To Take Something Recognizably Bad
March 15, 2015 1:50 PM   Subscribe

The Revolution Will Probably Wear Mom Jeans (Eugenia Williamson, on normcore (previously), for The Baffler)
posted by box (59 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
First I've heard of the term "normcore".

I guess that's what happens when one lives in Boston, fashion need not apply.
posted by lydhre at 1:55 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Normcore is not and has never been a real thing.

The real thing is the evergreen return of Prepster fashion as the baseline "normal". That wasn't the case for a long time. It moved from being a distinct look to being a default. How many cardigans over button-up shirts have you seen today?
posted by The Whelk at 2:02 PM on March 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh god, splash screens.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:04 PM on March 15, 2015


"Pizza, for example, is a child’s food."

Any small slice credibility this article had completely vanished in 7 words.
posted by HMSSM at 2:05 PM on March 15, 2015 [46 favorites]


I don't think of my style as normcore. I think of it as hiding in the fattest part of the fashion distribution curve.
posted by srboisvert at 2:08 PM on March 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


But woe betide any actual mother, her lower abdomen distended in pregnancy’s aftermath, who tries to pull off mom jeans. On all but the sveltest frames, they look frumpy, unflattering, and hopelessly out of touch. It takes a lithe physique and other signifiers of privilege to put quotation marks around apparel that, under most circumstances, reads as clueless or careless.

Oh god, so true. Good luck going to the store and trying to find clothes if even as a non-child-having 20-30 year old this "fashionably frumpy" look just looks like plain old frump on you. Ask me how I know! This has been all that you can buy for the last 10 years. I just want to dress like a normal person and not stand out, but this look is incredibly hard to find in the stores. That's why talking about "normcore is here, normcore is there" doesn't make any sense, everyone everywhere is shopping at the same 10 stores across the country that all sell the same clothes. They buy 100,000 of one thing and that's what there is to buy this quarter.
posted by bleep at 2:10 PM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I had to Google "normcore" to make sure this wasn't a parody. Now I'm not sure where fiction ends and reality begins.
posted by kewb at 2:16 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Were hipsters sacrificing their coolness in a brave act of self-renunciation?

Or maybe realizing how boring they actually are?
posted by jonmc at 2:18 PM on March 15, 2015


wait wait wait, Glenn Beck owns a clothing label that makes selvage denim?
posted by desjardins at 2:24 PM on March 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


How many cardigans over button-up shirts have you seen today?

*looks in mirror*

One.
posted by betweenthebars at 2:28 PM on March 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


I like the way you think HMSSM. The author outed herself two paragraphs ahead of that by leading with:

To take something recognizably bad, whether pizza

What the hell is this person talking about? What the hell is this person talking about?
posted by Poppa Bear at 2:31 PM on March 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


OMFG, I went to the 1791 website so you don't have to. From its "Our Story" page:
We started our company in June of 2011. At the time our store was comprised only of jeans and t-shirts. People thought we were crazy. But they didn’t know what we had in our hearts. ... We are about a lifestyle and we cling to a simple philosophy, that life is better when the stuff around us, and the people in our lives, are real, and when they are simple. ... 1791 now can go beyond providing you with clothes; it can provide you with the tools to lead a full life. From the football you throw to your son on a Saturday, to the wool blanket you wrap around your wife, sitting next to her by the fire, whether it is on the couch on a cold winter night or under the stars in the mountains. We are striving to provide you with the highest quality goods for all aspects of your life. Because it is the well-worn axe lying next to your woodpile, your kitchen table marked with water rings, and your most loved jeans that show the adventures that tell the story of your life.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:36 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


We had normcore before. It was called "The 90s."

...as the article notes. if you don't believe me, watch some Friends or Seinfeld and reflect on the fact that what they were wearing was in style.
posted by Miko at 2:40 PM on March 15, 2015 [16 favorites]


I agree with you, though, The Whelk. It's just fashion receding toward the mean.
posted by Miko at 2:41 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think of bell bottoms as mom jeans, but that's because I'm old.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:44 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


How can we discuss "normcore" without talking about a certain plump Bostonian barfly?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:48 PM on March 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Ohmigod. Articles about hipsters. So 2011.

Soon, they will reap the benefits of their semi-ironic STEM degrees, matriculating further into actual jobs in management.

