In 2013, New York-based trend forecasting company K-Hole introduced the word normcore to describe a growing trend in urban street style and youth culture. The term deriving from the words ‘normal’ and ‘hardcore’; normcore reflects a utilitarian aesthetic that embraces deliberately inelegant styles and challenges the fashionable/unfashionable paradox (Baum, 2016). The mundane fashions of normcore seem to have touched on a trend of self-aware blandness in the postmodern environment. Normcore is fashion for people who surrender to the idea that they are part of a collective, not a unique individual - where unfashionable is fashionable (Duncan, 2014).
The adoption of normcore into the Luxury Fashion system has changed the idea of normcore at its heart. As the trend has grown in popularity, luxury brands have joined in the movement, notably Balenciaga. “In 2015, Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia was brought in to inject the brand with a 'breath of fresh air', taking his 'normcore aesthetic and mundane brand-abstractions' to Balenciaga’s runways (Fulleylove, 2017).”Luxury brands have relied heavily on cultural capital to sell the normal styles, because they are creating items that are essentially the same styles found at Walmart or Mark’s Work Warehouse: Dad-jeans, fleece, comfortable sneakers, puffy-coats, etc… In 2018, many young people can be confused with Jerry Seinfeld, circa 1995.
I decided to examine the prevalence of normcore in downtown Toronto. I set out with the intention to document individuals who subscribe to the trend, as I interpret it. This means I had to rely on my phenomenological response to people as they passed me in the streets. Applying self-reflexivity to the analysis, note that I am an individual who has been interested in the normcore aesthetic. This means I can recognize the trend to a certain degree as an individual with relevant cultural capital.
I spent time at certain busy intersections, walked through a mall, took transit and walked the streets to collect photographs. The images were taken covertly and often in motion. After collecting the images throughout one day, I arranged them in approximate order based on location. As a kind of secondary exploration of the idea of normcore, I included ‘easter eggs’ within the composition of high-profile normcore fashion icons. I used the photographs as reference for the illustration. The subjects of the illustration are connected yet disconnected by the continuous black line. Some individuals are fully visible whereas others are fragmented and incomplete. The colours injected into the illustration demonstrate the only recurring saturated colours documented. The lack of colour reflects the embodiment of blandness by the trend over-all and the preference of desaturated neutrals and primary red, blue, and green.
When going over my photographs I noticed a trend of the individuals being young (under 30) or senior, and there were no observably middle-aged individuals. This observation demonstrates how individuals who are NOT participating in normcore are still interpreted by me as reflective of the trend. The illustration blurs the age distinction and renders all the subjects in a generic way, which resonates with the ideologies of normcore. The existence of brands remains visible in the illustration and is the greatest signifier of which individuals as participating in the Fashion trend. Using Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital, the branding of specific garments challenges the collective unfashionable-ness of normcore. Balenciaga, Off-White Nikes, Thrasher, Calvin Klein, and Anti-Social Social Club are some of the brands still visible in the illustration. A specific habitus and field are required to recognize the symbolic capital of the specific items and allows the wearer to demonstrate their social status while wearing discernibly basic fashions.
Based on this, I can conclude that normcore has changed from an anti-fashion movement in 2013 to a Fashion trend in 2018. Though this has diluted the symbolic meaning of wearing normcore, I do not think that it devalues the statement. “It may seem as though normcore as a concept is obsolete. But this year it was upgraded: on runways across the world the story of normcore has passed into legend, into myth. It seems appropriate to the times."(Marsh, 2017) The increasing popularity of normcore reflects a conscious questioning of symbolic value in the Fashion system and provides an opportunity to examine collectivity between multiple levels of social classes. My colour walk illustration helps illuminate the ambiguous nature of the trend and the universal accessibility of normcore.
Baum, J. L. (2016). Normcore: A 2014 trend and the end of postmodernism in fashion (Order No. 10252173). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1868419740).
Bourdieu, Pierre. “The Forms of Capital,” In J. Richardson (Ed.) Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (New York: Greenwood), 1986, 241-258.
Duncan , Fiona. “Normcore: Fashion for Those Who Realize They’re One in 7 Billion.” The Cut, 26 Feb. 2014, https://www.thecut.com/2014/02/normcore-fashion-trend.html. Accessed 17 Mar. 2018.
Fulleylove, Rebecca. “Bureau Borsche redesigns Balenciaga’s new website to reflect “norm core” aesthetics.” It’s Nice That, 01 Mar. 2017, www.itsnicethat.com/news/bureau-borsche-balenciaga-website-redesign-010317. Accessed 17 Mar. 2018.
Marsh, C. (2017, Dec 23). This was the year even 'normcore' went extreme. National Post Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/1979887522?accountid=13631