The point is to look like "a middle-aged, middle-American tourist", according to The Cut's Fiona Duncan. NYC-based trend forecasting agency K-Hole, who originally conceived the term, said it was about an attitude of "embracing sameness deliberately as a new way of being cool, rather than striving for 'difference' or 'authenticity'".
‘Normcore’, which is based on the principle of fitting in rather than standing out, is a portmanteau of the words ‘normal’ and ‘hardcore’. It first rose as a riposte to the elaborate and exuberant trends that came before it. The trend alighted in its purest and simplest form as an anti-trend, and ironically; has been a trend – or rather – a tendency, ever since.
The hipsters, musicians, niche fashion editors and many other subcultures embrace normcore as a way of appearing mainstream and wearing normal clothing like a costume, just so it looks like average. These sets of people tend to have ironic personalities and need to exude a certain kind of laissez-faire attitude.
Putting the trendy factor aside, let’s take a closer look at the people who do and have always dressed “normally” in an attempt to steer clear of ever-changing trends long before this style was coined. These people spend minimum time getting dressed since they deem the concept of 'fashion-as-expression' too self-indulgent. There's also the functional aspect. Steve Jobs – a normcore muse if there ever was one – professed to always wearing the same ensemble as to have one less decision to make a day.
Both the above groups – the authentic and contrived normcores - share the same underlying emotion - the need to look uncomplicated and unpretentious. As an inference, ‘normcore’ trend appeals to people who have – or are striving for - less complex personas. Their personalities have fewer layers to peel. They tend to score low in neuroticism, and hence are likely to be more emotionally stable, self-controlled and less reactive to their moods and emotions, and as a result, less swayed by changes or trends. They are the crudest versions of themselves and have a poker-straight approach towards life. The extravagance of the fashion world might not allure them as much it repels them.
At a dinner party, someone who veers towards normcore would be someone who would much rather discuss the weather outside than discuss the intricate design on the cutlery. This psychology hints that in normcore, one does not pretend to be above and beyond the indignity of belonging to the mainstream culture. It allows one to blend in with unfamiliarity.
Perhaps a key reason normcore appeals to hipsters and other sub-cultures, or people who just dress “normal”; is because it arises out of the exhaustion humans face out of being different from the rest of those around them, and thus find solace in dwelling on “sameness”. They also find the lack of flashy elements and delicate textures – traditional symbols of status – comforting to avoid. In many ways, dressing normcore is much like dressing in childhood. Far less complicated or steeped in nuanced meaning.
But fashion isn’t just fodder for intellectual thought, it’s fodder for the soul. Like they say - "no matter how you feel, dress up and show up". But in context of the trend in question, dress down. When life is giving us lemons, maybe we’ve got to stop adding vodka. Don’t succumb to the pressure of suiting it up when your true self doesn’t feel like it. Pull that first t-shirt out of your wardrobe and pair it with your baggy sweatpants and toss the pressure to ‘stand out’ right out of the window. Pare down to your most real version, sans all the fanciness. It might help you care less for the details of the chaos life is hurling at you and concentrate more on how bright the sun is shining outside.