Semi-ironic STEM degrees? What does that even mean? It's like it's not enough to hate hipsters, you have to devalue literally everything they do as "ironic," because otherwise you might have to describe them as making reasonable decisions from time to time.
posted by teponaztli at 2:49 PM on March 15, 2015 [21 favorites]


"look at me I'm totally learning applied math lol jk"

Besides, we allready know what the hot new trends are gonna be
posted by The Whelk at 2:57 PM on March 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


The author outed herself two paragraphs ahead of that

A bit of clicking indicates that the author is from Chicago. She might have a point.
posted by effbot at 2:58 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not convinced this even has the dignity to look good on lithe young bodies. I've yet to see any photographic evidence that it does.

I hate this phase. At this point, the styles are ripped directly from the era they're copying and it's so cynical. Eventually it will move to incorporating different customer to update the styles to be an amalgam of yesteryear and today and it will be okay. Until then; Ugh.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:59 PM on March 15, 2015


Just asking, are there any clothing stores that don't also sell axes, nowadays?
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 3:00 PM on March 15, 2015


The charitable reading of "semi ironic STEM Degree" is that the degrees are being persued not out of a passion for the work but for the economic stability they promise and they don't really "identify" as an engineer or something.


Which, I'd like to point out, is not called being semi-ironic. it's called having a job.
posted by The Whelk at 3:01 PM on March 15, 2015 [27 favorites]


"Baroque" seems like about the right characterization, but that just points to the continuity with the general phenomenon of appropriating/reframing formerly ugly or plebian clothing that has been going on since at least the mid '90s. And the class analysis is goofy. If anything, the novelty here is in aiming up a rung on the class ladder from the received thing. Nametag bearing work shirts and trucker hats were ironic blue collar drag. "Normcore" plays on whitebread and whitecollar stereotypes... The Gap and Jerry Seinfeld, not People of Walmart.
posted by batfish at 3:02 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Because it is the well-worn axe lying next to your woodpile, your kitchen table marked with water rings, and your most loved jeans that show the adventures that tell the story of your life.

Um. I think someone is confused about he definition of the word 'adventure'. Because, it's the bloodstained axe lying next to the pile of enemies, the kitchen table scarred with bullet holes, and the jeans most pierced with tranquilizer darts that show the adventures that tell the story of my life.
posted by sexyrobot at 3:02 PM on March 15, 2015 [21 favorites]


And never has a trend shown itself to be so openly contemptuous of the working class.

does she like, not remember all of that shit with trucker caps and ironic trailers from the aughts? That was way worse.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:06 PM on March 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Because, it's the bloodstained axe lying next to the pile of enemies, the kitchen table scarred with bullet holes, and the jeans most pierced with tranquilizer darts that show the adventures that tell the story of my life.

I love you so much for that, sexyrobot. Thanks.

Also? As a mother, I was so proud when I walked into the house the other day, pink insulated bibs covered in the blood of a freshly skinned and eviscerated pig, and my 7-year-old daughter looked at me and said, "What's for breakfast?" That's momcore in my house.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:07 PM on March 15, 2015 [15 favorites]


K-HOLE's “Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom" is required reading for anyone discussing normcore, and I don't think Ms. Williamson gave it a close examination. K-HOLE normcore is context dependent, about celebrating sameness in any group of people. "Normcore doesn’t want the freedom to become someone. Normcore wants the freedom to be with anyone. You might not understand the rules of football, but you can still get a thrill from the roar of the crowd at the World Cup. In Normcore, one does not pretend to be above the indignity of belonging." Pop normcore is a different animal altogether.
posted by vendaval at 3:16 PM on March 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


What's a "hipster?"
posted by univac at 3:22 PM on March 15, 2015


Proving there really isn't anything new under the sun...

It takes a lithe physique and other signifiers of privilege to put quotation marks around apparel that, under most circumstances, reads as clueless or careless.

People have been bitching about that for decades.

"Don't you know about the new fashion, honey?
All you need are looks and a whole lotta money."

That was released 35 years ago.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:23 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Shorter: Your signifiers are offensive and/because the world burns around you.

This article could be rewritten (and probably is) every 10 years on the newest style trend. Yawn.
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:24 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


What's a "hipster?"

