"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, "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 undistinguished – except, frequently, for a highly 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, 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.
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