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Normcore clothing: The Anti-Trend

By Nerine Sivagnanam / For The Pitt News

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The same queasily colored Patagonia fleece your dad wears has been popping up around college campuses — but now, it’s endearingly nicknamed the “fratagonia” by those who wear it.

The fleece is a part of “normcore,” a new term buzzing throughout the fashion world to describe a trend that is the lack of all trends.

Leeann Duggan, style features editor for Refinery29, an independent fashion and style news website that covers emerging trends, defined normcore as “the aggressively unfashionable style that has, ironically, become a total fashion statement.” 

“Many people interpret normcore as simply unbranded or plain-looking clothing, but I would say that those are more minimalist fashion,” Duggan said. “Normcore looks more like the ‘totally unaware of fashion’ looks that your dad or a clueless tourist would wear. New Balance 574s, cargo shorts or a baggy Nautica-brand tee fit the term.” 

The point of the trend, which is really more of an anti-trend or non-trend, is to wear clothing that blends into the crowd and removes all traces of individuality. The trend accepts uniformity instead of going against the grain. 

When normcore began blowing up in the fashion world in February 2014, clothing companies and manufacturers, including Gap and Hanes, which sell relatively conventional and simple clothing items, took to social media by hashtagging “#normcore” on Twitter, while advertising how their companies have always carried normcore essentials.

Elizabeth Mattingly, a sophomore majoring in nursing, said she notices the trend occasionally around Oakland. 

“I see a decent amount of Pitt students wearing normcore accessories. A lot of students wear North Face jackets throughout the fall and winter and a lot of guys wear souvenir-like baseball caps,” Mattingly said. 

Mattingly said she can see Pitt students beginning to following the trend even more in the future “but only for comfort, so maybe in the library to study or just to go eat at Market.”

Kasey Paul, a sophomore, said she has also seen the trend popping up around campus.

“I do see lots of students wearing this trend around campus, especially during finals week,” Paul said.

Paul said she inadvertently participated in the trend, as she recently purchased a vintage oversized Pitt sweatshirt at a local thrift store.

Lauren Sherman, editor at large of Fashionista, a fashion news site, said celebrities can be seen as icons for the normcore concept.

“Normcore is the ‘Seinfeld’ of fashion — it’s about nothing,” Sherman said. “People are wearing mom jeans and dad jeans and fleeces and sweatshirts, all items that ‘uncool’ people have worn for years. The idea is to take the uncool and make it cool.”

Although wearing less fashionable clothing first seemed to be an escape from following trends, the movement toward plain, undistinguished clothing has become a trend itself.  

According to an April 2 New York Times article, “The New Normal,” Jerry Seinfeld is a normcore “icon,” someone who exemplifies the trend most. Vogue named Kate Middleton the “Duchess of Normcore’ in April for her basic, no-flare sense of style.

The trend is growing online, too.

Each day, the search query “normcore” yields more and more results on Google. From June 4 to June 18, the number of results doubled from 750,000 to roughly 1.5 million at the time of publication.

While experts in the fashion industry understand the trend, many, like Duggan, choose not to subscribe to it.

“Well, it’s certainly not my look of choice,” Duggan said. “But the concept has gotten so much backlash — so much so that when I reference ‘normcore’ in my own articles on R29, I inevitably get a few comments talking about how sick people are of hearing about normcore, or how pretentious a term it is.”

K-HOLE, a New York-based trend forecasting group, introduced the term in its Youth Mode report, which was released in October 2013 and covered rising young adult trends. 

According to K-HOLE’s report, “Normcore seeks the freedom that comes with non-exclusivity. It finds liberation in being nothing special, and realizes that adaptability leads to belonging.” 

Stephanie Taylor, department chair of fashion marketing, management and fashion design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, said she recognized people following the trend in both New York City and Pittsburgh but doesn’t consider normcore a trend as it is a lack of uniqueness or originality.

“I personally and professionally think that there have been no standout fashion trends in the past 10 years,” Taylor said. “When I lived in New York, I saw people in jeans and pantsuits and shorts at the New York Opera.”

Taylor said she sees her students wearing normcore every day at the Art Institute, even if they do add a slight flair to it.

“Students will rip off the sleeves of a plain T-shirt or add glitter,” Taylor said.

Since adding a unique flair to original pieces defeats the purpose of normcore, normcore doesn’t seem to be a trend that will be taking off among fashion students anytime soon. 

“Fashion students don’t want to look like everyone else,” Taylor said. 

Sherman also said she notices people following normcore while walking through the city and that the trend is rising because younger generations are trying to bring back old fashion trends and make them new again. 

“Youth culture loves to take banal items people wore 20 years earlier and make them cool,” Sherman said. “[Generation] Xers were obsessed with stuff from the late 1970s and early ‘80s. Now, millennials are into the late ‘80s, early ‘90s.” 

Duggan agreed with Sherman’s theory and said normcore was a “backlash against the super-bright, clashing-print style that’s been celebrated on the runway and street style blogs for the past few years.”

“One point I tried to make in my own article about normcore is that this is a fashion trend only for the young, beautiful people, because on them, these boring, basic dad clothes read as ironic. Whereas when normal folks wear them, you can’t tell they’re making a fashion statement at all,” Duggan said.

This new “anti-trend” is certainly out there and some people follow it but Sherman said that, like most trends, it will not last forever. 

“It’s just part of the fashion cycle,” Sherman said. “This, too, will pass.”

 

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Normcore clothing: The Anti-Trend