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Normcore: the art of not standing out to stand out

If you’re like me, you’ve recently acknowledged the growing presence of hipsters in Dubai. If not, go for a coffee at The Magazine Shop on Friday morning at Safa Park when the Market of Everything happens. I actually enjoy seeing this because in some ways, it’s a sign that Dubai is shaping its very own urban soul. In other words, where there are hipsters, there is coolness happening and the ultimate thing a large metropolis aspires to is to be cool (NB: not only the “largest skyscrapers and hotels” type of coolness but also the intangible one).

However there’s something new coming. Being at its very early stages of hispterisation, I doubt Dubai is ready for this thing. It’s called “normcore” and it’s somehow the post-hispster current of thought.

Tonic International Normcore PictureThe origins of normcore

The word was actually invented by K-HOLE in New-York and then massively popularised by Fiona Duncan and her marking article in the New York magazine.  Still in the fashion field, I believe the following definition by Simon Doonan encompasses really well the context of normcore inception and what it really is:

The idea, more or less, is that in an era that embraces the distinct, bespoke, and quirky, the final fashion frontier is dressing like a big fat anonymous nobody.

So shifting from one global current (i.e.: hispterisation) in which people are carving their singularity, distinction and uniqueness, here we are, seeking the sameness and the similarities. Yes, this is odd and I doubt it will be a hit in Dubai anytime soon.

More than just fashion

Even though we first associate normcore with fashion (because it’s easier I guess to personify the trend through people’s style rather than through philosophic explanation), it goes far beyond that and yes, there’s quite a bit of philosophy in this. The trend would be the one in which people would find freedom in the feeling of not looking different and this will lead them to a strong sense of belonging. When you take a closer look at it, you realise it’s also packed of cues to the 90’s as if millennials were terribly nostalgic.

Personally, I believe normcore might also be the voice of youth indifference and irony towards all those things that help people to shape their identity in order to be so “different” (from over usage of Instagram to exaggerated consumerism to questionable fashion decisions).

What marketers can learn

Well, as I write those lines, it’s hard to say if normcore is either a real thing or just an inside joke that happened to spread all around the fashion sphere. For adland, and for someone who has been engaged in this business as the head of an advertising agency in Dubai, I believe it’s too early to start using this “sub-current” of thought. However, brands like American Apparel that have already a natural fit with the current could easily leverage it and talk directly to the ones who get it. On the other side, it could be quite quirky if a very tribal brand like Harley Davidson would use the normcore codes to laugh at the movement in order to position the brand as the one that refuses “normality”.