Normally I cut all the labels off my clothes. Not the useful ones that tell you what temperature they should be washed at, but the sort of fancy, pointless labels that announce to the world who designed them, or even just who sewed them together. I snip at them with great satisfaction, because I’m not going to be a walking advertisement for anybody.
My clothes are anonymous. Everything is as plain as possible; it’s just the way I’ve always liked it, but now – heaven help me – I am a phenomenon. I am a meme. I have a label all of my own. I am normcore.
If you haven’t yet come across this, what to call it? A look? An attitude? A fad? I’ll try my best to explain it to you without rocking backwards and forwards with my head in my hands.
In a nutshell, normcore is fashionable people wearing unfashionable clothes and going “Ooh!” at each other. In the past, fashionistas have been known to mix their designer labels with unknown brands. This made them feel very edgy. Now – brace yourselves – they are mixing unknown brands with unknown brands. They are “anonymous”, they are “exhaustingly plain”, and it is utterly blowing their tiny little minds.
But hang on a minute: “anonymous” and “exhaustingly plain” – that’s me, that is. I am anti-fashion, but now fashion is anti-fashion, and it’s knocking on my door, wearing my clothes and saying: “Does my blandness look big in this?”
All my life I’ve congratulated myself on not being a slave to whatever the Anna Wintours of this world are telling us to swathe ourselves in this week, but now I’m right at the sharp end of cutting edge and I don’t know what to do. I’m worried that I’ll be mistaken for normcore when, in fact, I’m just norm.
What’s even more disturbing is that I might be hardcore normcore, because I sometimes have absolutely no clue what I’m wearing. The grey fleece zip-up jacket I’ve got on at the moment (I can just hear the hipsters swooning) does have a label, but it’s been washed so often it’s faded to plain white. It is the ultimate in no-name apparel. It makes the sale section at Lands’ End look like London Fashion Week.
I can see it now. My innate normality is going to stand out like a beacon, especially when compared with the desperately studied ordinariness of the fauxcore brigade. I’ll be out and about, minding my own business, when some normcore numpty will screech up to me and say: “OMG! Where did you get those shoes?” and I’ll say: “Some discount store in Livingston” and suddenly I’ll be surrounded by a crowd of label-less disciples, following me around charity shops in the hope of experiencing the very core of norm.
Well, at least I can give them authentic normality. I read one article where the writer said that her “normcore looks” included “a black cable knit turtleneck, grey trousers and a black, menswear-style overcoat which pair perfectly with vintage black Nike’s (sic). Then there is my new Jacquemus drop-waist, drop-shoulder dress, which I’ll be wearing with black tights and white leather Common Projects sneakers.” Aw, bless. She hasn’t got the hang of this at all. She’s so utterly immersed in the rarified world of style, she can’t quite grasp that if it’s got a name, it’s really not normcore.
The whole point of normcore is that it’s about enthusiastically embracing the average and enjoying the liberation of blending in with the crowd. Suddenly, it’s not merely OK to look exactly like all the other people around you, it’s preferable. Of course, you might end up winning a Jerry Seinfeld look-a-like competition (Jerry is the unashamed king of characterless clothing, despite his millions), but who cares? Who’s watching?
Whereas mainstream fashion has always been about everybody trying to be different, even if they end up looking like clowns, normcore is soothing and non-stimulating. It gives everybody permission to relax. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this is why it’s caught on. The fashionistas are sick and tired of forcing their feet into fetish platform stilettos and squeezing themselves into wisps of cloth that were made to fit pre-pubescents. They desperately want a rest but they’re so terrified of not being de rigueur, they have to make a trend out of it. Normcore is the answer to their prayers because it gives them a chance to wear comfy shoes, simple forgiving shapes, and still allows them that all-important touch of knowing irony.
But listen to me, I almost sounded like an authority then, didn’t I? Almost like I cared. This is getting serious. I must find a way of being normcore no more. But how, when my wardrobe is packed to overflowing with the mode of the moment?
I suppose I could escape by turning to high fashion, but that’s expensive and often ugly. Besides, why should I be the one to give up lovely elasticated waistbands, slip-on loafers and unidentifiable cotton jumpers?
No, I have to stay true to myself, and I’m taking solace from the fact that Alain de Botton has announced that: “Normcore is the search for the ideal. The perfect T-shirt, like the perfect pencil or table, doesn’t need to be constantly updated because it has latched on to the essence of what it’s trying to do… The better the design, the less it needs to change.”
I don’t want to change either, so I’ll just wait for the storm to pass. It’s inevitable that the fashionistas will get bored eventually and go back to their extravagant ways, then I can resume my genuinely normal service in the perfectly plain little T-shirts and nondescript jeans that I love. For a fleeting moment there, I was tempted to call my personal style “original-normcore”, or “me-core”, or maybe even “Fi-core”, but that would be giving it a label, wouldn’t it?