My favorite outfit for the last few weeks has been a pair of black 3.1 Phillip Lim trousers I somehow acquired from my roommate, a Forever 21 t-shirt I bought because I had to spend $17 more to get free shipping, a cheap pair of ankle boots from the Borgata shops in Atlantic City (don’t ask), and a few mismatched pieces of jewelry. To this I can add an obnoxious necklace, delicate earrings, taller boots, or a hat. I can put on a blazer if I need to look businesslike, or leggings underneath if it’s freezing. It’s an outfit that can be mixed around, subtracted from and added to like the serve-yourself salad bar at a slightly unhygienic deli.
Things are simple, but not as simple as they could be.
The biggest buzzword of the season is undoubtedly Normcore. In a short span of just a few weeks it’s been cited everywhere from Forbes to Paris Fashion Week. It’s fun to talk about and make fun of, like the H word was 10 years ago, but I was also legitimately curious. Could I be entirely liberated from the stress of accessories, and have an extra two minutes to finish my breakfast in the morning? Could I stop wasting money on obnoxious sunglasses? Could I truly be free from the freedom of wanting to be someone?
Two Saturdays ago seemed the perfect time to make the transition. First, I had recently become the owner of a pair of sneakers. Secondly, my parents were visiting from New Zealand, meaning the number of fleece vests readily available to me had increased from zero to two. Maybe I could even wear my mom’s vest while my dad wore his and we took in overrated Manhattan landmarks and ate breakfast sandwiches from 7-11. It wouldn’t even be ironic, it would just be pure, wholesome, under-accessorized fun! It would be Normcore!
On the morning of my makeunder, I awake rather excited and begin getting ready. I decide to keep my makeup fresh and natural — actually natural, not the “natural” I usually do where it takes multiple shades of foundation and the most delicate application of top-lid eyeliner. I manage to keep it this way for about 10 minutes before giving into temptation and drawing on my usual cat-eye liner, but at least I tried. But wait, Normcore is about not trying… Crap! At least I still have the clothes to not care about.
Next step, sneakers. Those are literally the foundation of a Normcore outfit. I couldn’t find anything with an elasticated waist, so I put on my skinnies in the most effortless, Normcore way you can put on tight jeans, and started looking for a t-shirt. The ideal Normcore t-shirt should be sufficiently unattractive, but in a Planet Fitness freebie way rather than an overpriced band shirt one. The old Diet Coke shirt I wore to bed the night before? Sure. Regular Coke would have been better, but as Emily Segal says in the latest K-Hole trend report, ‘Youth Mode,’ “Normcore doesn’t want the freedom to become someone. Normcore wants the freedom to be with anyone. You might not understand the rules of football, but you can still get a thrill from the roar of the crowd at the World Cup.” And there was no telling whether the coffee stains on this t-shirt were from La Colombe or Dunkin’ Donuts.
The first mistake I make is to look in the mirror. Ugh, I look like a 15-year-old who just got home from the mall and changed into a shitty t-shirt to dye her hair with Schwarzkopf Live. I text my mom. “I can’t find anything Normcore, can I borrow your vest?” She suggests a button-up cardigan because she doesn’t understand.
Twenty minutes later I’m late for breakfast and panicking. I’ve scoured my roommate’s floor for socks that aren’t glittery, tried on six different jackets (including a colossal satin baseball one with the name “Bud” italicized on the front), and am now beginning to doubt myself as a human being for only owning one pair of jeans. Segal’s trend report says, “If the rules say Think Different, being seen as normal is the scariest thing.” But it isn’t being seen as normal that’s scary, it’s been seen as someone who can’t figure out what to wear with a pair of basic grey skinny jeans.
Okay ugh, Normcore sucks. Screw it. I keep the jeans on, take off my pajama shirt, and put on my conformist, superficially simplistic t-shirt. I don’t like Dunkin’ Donuts anyway.