Being Boring

by Steve

Clothes store

So, it appears the latest big thing is normcore. I was hoping this would be some sort of music involving the wit and wisdom of Mr Peterson, but sadly not. It turns out it is the latest hipster (I hesitate a little using that word, but you know what I mean) fashion style. While this piece outlines it better than I can, the short explanation is that normcore is a non-style. Rather than trying to stand out, the feature of most fashion trends since I don’t know when, normcore is all about blandness. Influences are ‘tourist clothes’ or early 90s sitcoms or just the functional clothing the wider non-fashionable world wears without a second thought.

My first thought was this was quite refreshing. Fashion is by its very nature superficial, and this movement suggests certain people are moving beyond branding themselves purely through how they present themselves to the world. Fashion is often all about trying to stand out, look different, but often ends up with everyone looking kind of the same. Maybe there is something tribal, something about belonging – I’m not preaching conformity, by any means. But sometimes it feels like an individual proactively trying to alienate themselves (“Look at me! I’m different! Don’t look at me! Why won’t anyone look at me? They are looking at me again! Stop it!”) and missing something fundamental about identity – that there is more to us than what we wear.

Plus, I have a lot of bland clothes. I like dressing that way. Finally I’m fashionable.

But considering normcore further there seems to be something more troubling with it. Is it really just ironising ‘normal’ people? Are these people dressing this way because they genuinely think there is more to us than our appearance, or are they dressing that way with a smirk? It seems pretty patronising to dress like a stereotypical tourist, or someone a bit stuck in the 90s, or just someone who doesn’t have the time or money to care about fashion. The knowingness of presentation (“I know that I look this way, and I know it is bad”) really doesn’t feel that removed from the other styles developed or co-opted by the in-the-know. Not making a statement is still making a statement.

It feels like just another style, just another pose. It also makes me feel a little queasy that the pose is presented as something more earnest, a move beyond superficiality, towards something more meaningful. Maybe it is for some.

But there is something a bit grim about the cool and entitled deciding that us ordinary folk are on to something after all, like they are giving the normal and the boring their approval. There is something odd about not just dressing plainly and in a functional way and getting on with it, but making a big fuss about it as the Next Big Thing, filling up your fashion mags and Tumblrs with the pose of the bland. Still branding. Still wringing meaning out of the meaningless. A weird cultural distortion. Social tourists.

Image from Miami University Libraries, via Flickr