What the Heck Is Normcore? 10 Pieces for Getting the Average-on-Purpose Look

The term, popularized in 2013, was actually meant to be a joke.

(SPOT.ph) Unlike the hippie movement origins of boho or the '90s hip-hop roots of streetwear, normcore does not have a long history—the term itself is barely half a decade old. A portmanteau of the words “normal” and “hardcore,” it was first popularized in 2013 by a trend forecasting group known as K-Hole

K-Hole published a report entitled “Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom” that proclaimed the death of uniqueness. In an age where virtually anything has the potential to go viral, the “assertion of individuality,” they claimed, becomes stripped from young people trying to shape their identity through personal style. And so, the emancipation from this incapacity was normcore, where “one does not pretend to be above the indignity of belonging.” That is to say, the aesthetic and philosophy of normcore style doesn’t mind looking like everyone else—average. The tail-end of the 2000s and early 2010s saw a fascination for “hipster” culture, in finding ways to break away from the norm or else taking strides to create some kind of unique, personal brand. Normcore was the antithetical response to that.

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The report was meant to be satirical, an exercise in irony that poked fun at the public’s need to create a name for every movement and zeitgeist (Millennial, Gen Z, et cetera). At the same time, it was a tongue-in-cheek tease at the over-the-top, hyper-curated style philosophies that dominated the social-media generation. Without meaning to, K-Hole invented a new trend out of thin air. The Oxford University Press even named normcore a runner-up for neologism of the year in 2014 (second only to "vaping").

In general, the look is marked by practical, comfortable ensembles and neutral colors and patterns—a kind of urban camouflage that says “I didn’t even try.” It also embraces pieces that would otherwise be deemed too dowdy or kitschy like cargo pants, chunky sandals, old-school specs, long socks, and the like—basically, if your dad thinks it's cool, you can probably put it on and call it normcore. If you want to cop the look, here’s how.

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Here are 10 essential pieces to help you achieve the normcore aesthetic:

T-shirt

Basic Oversized T-Shirt (P695)
PHOTO BY Pull&Bear

What’s more practical than a plain white tee? Any regular T-shirt will do, but we’re eyeing this one from Pull&Bear for its oversized silhouette and draped sleeves that will give you that “I woke up like this” look. Throw it on over jeans and white kicks and you’re good to go. It also comes in black and gray, which, as you probably guessed, are both normcore-approved shades. 

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See a list of Pull&Bear branches.  

Trousers

Cargo Jeans (P2,295)
PHOTO BY Mango

One of the best things about normcore style is how easy it is to incorporate into your everyday routine. Practical trousers like this pair from Mango would fit the look (and your daily work attire) perfectly. The straight-cut silhouette and cotton fabric will make you look as comfy as you feel. They also come in black and camo, but you can also opt for pants with practical patterns like pinstripes or gingham. Plus, we love the two big cargo pockets on each leg, which are practical, but also give your trousers a unique twist.

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Available at Mango branches nationwide. 

Jeans

Mid-Rise Best Girlfriend Jeans (P3,450)
PHOTO BY Gap

It goes without saying that jeans work for pretty much any style or personality. For a normcore look, choose jeans with a relaxed fit that don’t have any extravagant rips or marks, like this pair from Gap. The classic light wash will make it look like you’ve had the pants for years and just pulled them out of your closet, no biggie ("what, this old thing?"). You can up the ante with a chunky black belt that’s both functional and stylish.

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See a list of Gap branches.

Knitwear

Jumper with Dolman Sleeves (P1,490)
PHOTO BY H&M

Keep your OOTD cozy and effortless with some knitwear pieces like a long cardigan or a simple sweater. This jumper from H&M would be a good option. The loose fit will be super comfy (and hide your post-lunch belly), while the fresh cream shade will still look chic and put-together. Plus, the v-neck and flattering fit will subtly keep your silhouette structured despite the slouchy shape.

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See a list of H&M branches.

Sneakers

Stan Smith Shoes (P4,800)
PHOTO BY Adidas

You can’t go wrong pairing your looks with classic kicks like these all-white Stan Smith sneakers from Adidas. However, don’t be afraid to go for chunky silhouettes and even a few pops of color on your shoes if your overall outfit is fairly simple. Tip: Wear your sneakers with cropped pants then slide some long socks over your ankles—instant normcore.

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See a list of Adidas branches.

Loafers

Bow Details Loafers (P2,599)
PHOTO BY Charles & Keith

Loafers are a shoe-rack essential. These versatile shoes can be made to look professional, romantic, quirky, and yup, normcore, too. This pair from Charles & Keith can be your go-to for big meetings and important lunches. Save them for when you want to elevate any outfit and make it a tad bit dressier.

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See a list of Charles & Keith branches.

Polo Shirt

Rayon Skipper Collar 3/4 Sleeve Blouse (P1,290)
PHOTO BY Uniqlo

Your mom probably told you ages ago that you ought to have a go-to white polo shirt in your closet—time to admit she was right all along. Not only is the piece a go-to for busy days when you need to dress to impress, it’s also a normcore staple thanks to its effortless, timeless look. Try this rayon blouse from Uniqlo, which would make you appear put-together in an instant. Plus, the breezy silhouette and wrinkle-resistant fabric makes it fuss-free to wear even on your busiest days.

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See a list of Uniqlo branches.

Jacket

Denim Jacket With Pockets (P4,295)
PHOTO BY Zara

Despite its minimalist philosophy, normcore embraces layering. The simple patterns and colors associated with the look allow for piling different pieces on top of one another. Keep a bulky jacket like this denim button-down from Zarafor when you want to add an extra layer to your outfit. You can opt for a classic blue denim wash, but we’re loving the black version, too. Tip: the older and grungier it looks, the better.

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See a list of Zara branches.

Slip-Ons

Arizona SFB Sandals (P5,050)
PHOTO BY Birkenstock

We bet normcore would have embraced the flipflop trend of the early 2000s. For now, the most you can probably get away with is slip-on sandals. Whether you’re rocking jeans and a tee or trousers and a blouse, you can slide them on and make any look as chill as you are—disheveled, but make it fashion. Try it out with Birkenstock’s classic slip-ons sandals.

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Birkenstock has branches at SM Mall of Asia, SM Aura, Alabang Town Center, Greenbelt 5, Robinsons Place Manila, Market Market, SM Megamall, SM North EDSA, Trinoma, and UP Town Center.

Blazer

Blazer with Rolled-Up Sleeves (P2,295)
PHOTO BY Bershka

Make any outfit work-ready by throwing a blazer on top—yup, even your laziest ensembles. This jacket from Bershka would add some texture to your average-on-purpose look thanks to the grainy gray color. You can also wear it on the weekends—the rolled-up sleeves keep it casual enough for a night out.

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See a list of Bershka branches.

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