4 Steps to breaking down Normcore, the anti-fashion fashion trend

Normcore: the new streetwear trend and possibly the new model-off-duty look, as seen on these street style stars during the recent Autumn Winter 2014 fashion week. Images: Showbit

Remember what we called geek chic — the style that made oversized glasses, beanies, suspenders and geeky sweaters instantly cool? That studied, dorky-cute style that veers into hipsterdom is now so out of season, according to fashion insiders.

Instead, what many are hailing as the “normcore” streetwear trend has taken over the fashion world. You’ll find models, the who’s who of stylists and more wearing it — they’ll be dressed in jogger pants, with oversized sweaters and fleece pullovers layered over more plain clothing.

It could be said that normcore is a form of fashion detox, a “palate cleanser”, as Vogue would put it. It’s as if these industry insiders are going on a fashion strike, in resistance to the flashy, look-at-me street style looks.

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The supermarket chic trainers of Chanel Autumn-Winter 2014, which gives normcore a haute new look. Images: Chanel

We would hazard a guess that the trend first crept in when stylists and fashion designers began swapping heels and loafers for New Balance trainers; and now, even Chanel deems these sneakers the height of high fashion.

The result: an attire so simple that it makes these fashion people almost anonymous in a crowd. You won’t be the only one mistaking these fashionistas from the lazy student or the sweatpants-clad tourists who dress for comfort.

So is this the supposed new epitome of fashion cool or a trend that should just die now? Before you decide on whether to jump onto this fashion bandwagon, let us decipher what normcore means:

1. Back to the basics
Normcore was first coined by K-Hole, a group of trend forecasters who described it as an attitude; of “find(ing) liberation in being nothing special.”

And it’s this spirit of embracing the ordinary that fashionistas have re-appropriated for their purposes. It’s now been used in fashion lexicon to describe what the New York magazine calls a “stylised blandness”, where the point of it all is to look as non-descript as possible.

For these sartorially-aware folks, it’s now cool to blend into the crowd. Even if the plain clothes on their backs are in fact designer threads, you’ll find brand logos and any conspicuous prints noticeably missing.

4 Steps to breaking down Normcore, the anti-fashion fashion trend
Normcore-style picks from SheShops Online Store (L-R): Empire Rose pants (US$240, approximately S$305.83), Stylestalker hoodie dress (US$155), Karen Walker hat and tee, Twoin pyjama pants (US$250). Images: SheShops

Oddly enough, kitschy branded caps and beanies prove to be an exception to this rule; as if to show that these fashionistas couldn’t care less and had grabbed the first hat in sight.

2. Nineties rewind
At the heart of this trend, there’s this undeniably nineties-style streetwear influence, thanks to the leading style stars seen in it. As the New York magazine would point out, most of these normcore-lovin’ advocates the likes of Alice Goddard (editor of indie magazine Hot & Cool) are essentially kids and teens of the nineties, a period where these sporty basics were en vogue.

Their biggest sources of this androgynous style inspiration are a far cry from style star Anna Dello Russo: Think the minimalistic, back-to-basics look of Steve Jobs or the bland, average dad clothes of Jerry Seinfeld.

You could even call the default fashion behind-the-scenes gear the original source of normcore — perhaps fatigued by their creative endeavour, you’ll often find the creative minds behind Prabal Gurung and Proenza Schouler opting for a surprisingly bland and low-key plain tee, jeans and trainers combination for their runway finale bow.

4 Steps to breaking down Normcore, the anti-fashion fashion trend

“Normcore” before it became a trend: Fashion designers Alexander Wang, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler and Prabal Gurung do the wave and bow at their Spring Summer 2014 runway shows. Images: Showbit

So it’s hardly surprising to find Alexander Wang, don what is now termed as “normcore” gear, for years now; after all, his eponymous brand celebrates the sporty, athletic spirit of this nineties-style ethos.

3. Comfort is king
The unspoken normcore rule seems to be first, above all, comfort. If it’s not comfortable, it’s not normcore. So in lieu of heels, stylists have thrown on trainers, the default shoe of choice, with their inconspicuous tees, oversized sweaters and baggy pants.

Styles that are in stores soon: H&M black sandals (above), $39.90, available from mid-April 2014 and double strap sandals (bottom), $49.90, in stores from May 2014. Images: H&M

With that same train of thought, you could also consider fuss-free mandals as a possible normcore footwear option. Which also means that you have to leave the glitzy, embellished shoes at home; the plain mandals are the sandals that normcore followers would wear.

4. It’s all in the attitude
The difference that separates the normcore-styled fashionistas, from any other person clad in gym-friendly gear is in the way that they carry that look.

There’s this knowingness that comes with it, an affected insouciance that seems to say, “I couldn’t care less” while still looking confident in whatever they’re wearing.

But not everyone is in on this normcore look: style blogger Leandra Medine of The Man Repeller has spoken out against this “pared down versions of ourselves”.

“Sure, those items are currently de rigeur,” wrote Medine, “but after the novelty wears off — and it wears off quickly — they’re also decidedly boring.”

The fashion in-crowd is a good-looking and confident bunch, no doubt, whatever they may don. So would you wear this normcore trend too?

Shop the trend on SheShops:
Empire Rose pants
Stylestalker hoodie dress
Karen Walker pom pom hat
Karen Walker tee
Twoin pyjama pants