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Normcore: the next big fashion movement?

Fashion, by its very nature, is a peacock of an industry – it is
bright, extrovert and likes to show off. There is, however, always a
minority that take a different approach to dressing – one that avoids
the print-clashing, kerazy shades and artful poses of street-style
photographer bait. They go for something that is – well, there’s no
other way to put this – boring.

New York magazine ran an article this weekend
defining the look as Normcore – clothes that are so anonymous that, as
the article says, from the back their wearer could just as easily be
“art kids or middle-aged, middle-American tourists.” Think unbranded
jeans, plain sportswear, chunky white socks. With the increasing fame
levels of fashion’s exponents of eccentricity – the likes of Anna Della Russo
or blogger Bryanboy, both of whom wear full runway looks – this is the
ultimate about-turn. Fashion insiders are rejecting the razzmatazz that
has become a fashion norm and, instead, they’re blending into the crowd.

Prada spring/summer 2014 sandals
Prada sandals for spring/summer 2014 are pure Normcore. Photograph: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images

Clothes that were once dismissed as everyday or unremarkable have
been touched by fashion’s stardust. The humble pool slide – the
flip-flop cousin typically seen dangling off a bored lifeguard’s foot –
is set to be the shoe of the summer. London designer Ashley Williams –
part of a crowd that numbers Pixie Geldof and Harry Styles – is rarely
out of them, and put them on her catwalk. New Balance trainers – a bit
of a dad favourite – are enjoying a moment. Cult front-row style icon Veronika Heilbrunner, a buyer at mytheresa.com,
regularly wears running tops, perhaps the ultimate in norm clothes, and
Nike socks as part of her low-key look. For the latest round of shows,
the Fisher-Price colour scheme of Air Max last season has been replaced
by something discreet: Celine black satin skater shoes.

With the
once exclusive world of fashion now open to all through social media,
this trend makes sense. Those in the inner circle are rebelling against a
“fashion” look and, instead, are adopting a uniform, one that is a
blank canvas without easy-to-read semaphores. Della Russo’s
hot-off-the-runway Moschino look is a neon sign flashing “fashion” even
to the uninitiated. A Normcore look of sweatshirt, jeans and trainers
keeps people guessing. Only those truly in the know will get it – and
even then they might confuse you with a tourist. What a sartorial lol
that would be.

Steve Jobs
Style icon No 2: the late Steve Jobs. Photograph: Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images

Normcore recalls the early 90s, when a mix of slacker and skater cool made white T-shirts, Birkenstocks and cut-off denim skirts a high-fashion look seen in shoots by Corinne Day. But this takes the anonymity to the next level. New York magazine namechecks Jerry Seinfeld and Steve Jobs as the unlikely icons of fashion’s latest look – and you might also add Larry David. With a wardrobe of khakis, black polo necks, polo shirts and classic Levi’s, there’s a gawkiness verging on the ugly. You could never call any of these men fashionable – their clothes are purely functional. This is an attribute of fashion that those working in it – who have spent the past 10 years at the bleeding edge of “fashion as art” – sometimes forget about. The flipside – function over art – feels new and a bit subversive.

Welcome to fashion, 2014 – where normal is the new cool. Good luck telling the tourists and top stylists apart.

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