The nineties was one of those decades that never seemed to have a distinct look or feel that I knew for certain would come back around, fashion wise. Until, of course, it did. Perhaps because I was in my 20s during that decade, at an age of career building, marriage, and identity forming, it never seemed contrived or stylized, it was just my life. And since in my mind I’m still 22 (what?), there was never a sense of “dressing so 90s” like there was in the 80s or even the 70s.
Sure enough, as hipsters return to the decade of grunge and minimalism, you can spot it. That IS so 90s. Huh. Never to be considered quaint or nostalgic, of course, leave it to the hipsters themselves to re-name, nay, re-BRAND a decade of awful fashion and call it Normcore. Normcore isn’t just about the 90s per se, but it is about an anti-fashion statement. Most new trends are about zigging when everyone else is zagging, and Normcore couldn’t possibly zig farther from the celebrity obsessed, label obsessed culture in which we have been living.
The hallmarks of Normcore are 90s favorites like Birkenstocks, sports team baseball caps (unlike trucker hats of years before), faded Levis and nondescript t-shirts. How is this distinguished from , say, a haphazardly dressed bachelor? (sorry, boys) Well, cuz it’s on purpose, y’all!
When T, the New York Times Fashion Magazine writes an article on “the enduring appeal of Patagonia Fleece“, you know a trend has took hold. Fast forward through the trends’ cycle and you will now find those Birkenstocks in Vogue, albeit in metallic silver or covered in Swarovski crystals, but Birkenstocks? In VOGUE? I’m sure Anna had to text Rihanna to make sure THAT was legit before allowing it in her pages.
So is this just a 90s redux? According to NY Magazine’s Fiona Duncan, “But while (in their original incarnation) those (90s) styles (like grunge) reflected anxiety around “selling out,” today’s version is more ambivalent toward its market reality. Normcore isn’t about rebelling against or giving into the status quo; it’s about letting go of the need to look distinctive, to make time for something new.” So…..it’s fashion. About Nothing. Kind of like another 90s hallmark, Seinfeld.
The fashion cycle has become so increasingly fast, there are those just opting out. It’s a Jetson’s, ‘Jane, stop this crazy thing!‘ response to trends, fast fashion, and the idea that one can buy style. I kind of don’t hate that particular angle on it.
I guess when I see Nordstrom displaying an array of shiny adorned Birkenstocks in a New Jersey mall, I have to say that the anti-trend may have jumped the shark. My trendslation of Normcore? It sure is ugly. But as always in fashion, be who you are.