An imaginary boogeyman described as anyone younger than you not wearing a suit.
posted by The Whelk at 3:24 PM on March 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


I went to my prom with my gay punk best friend. I cleaned up my act for the dance and looked like a slightly modest 90's kid in a plain dress; he had fluorescent green hair, large gauge earrings, and a red bow tie. In college, a friend of his was surprised to see him spending time with such a muggle. "Oh, she's a bigger freak than me on the inside," was his response.

Therefore I was normcore before it was cool, and I win....something.
posted by tchemgrrl at 3:27 PM on March 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


What's a "hipster?"

Young people making carefully thought-out, studious choices in order to maximize their entertainment dollar in an unfair, rapacious, rigged economy that...

Wait, wait. They're narcissistic douchebags.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:27 PM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


OMFG, I went to the 1791 website so you don't have to

Way to take one for the team. That was smarmy to the extent that my smarm receptors may have been damaged. Trying to imaging the thought process of their ideal consumer. I'm REAL - you can tell by all the REAL possessions that I surround myself with in order that I may live my life to the fullest!
posted by thelonius at 3:35 PM on March 15, 2015


The real thing is the evergreen return of Prepster fashion as the baseline "normal". That wasn't the case for a long time. It moved from being a distinct look to being a default. How many cardigans over button-up shirts have you seen today?

i often call this my "butch professor" look but should probably have it called something hipper, like "demimasc professorcore", which is actually more accurate
posted by NoraReed at 3:35 PM on March 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Action librarian! Look like you may have to deliver a lecture on 19th century archives OR dig up a corpse to find ENCHANTED RINGS
posted by The Whelk at 3:36 PM on March 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


i think mine is less likely to find enchanted rings and more likely to unexpectedly seduce a beautiful heroine, who is the one doing enchanted ring digging
posted by NoraReed at 3:40 PM on March 15, 2015


Oh, and since no one else has yet: the revolution will be getting off my lawn.
posted by thelonius at 3:49 PM on March 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


old fart mode - a report on futile crankery
posted by pyramid termite at 3:49 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


If there are no skinny jeans involved, I can't see it as anything but progress.
posted by uosuaq at 3:57 PM on March 15, 2015


The K-hole report was a joke.
posted by dame at 4:18 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


When the Baffler was at its best, full of incisive takedowns of corporate salesmanship masquerading as grassroots democracy, there were still a few tedious articles where "cool people critique other cool people for being insufficiently cool." Since its academic takeover by the MIT Press, there are far more of these sorts of pieces in the magazine now. I think this is because Tom Frank took his political-economic vision to his new job at Harper's. The "cult studs" now dominate the journal where they were formerly mocked.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 4:21 PM on March 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


We started our company in June of 2011. At the time our store was comprised only of jeans and t-shirts. People thought we were crazy. But they didn't know what we had in our hearts. ...

Who the hell writes like that? And whoever that is, how can they sleep at night knowing that they'd written something so terrible?
posted by octothorpe at 4:22 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


How many cardigans over button-up shirts have you seen today?

It's warm today so none but when it's cold this is what I wear nearly every day. Boots, jeans, button-up shirt, cardigan, scarf: that's about 80% of my fall and winter wardrobe right there.

And never has a trend shown itself to be so openly contemptuous of the working class.

Nay, I say, nay: newsboy caps. Never has the working class been so insulted.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:26 PM on March 15, 2015


I think normcore started as a jokey anti-fashion sort of thing but now just means 90s throwback wear
posted by Greener Backyards at 4:29 PM on March 15, 2015


Actually, I was in a thrift store this weekend and watched these two young vaguely bro-ish kind of guys ( you know, basketball shorts, baseball caps, etc.) pile up shirts with no regard to style or color or pattern. Then, clutching an armload of shirts, one guy says to the other "That's it. I got enough shirts for the next couple weeks."

That, my friends, is normcore.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:45 PM on March 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Oh and in that same thrift store I found a copy of Water Bearer, Sally Oldfield's record about elves.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:51 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


This article is three times longer than it needs to be, in order to deliver even one meaningful point. No, man and no, woman; Americans can be a comfortable people, wear comfortable, utilitarian clothes, and make no statement whatsoever except they are in their groove.

