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Normcore: The silent takeover




Have you noticed the increasing number of young people walking around in uncharacteristically casual outfits? Have you thought it was a little odd that the usual predisposition of people between the ages of 18 -25 to wearing edgy vibrant clothes is now more geared towards overly simplistic clothing? If you haven’t noticed then I urge you too look a little closer. As usual I am overly critical and I decided to trace the trends and get to the bottom of it. I came to a conclusion and , realized that my findings weren’t so shocking.

The normcore movement silently took over without us realizing it. SO what exactly is “normcore”? Normcore is a way of dressing that is unisex and is characterized by being ordinary or regular. Why is this a problem? Its not a problem at all, but it does start a narrative about how social groups have the power to dictate fashion trends and disseminate aesthetics that have far and wide reaching spillover effects on personal style amongst an easily impressionable demographic.

Normcore is a word that first appeared in 2009. It was used to describe a way of dressing with the sole purpose of blending in and not standing out. What is ironic abut this, other than the fact that we are going to be ironically talking about a group of people who like things ironically (that hurt my brain), is that the word first appeared at the peak of the hipster movement. Dialing it back to 2009, which I love referring to as the Tumblr years, the hipsters were the trendsetters and tastemakers.

These people were subtly anti- mainstream and popular culture, They did not conform to the status-quo, but instead, longed for a time when things were “authentic” and “raw”. They shared their sentiments through their music choices; mostly favoring music from the Beatles or anything that was considered iconic before the 2000’s. They also opted for Polaroid pictures or visuals doctored by a vintage filter to make them more detached from the present. Another way the hipsters were characterized was by their outfits and physical appearance. The men sported epic beards and moustaches with unusual shapes, usually coupled with a beanie and lots of plaid or flannel. The girls were partial to floaty fabrics, pastel colors and lace. The jeans were also criminally skinny. The unifying accessory was the ‘retro glasses” which I would have to guess were really popular in the sixties.

I have to admit that back then, I thought they were so cool. I mean, these were people living life according to their own rules. What guts it took to stand up to the norm and say, “ we aren’t a part of that”! they reveled in it. I watched in awe and admiration. As I grew up, I started seeing holes in the logic. But for the sake of objectivity, I shall not dive into specifics. What I noticed however, was that in their indifference and their aversion to the ‘try-hards’ they were actually trying the hardest. The tried hard to look like they were not trying hard which is honestly the most comical thing about hipsters. I apparently wasn’t the only one that caught on. Soon enough the hipsters became the butt of everyone’s jokes. They were constantly imitated by the very popular and mainstream culture they despised. Soon enough, popular culture began adopting the hipster’s characteristics. Their way of dressing was copied and adopted by everyone especially the tweens and teens ( ages 11-18).

This mass adoption by pop culture obviously made everything they stood for null and void. Soon enough, the hipster trend died and faded into obscurity. The hipsters themselves seemed to be less conspicuous and actually became what they were trying to become; unnoticed albeit unintentionally. What does this have to do with normcore? I am getting to it.

You see, the reason I found it interesting that the word normcore was first mentioned in 2009, at the peak of the hipster movement, is that the word was essentially used to describe how the hipsters dressed. Like I mentioned earlier, earlier normcore is characterized by dressing in a ‘spectacularly-unspectacular’ way ; opting for loose fitting clothes and trousers or skirts. The look is essentially unisex and borderline androgynous. The hipsters way of dressing, which paid homage to television shows like Seinfeld or even the Cosby Show, was based off looking like they weren’t trying hard at all. Could it be that it was normcore I was referring to anytime I mentioned ‘hipster chic’ back then?

Fast forward a couple more years and move location to Lagos Nigeria. With the creative being fully celebrated and individuality being the trick of the trade, it has become easy to spot a creative from a mile away. Why? Well, according to some people, they all dress the same. While I find that generalization quite myopic, as I consider myself as a creative and I am quite the glamazon, I do see some truth to it. The creative or the “Altę group” ( Short for alternative) as they are now comically referred to as , have an underlying fashion aesthetic that they subscribe to; loose fitting clothes, a penchant for vintage tees and plain white sneakers, Birkenstocks or other flatforms. Sound familiar? This look, which is the anti-peacock look that most creative Nigerians indulge in is definitely normcore. While I appreciate that there are people who are definitely and undeniably not into glam and feel more comfortable in loose casual clothing, isn’t it ironic (there’s that word again) that the very people (creative) who are more prone to deviate from the norm or mainstream are dressing similarly? Ladies and gentlemen, in being the anti-hipsters, the anti-hipsters became hipsters. The new-age hipsters have reared their head this time in plain tees, chinos and an attitude that dares you to challenge them and honestly, I’m here for all of it. Lets see how this all plays out shall we?

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