Comfortable Becomes Cool With ’90s-Inspired Fashion Trend Normcore

We are all just one in seven billion-that’s it, each an insignificant speck on the face of the great spinning planet. Fashion usually teaches us that we must stand out, wear dresses made out of meat or swan puppets. I haven’t taken a math class since freshman year (and trust me, it didn’t go well), but I do know that really, the odds aren’t in our favor for this sort of pursuit unless we actually are Lady Gaga or Bjork.

That’s why the latest term to hit the fashion world is bringing hope and comfort to people: normcore. Normcore has a variety of definitions and is not easily pinned down. Some say it’s a fashion sense, others, a lifestyle, and still others, a personality type. Some argue that it doesn’t exist, some argue that it’s nothing new. What many can agree on, however, is that it’s not about being wildly overdone and individualistic. It’s a quieter sort of statement, a brandless blending of fashion. It’s not about being no one, but rather it’s about being anyone. It’s like being a tourist in a place.

Normcore has a decidedly ’90s feel and simplicity to it. Think Gap. Think boxy jeans, windbreakers, and sneakers. White, nondescript athletic socks and sandals. Turtlenecks, even. It’s an early ’90s revival with an off-brand baseball cap that’s getting attention from New York Magazine, Elle, and Forbes, among other major publications. Imagine Steve Jobs or Jerry Seinfeld, two of normcore’s favorite poster boys. Normcore has removed itself from the oppressive weight of the overdone street style that has been cluttering the fashion world for the last few years. Rather than an overwrought, meticulously planned look from head to toe, normcore reads as far more effortless, though many would argue it’s really not.

It’s not an anti-fashion movement-don’t get me wrong. It’s still a style, a movement, a mass-produced designer idea that will be sold increasingly in stores across the world. It has the possibility of being a highly accessible sort of trend, though not for the faint of heart-or should I say, vain of shape. Rocking ill-fitting, light wash jeans with a white tee and touristy NY baseball cap sounds cool in theory, but it is not so easy to pull off. When we look back at early ’90s sitcoms, don’t we often cringe at the fit of the characters’ ensembles? (I’m looking at you, Topanga Lawrence.) What the Gap is producing that is normcore versus what the large designer brands will be producing under the same alleged trend will be different, of course.

So, take an unconventional fashion tip from Clueless. No, not from Cher or Dionne, but from Cher’s stepbrother Josh or Tai, pre-makeover, of course. This is not the same rebellion that took place in the ’90s against conformity and consumerism, though for many of us that’s only a faint memory. This is our generation’s mini rebellion. It’s a stand against the need to stand out. It’s taking fashion to a nonconventional place where people can be freer.

Some argue that’s simply hipster 2.0, with a ’90s rather than a ’70s vibe this time around. It seems this is believable. There are plenty of fashion bloggers who already feel cooler than you for rocking mom jeans and a turtleneck in a non-ironic way. The question is, will you be joining the nameless crowd? Is this just a way for our generation to feel connected? I can’t help but read some serious nostalgia in this trend. When fitting in becomes the goal rather than standing out, I get a naive, hopeful sense of people reaching out beyond their keyboards hoping to make a connection, even a surface one, with the people around them. This is something I can get behind-defining our generation’s fashion sense in the moment as a sort of dorky Steve Jobs imitation, letting the clothes get quiet so that we can hear each other. There is something I really like about this latest trend, the simplicity of it. It’s hard to imagine normcore catching on in a big way outside of the sphere of fashion bloggers, however. I’ll throw on a turtleneck, sure, but I’m not sure that I can pull off a pair of boxy jeans.

I will be excited to see who latches onto this latest trend, and to see how the runway shows give us their own version of normcore-or lowlux as some are calling it in the strictly fashion sense. Although the Telegraph is calling President Barack Obama the poster boy for normcore in his denim on denim outfits and for his Gap-loving sensibilities, I’m really dying to see Lady Gaga rock the trend. Come on Gaga, I dare you: step out of the 12-inch heels, and let us see you in some Nikes.