22 May 2014


Is there to be no end to the indignities to suffered by the chronically clued-in? As the new “Normcore” trend breaks into our collective consciousness, here are some notes on how to be, or not to be.

1. Firstly, don’t worry too much about precisely defining Normcore; Just take it that a silly fashion director somewhere decided to spell Hipster with an ‘N’, and go on making your lunch. It’s only fashion jargon and you have a living to make.

2. The guiding principle for fashion jargon seems always to be on a need to know basis and you, a mere non-fashion professional, need only know this: The fashion pendulum has swung yet again, and now, the epitome of cool is the anti-cool.

3. Normcore is about affordable, bland, functional anti-style. It’s conventional and nondescript drag, stuff you can pull out of your dryer drum anytime and wear with devastating buff nails. 

4. Examples given of this trend seem marked by white sneakers, dull zip-ups and not-skinny jeans, in other words, stuff you wore when you were in NUS. A Normcorer dresses like an undergrad seeking to blend in, rather than stand out. 

5. According to "experts", Normcore is a reaction against the aggressive coolness that relies on vivid difference (studded trophy platforms, K-pop type synchronized dancing, nail art) to a post-cool of authenticity and sameness. To me, this “sameness” thing is troubling. If all around you are synchronized dancing in studded and screaming prints, the Normcorer will not fit in – she will stand out in her discreet denims, plaid shirt-dress and trainers. Is Normcore grunge spelt with an N?

6. The horribly termed Normcore was coined by K-HOLE, a New York-based trend forecasting group. They define it as “a desire to be blank.” But this concept and its assumption that the average hipster isn’t blank would immediately present a challenge for those for which this is relevant. What if you were already blank, as so many hipsters naturally must be? What if you didn’t fundamentally have any identity or persona at all and studied fashion in Perth? What if shopping at Givenchy actually gave your life purpose? Then how do you adopt the Normcore?

7. Who are you if your clothes are brand-free and logo-less? Wouldn’t you be a complete nonentity without a single label signifier? Since Normcore has nothing to do with flashy fashion and more to do with character, it would present a particular challenge to those who would most want to embrace it. The Singapore fashion scene is after all filled with an inhuman army of the vacuous. 

8. So. Instead of scratching your head over every last trend, perhaps you should take a cold shower and then go out there and do something useful with your life.

A version of this piece appears in Style: June 2014.

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