Dress Your Message in Dad Jeans and White Socks: Normcore and Content


Those among you who follow the fashion world may already be aware of the trend known as normcore. Those among you who DON’T care one bit about clothes may have recently, unknowingly become fashion plates.

Think Jerry Seinfeld. Think Steve Jobs. Think your dad in the late 90’s. These are normcore fashion icons, and the movement has been creeping into the zeitgeist one white athletic sock at a time. And whether you welcome it, hate it, or hate it with the fiery passion of a dying star, normcore actually can provide some good reminders for writers, marketing strategists and content creators.

According to NYMag’s February 2014 article “Normcore: Fashion for Those Who Realize They’re One in 7 Billion,” the movement was named by the trend-forecasting collective K-Hole, who described it as a set of values rather than a design aesthetic:

[The K-Hole artists described normcore as a] general attitude: embracing sameness deliberately as a new way of being cool, rather than striving for “difference” or “authenticity.” In fashion, though, this manifests itself in ardently ordinary clothes. Mall clothes. Blank clothes…[D]ad-brand non-style…

Inevitably, the design world took this growing apathy/antipathy towards individualized fashion and ran with it. Northface jackets, socks and sandals, Reeboks, Birkenstocks, relaxed-fit jeans and baggy plain T-shirts were appearing on the hip art students and “it” kids of NYC. Designers, fashion blogs, magazines and tastemakers started deliberately incorporating traditionally UNfashionable pieces into their looks and posting them to Instagram. Jerry Lewis, editor of Garmento, explains the appeal in the above mentioned NYMag article:

Fashion has become very overwhelming and popular…Right now a lot of people use fashion as a means to buy rather than discover an identity… [Normcore is] a very flat look, conspicuously unpretentious, maybe even endearingly awkward… rather practical and no-nonsense… I like the idea that one doesn’t need their clothes to make a statement.

Unsurprisingly, the internet has been rolling its electronic eyes at normcore since day one.  It can be hard to take designers, stylists and industry bloggers seriously when they advocate turning away from fashion by adopting a particular look. But if you look past all the “dad jeans” and chunky sandals, the tenets of the normcore movement can remind us about authenticity and integrity.

1. Get back to basics

Normcore’s lifeblood is the basic, unadorned, no-frills pieces that have never really gone out of style (because many of them were never actually IN style). In terms of content, this means proper grammar. It means strong verbs, pertinent adjectives and clear sentence structure. It means adhering to any style guides, citing sources and PROOFREADING. No matter how sleek your design is or how visionary your message may be, if you accidentally leave the “L” out of “public,” guess what people are going to remember?

2. Don’t let gimmicks and trends overwhelm your message

I know it’s tempting to see something cool and innovative and to think, “Man! We should really try that with our brand!” And there are certainly some trends that can help keep your image fresh and up-to-date. But if you are a bankruptcy law firm, perhaps you don’t need to make a Harlem Shake video or post a new listicle to your blog every week in order to most effectively convey your brand’s message. The philosophy underlying normcore is that fashion trends can get in the way of showcasing who you really are, and that sometimes, a simpler presentation is the best way to tell a worthwhile story.

3. Feel free to be yourself

The most essential tenet of normcore is that your story is already unique without elaborate accessories and styling. Staying true to yourself is tough because it requires you to have a good grasp of who you are, what you want to say and how you want to say it. But once you figure that out, you shouldn’t easily give in to pressure to change your tone and goals. If your company and message are based in sincerity and directness, don’t try to create content with an edgy, sarcastic feel. Your audience will sense the dissonance and may be put off by it. It’s essential to have a firm grasp on your message and identity, and to strive to create the best content based on that conviction.

No matter what you think about normcore fashion, hopefully you’re doing your best to cultivate substance over style. At the very least, you can take comfort knowing that the clothes you wear in secret to binge-watch Netflix are, at long last, au courant.

Sally BomanWriter/Editor

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