Normcore is a portmanteau of the words normal and hardcore. The word first appeared in the webcomic Templar, Arizona before 2009 and was later employed by K-HOLE, a trend forecasting group, in an October 2013 report called "Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom".
As used by K-HOLE, the word normcore referred to an attitude, not a particular code of dress. It was intended to mean "finding liberation in being nothing special." However, a piece in New York magazine that began popularizing the term in February 2014 conflated it with "Acting Basic", another K-HOLE concept which involved dressing neutrally to avoid standing out. It was this sense of normcore which gained popular usage. The characters featured on the television series Seinfeld are frequently cited as exemplifying the aesthetics and ethos of normcore fashion.
Normcore wearers are people who do not wish to distinguish themselves from others by their clothing. This is not to mean that they are unfashionable people who wear whatever comes to hand, but that they consciously choose clothes that are practical and undistinguished – except perhaps for a visible label to impart prestige. The "normcore" trend has been interpreted as a reaction to fashion oversaturation resulting from ever faster-changing fashion trends.
Normcore clothes include everyday items of casual wear such as t-shirts, hoodies, polos, short-sleeved shirts, jeans and chino pants, but not items such as neckties or blouses. These clothes are worn by men and women alike, making normcore a unisex style.
Clothes that meet the "normcore" description are mainly sold by large fashion and retail chains such as The Gap, Jack & Jones, Superdry, Jigsaw, and Esprit. They are generally cheaply produced in East Asian countries. Many other retailers such as Marc O'Polo, Woolrich, Desigual, Closed, and Scotch & Soda produce normcore-like clothes combined with individual design ideas.
A variation on this concept for women has been called menocore, after menopause. Designer brands associated with this style of dressing since the 1980s include Eileen Fisher and Donna Karan. It is loose, comfortable clothing, usually in light or neutral colors, that fits a variety of informal social situations, from teaching to waitressing to eating lunch in a restaurant. The style suggests that the wearer is mature and self-confident, that she is not seeking attention from men, and that she has leisure time and wealth. Because of these associations, it has class connotations and can be stereotyped as the dressing style of a thin woman who is middle-aged or older and already wealthy enough that she does not need the kind of lucrative employment that would require wearing either a more formal style of clothing or a work uniform. The style may be adopted by women outside the stereotype as an aspirational style, to suggest that they wish to eventually attain the financial security, leisure, and other lifestyle elements available to older, wealthier women.
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