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normcore

noun [uncountable]

a fashion trend in which people intentionally wear ordinary, inexpensive, widely-available clothing

'Normcore. You've heard of it in fashion circles – the trend for anti-style, back-to-basics … Plain. Simple. Low-key. No-fuss. Normcore is the triumph of normal and regular over the frothy excesses of the big-name designers.'

The Australian 20th December 2014

If you're a person who has little interest in being a 'dedicated follower of fashion' and is normally content with whatever styles seem practical and presentable, then during the last 12 months or so it transpires that, paradoxically, you have in fact been a 'dedicated follower of fashion'. This is all courtesy of a fashion trend dubbed normcore, where no-frills jeans, shoes, and pullovers are suddenly the talking point of fashionistas.

in the land of normcore, flashy logos, flamboyant colour palettes and trademark designs are out. Unbranded, sensible grey/blue/black, buy-it-anywhere bottoms, tops and trainers are in

Normcore is a kind of anti-fashion trend in which people intentionally adopt a run-of-the-mill approach to their wardrobes, wearing ordinary clothes from off-the-shelf brands as a deliberate fashion statement. It's the complete antithesis of the concepts we'd conventionally associate with the fashion elite, with individually-styled garments carrying hefty price tags giving way to inexpensive hoodies, plain T-shirts and even mom jeans. In the land of normcore, flashy logos, flamboyant colour palettes and trademark designs are out. Unbranded, sensible grey/blue/black, buy-it-anywhere bottoms, tops and trainers are in.

In January 2015 the American Dialect Society included the word normcore in their hit list of new words identified as 'least likely to succeed', reflecting a growing scepticism for the idea within the fashion industry. However, despite its widespread dismissal as a ridiculous fad and repeated attempts to debunk the concept in fashion commentary, the word and principle it represents seem to be persisting, its influence even spreading to other domains, as illustrated in the article including the citation above, which refers to e.g: normcore chef/restaurant/menu.

Background – normcore

Normcore is a blend of the words |normal and hardcore (in its sense of unwillingness to change your opinions, behaviour etc.), and was coined by New York trend agency K-hole in 2013. The word is an interesting example of how, in the digital era, the language community at large can quickly latch onto a particular word association and thereby perpetuate a meaning which is in fact quite different to what was originally intended. In the midst of the term's exploding popularity, agency K-hole have been at pains to point out that normcore was not just about clothes but more about behaviour – the idea that an individual adapts to situations and adopts the normal characteristics of where they are and who they're with, an emerging culture in which there's less forced individuality and more fluidity in an attempt to connect with others. This appears to have got confused with K-hole's earlier concept of Acting Basic, which refers to dressing simply and neutrally in order to avoid standing out.

Whatever the intention, it seems that the idea of 'being cool by not being cool', though possibly a little contrived, is proving a popular liberation of our wardrobes and possibly other aspects of life too, which may mean that the term normcore turns out to be more enduring than some might predict.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 31st March 2015.

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a flower or small bunch of flowers worn on the lapel of a jacket on special occasions

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