Deer or a comedian from the Upper West Side, but the wearer's haircut, tattoos, even their youth, indicates that they’re in on the game. There are contributing fashion factors to normcore— street style's nadir and the trend towards comfort (see the recent rise of the flat and the designer sneaker; the pairing of sandals with socks). And if people find something genuinely appealing about normcore, that’s one thing. But it’s the hordes of people who will be tempted to adopt the normcore style now that they’ve read about it on Gawker who should think twice.
Jerry Seinfeld: unlikely fashion inspiration. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.Sure, the trend cycle of fashion—constantly keeping up with the latest bag, shoe, designer—can be exhausting, but the average 27-year-old who lives in Greenpoint (or the average 27-year-old Torontonian who has read about a cool coffee shop in Greenpoint) is not embracing normcore because consumer culture and its attendant demands make them want to sit in a darkened room with a 12-pack of PBR. They’re embracing it because they’re terrified of being left behind. That fear is the undisclosed lifeblood of a hipster; like sharks, they must keep moving in order to survive. For a subculture that prides itself on gliding across the surface, all ironic detachment and oversized glasses, missing the boat is the cardinal sin. Bottom line: Style should be about what moves you, whether that’s a pastel dress, a moto jacket, or a 2004 Eddie Bauer windbreaker of the normcore variety. Fashion is a feast, and trends are always optional. At their best, clothes can be works of art, but as a rule, they should always tell the world who you are. So, if you find yourself at Value Village, mentally clicking through a normcore slideshow as you peruse the racks, thinking—Is this Cotton Ginny sweatshirt cool or tacky? Would Karen wear it? I feel like I should seriously consider that mismatched owl crockery set. But! That café with the too-bright lighting just a little too far out of the neighbourhood has owl wallpaper, so owls are over, right? I’m going for the sweatshirt. It’s only two bucks—put down your purchases and find the book section. Literature and self-help are in order here. It's not your wardrobe that needs bolstering. OVER TO YOU Too harsh? READ MORE Do you have to be cruel to be chic? Best street style: Paris Fashion Week Fall 2014 Spring 2014: Complete fashion trend report