If retro was the official comeback of 2015, normcore greets 2019 with a warm welcome, especially in Korea. Walking down the streets of Seoul, a chilled plastic cup of Gong Cha bubble tea in hand, I venture out and by looking around, a horde of people clad in frayed stonewash jeans, thin linen shirts, and white tennis sneakers accost my vision. My realization was right – normcore fashion is getting big this year.
Starting from 2017 was the year normcore was pushed to the extreme, making it public to the masses. Normcore is the combination of the two words: “norm” and “hardcore”, basically meaning unpretentious, rather plain, flat-looking clothing that emphasizes comfort and similarity that is perceived as minimalistic-chic. This reveals that it’s not the froufrou lace blouses and 5-inch heels anymore – the “more comfortable, more stylish” vibe is dominating the fashion industry.
It’s an androgynous, unisex fashion trend that focuses on capturing self-awareness and stylized blandness. Rather than focusing on the designer or a particular type of pattern, normcore guides the people to pay attention to their own body shape and the clothing color that turns out to become ardently ordinary attire. It’s almost like an anti-fashion sentiment, the beauty and art of blankness that makes normcore so sexy.
Normcore is especially big in South Korea. As the Korean community is a society of conformity, the whole idea of embracing the sameness, and seeking coolness among the sameness is easily absorbed into the culture. Sporting the whole “less is more” look, many Koreans are seen in the streets, walking around in comfy slacks, flats, and denim jackets or slouchy monochrome sweaters. The deliberate uniformity of ensembles unveil the reality that in fashion, one no longer has to make a statement or flaunt big names in order to be authentic; instead, casual and simple garments among the alikeness is what makes everyone different, and moreover, hip.
As a Korean myself, I also appreciate the particular aesthetic of normcore. It is something that you can just dress in without having to think about it too much, but at the same time it makes you look slouchy-chic. Some of my favorite normcore wardrobe pieces are soft black turtleneck sweater, high rise straight-leg jeans with a distressed hem, light grey ankle socks and white Nike Classic Cortez sneakers to finish the outfit off with a nice little touch. Since I would describe my personality as rather shy and introverted, normcore look is perfect for people like me who don’t want to stand out too much from others but still want to make a fashion statement.
On the contrary, some fashion critics contest that normcore is not a true fashion style. They argue that there seems to be a clear, distinct line that divides normcore and what actual fashion is. But to think about it, what is “true” fashion anyways? These sort of confines and limitations stifle our creativity to come up with more clothing combinations, and isn’t fashion supposed to be about adaptability and versatility anyways – to let in a diverse array of styles to create a unique, flourishing community? Normcore isn’t about giving into the status quo or becoming a bland, unified mess; it’s actually about discovering the opportunity for connection and eventually your sense of self in the midst of like-minded individuals. By accommodating the norm, one can find true freedom by letting go of the pressure to look one-of-a-kind.
So why not try out normcore today? It guarantees convenience and open-minded style at the same time in the busy fast-paced buzz of city life, yet it gives room for self-expression. Talk about the epitome of the real “cool”!