My Week In Normcore: An Exploratory Trek Through Not Caring

Get ready for some underwhelming clothes.
Publish date:
September 9, 2014
fashion, dads, experiments, Normcore

It’s time to talk about normcore. I know, but it’s a THING, and it doesn’t seem to be going away.

Fashion normcore is nothing like those Gap ads. A mix of sportswear basics (think Adidas tracksuits, New Balance sneakers), T-shirts that are more basic than basic (think free promotional T-shirts people hand out at rallies, crew necks emblazoned with a brand name or logos), mom jeans, socks with sandals (preferably Birkenstocks or similar style) and scrunchies –- basically things that were once considered fugly are now deemed cool.

See: Gap’s latest ad campaign featuring celebrities in denim jackets, crisp button downs, black flats and black pants and a new slogan admonishing you to "Dress Normal,” whatever “normal” is.

I went to New York for the summer to intern at xoJane and went crazy for the REAL junk shops and thrift stores in Brooklyn, the availability of Uniqlo, an actual American Apparel Factory Outlet and a consignment store on every corner. Needless to say I spent all my money on clothes –- clothes I’ll probably never find the occasion to wear (a vintage white cape, a lime green anorak, Nicki Minaj for K-Mart and a beautiful satin jumpsuit that reminds me of my hometown, Miami, are just some of the pieces I bought).

I had to ship boxes back home just to avoid airport luggage overage fees, and once I got home, it was too hot to ever wear that cape, too suburban to ever wear that anorak, too power-clashing to wear my Nicki Minaj chain-printed cardigan and never an occasion to wear the satin jumpsuit.

With my wallet pathetically thin, a closet full of patterned clothes and a “nothing to wear” attitude, I decided to give this normcore thing a shot.

Since I was being bombarded by so many definitions of what “normal” is and refused to buy any MORE clothes to satisfy this experiment, I decided to get my definition of normcore from the most normal person I know, my dad. He would become my muse for a week of reckless dressing, abandoning all my fashion rules of what looks good on me in favor of looking like everyone else.

Day 1: I decide to go more fashion normcore for my first day of school. Here I am wearing a white Hanes V-neck and the lovechild of mom jeans and dad khakis, American Apparel Military Cuff Shorts. I threw on a pair of white sneakers and crew length white socks with a Seattle Mariners hat and felt like a tourist. It was weird. I should have gone commando, but the unflattering look of it all makes it more normcore.

Day 2: Gap “Dress Normal” day. No one bats an eye. I let my sports bra show through the boat-neck shirt like I DNGAF. I am too lazy to put on a real bra. I could get used to this.

I went to class and not one professor called on me. A girl told me she liked my jeans while I picked at a grease stain I couldn’t remember getting.

Day 3: Fuck nice things. I’m channeling the high school athletes who wore sweatpants to school and got away with it (in the face of a strict uniform policy) because they were athletes and had to train or something. The lesbians who made out in front of my lunch spot also wore these pants with Nike sandals and socks. I should have paid closer attention to their fashion cues.

I went to the only place that would accept me like this -– Walmart, to buy toilet paper.

Day 4: “LADIES NIGHT,” my friend texts me. We go to a bar. The allotted time for ladies night pretty much means it’s ALL LADIES. I’m on medication, so I don’t drink. Now my clothes can reflect the wet-blanket syndrome my college friends feel when they’re around me.

Day 5: I’m not even thinking about #Normcore anymore. Everything is normal. Nothing is unique. Planning the next great dystopian novel at the library.

Day 6: Gap’s normcore isn’t really normcore in my opinion. Normcore is all about uniformity and that means unisex. Zosia Mamet doing the whole ankleboots-and-floral-dresses thing is not normcore. But it is normal. Oh my god. I think I'm starting to "get" it.

Day 7: I'm easing my way back to my usual fashion style with thematic dressing. Here I am channeling a youth soccer coach off duty.

I think it would be really normcore if I learned nothing at all from this experiment....we're kind of in luck! I spent a lot of time trying to understand the concept of this trend, and wrestling with the question everyone is asking: What constitutes normal? A trend that grew from thrift-stores and “hipsters” has finally made it to the masses, and now Gap is trying to sell you the same clothes it always sells and make you think you’re being trendy.

Fashion (not merely clothes) exists to make a statement, not to blend in. But what happens when the statement is “Blending in is cool?” That makes me feel awfully uncomfortable.

The part of this week that I can get behind is choosing comfort over breaking your neck to be some sort of avant-garde suburban trendsetter. And I also like the message that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to be on trend. Come to think of it, normcore is freakishly like fashion’s takeover of grunge. Once it gets to mall fashion, the trend will inevitably die off. It was fun (and comfortable) while it lasted, no? I’m already on to the next one.

What are your thoughts on normcore and society? Are you all about that Adidas three-stripe lifestyle? Should we try to make #Dadcore a thing?

You can find Claudia comfortably tweeting from her Adidas sweatpants @ClaudiaCMarina.