If there is one thing America has given the world, it is comfortable, varied, casual dress.
posted by Oyéah at 5:15 PM on March 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ironic clothing, ironic truck trailers, ironic university degrees all must take a lot of ironic money
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:35 PM on March 15, 2015


In the last MF fashion thread someone pointed jot that by definition the next style to come back will be big jeans, drug rugs & tummy shirts ala early 2000s Rap metal/ raver goth. So yeah. Normcores way better than that.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:07 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


In Normcore, one does not pretend to be above the indignity of belonging."

The first rule of Normcore is don't talk about Normcore....
posted by photoslob at 7:42 PM on March 15, 2015


I actually love normcore because it's so comfortable. Mom jeans may not look FANTASTIC on my hippy lower body and thick thighs but they're super comfortable and I don't have to worry about showing skin all the time like when low-rise jeans were in style. I don't think they make me look "frumpy" just because I'm not model-thin. Similarly, a lot of other "normcore" stuff is quite modest and relaxing; I don't have anything against skin-tight clothes or showing skin, but it can be stressful (and uncomfortable) to wear. I like that I can go into lots of affordable stores at a variety of price points and find comfortable clothes that are on trend. Makes my life that much easier. Thumbs up. Bye skinny jeans.

One of the very few fashion bloggers that I read started buying mom jeans when they came into style, right after she had a kid of her own and became an actual mom, and she was like "it's kind of hilarious to buy 'mom' jeans now that I'm a mom, but what can I say, they make my baby-body life much easier." And I think that's pretty cool.

I get why people are calling it 90s throwback but I actually think 90s throwback was bigger pre-normcore (see: every H&M lower floor) and now it's kind of a different angle. I can see how assholes wearing this stuff could feel "contemptuous" of the working class or whatever but like, if you're not an asshole, and you think the clothes are interesting... who cares? Assholes be assholes.

Also, "ironic" (bad word choice, but I know what she means) STEM degrees are totally a thing... and I agree, it's in the same spirit-- taking something functional and deciding it's cool now and not lame. Because it's a survival move. So it's all a bit cynical and late capitalism, but also makes life easier, for sure.

I mean, you could be cynical about the 20th century boom in pants for women because it was part of an arc of extracting more exploited labor from women or something, but ultimately women started wearing pants because they made life easier, and it was great.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:14 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


OMFG, I went to the 1791 website so you don't have to

I will say that the guy wearing all the men's clothes has a great beard.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:17 PM on March 15, 2015


I do wear a hell of a lot of cardigans but I can safely describe my typical look as 'Muggleborn junior librarian' so I don't think it counts-- I'm usually wearing the cardigan over a novelty-print cotton dress and I have a bunch of weird brooches pinned to it. (Yesterday's brooches: small cameo, rhinestone eye, tiny cat with chippy black enamel. And I got tights with sparkly moons and stars on clearance at Target!)
posted by nonasuch at 8:30 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The author outed herself two paragraphs ahead of that

A bit of clicking indicates that the author is from Chicago. She might have a point.


*low growl building to dull roar*
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:37 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


A bit of clicking indicates that the author is from Chicago. She might have a point.

You know, for a while there I was sad that Jon Stewart had left the Daily Show.
posted by Jpfed at 9:22 PM on March 15, 2015


I have a bunch of weird brooches pinned to it.

That's a big look that was popular in the mid-80s, and I still haven't seen it come sweeping back, though maybe you're in the vanguard as I'm finding a few examples on fashion blogs now. Multiple brooches were a big thing. I had a bunch on my coat lapels and on my hats. I still have a few of them - the ones my brother gave me, two tiny guitars, a 1930s green enamel roadster and a rhinestoned biplane - but wear them more sparingly now. I did some Google image searching for "1980s brooches" and got a lot of screenshots from Heathers. People did wear them 'properly' (at the neckline) but also in multiples.
posted by Miko at 9:50 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


So Women's Lee Jeans, a decent printed t-shirt, and a cardigan are fashionable now? What do you know. I went from being a boring mid-40s suburban mother-of-three to a cutting-edge fashion icon, and all I had to do was spend 25 years not giving a shit about fashion. SCORE!
posted by Hamadryad at 6:03 AM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]




« Older "Because girls are nerds, guys, and they want to...   |   Bad Maps Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments