RIP Normcore

RIP Normcore

If 2014 was the year of bland non-fashion, 2015 has been the year that exhibitionism returned. It’s time to welcome back all things Glamour, gloss and glitz

Are you normcore – or merely unfashionable?’ That was the worrying question posed by  a Toronto Star headline in March 2014. It wasn’t unique – thousands of articles from publications all over the world were covering the same topic: ‘Is bland the new black?’  The Daily Mail asked. The Huffington Post promised ‘the real meaning of normcore’, while The Telegraph offered a list of the trend’s ‘top 5 British icons’ – which was possibly the only fashion shortlist ever  to include MP Nick Clegg. It was official: normcore had gone viral.

The term – in case it passed you by – describes a trend for deliberately opting out of fashion. Think sensible tourist staples with a 1990s flavour: trainers and white socks; high-waisted jeans, possibly in a stone wash; logo sweatshirts, fleeces and baseball caps. The stylist Jeremy Lewis was quoted in a February 2014 article that explained normcore’s appeal: ‘It’s a very flat look, conspicuously unpretentious, maybe even endearingly awkward… it’s rather practical and no-nonsense, which to me, right now, seems sexy.  I like the idea that one doesn’t need their clothes  to make a statement.'

If the number of column inches spent discussing, mocking and dissecting an idea had any link to its life expectancy, we’d have been living with normcore for decades to come. In reality though, it had a shelf-life of around a year. In 2014 it was the most Googled fashion trend; by April 2015, Google announced that it was on a steep decline. The early adopters of normcore had abandoned it in their droves, annoyed that they were no longer flying under the fashion radar.

‘The fashion world has returned to  its extravagant, don’t-give-a-damn best’

So this year, blandness is out, and exhibitionism is overwhelmingly back in. The biggest trends of 2015 have been as outlandish and head-turning as they come, from 1980s-inspired lurex (all over the autumn collections of J.W. Anderson, Gucci and Christopher Kane), to wearing copious amounts of face jewellery (thanks to FKA Twigs, nose rings are having a serious moment). The trends of next season look to be just as eye-catching, from ruffles to all shades of pink. And there is a whiff of excess in the air – just think of the pop music world, currently ruled by such shrinking violets as Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna.  The latter’s big video of the year, Bitch Better  Have My Money, showed her reclining naked in a treasure chest full of cash. There has been nothing discreet about 2015.

In fact, the final death knell for being ‘practical and no-nonsense’ was delivered at September’s New York Fashion Week, when Marc Jacobs made headlines by holding  a party with a long list of dress-code requirements: ‘Fur coats over lingerie, lip gloss, Jerry Hall side-swept hair, sequins, gold lamé turbans,’ was a typical extract.  It was the party of fashion month, and nondescript clothes were very much not welcome. ‘No flat shoes. No matte surfaces. No natural looks,’ the invitation concluded.

The party was held in honour of a new photography book: Gloss, a collection by 1970s photographer Chris von Wangenheim, who specialised in all things shiny, seductive and dangerous. His images include a Doberman with its fangs around a bejewelled wrist, and a model in a mink coat walking away from a burning car. Subtle they ain’t – but although they are 40 years old, they somehow capture the current mood for maximalist everything. Their release confirms that the fashion world has returned to its extravagant, don’t-give-a-damn best; no longer does it have time for a practical fleece, or indeed anything inspired by Nick Clegg. ‘Fashion is all about dress-up,’ Jacobs told journalists at the party. ‘All you need to do is give a little encouragement and people go for it.’

But for anyone who misses the quiet, stone-washed days of last year, there may be one note of comfort: a recent New York Times article found that for many of today’s teens, normcore is still the last word in cool. ‘You are actually fashionable by looking like you don’t care about fashion at all,’ according  to Evita Nuh, the 16-year-old behind the popular The Crème De La Crop blog. In five years, her peers will be our style icons, and they’re pulling on their mom jeans as we speak. So don’t throw away your white socks just yet; like fur coats, disco and nose rings, normcore is now on the merry-go-round of fashion, just awaiting its moment to return. 

Gloss: The Work of Chris von Wangenheim £60, Rizzoli, is out now

  • Words: Hattie Crisell

  • Photography: Chris Von Wangenheim, Rex Features, Victoria Adamson, Evita Nuh