Last week, Gap launched their new seasonal ads, directed by Sophia Coppola. But despite some big names and a global advertising campaign, reports suggest that Gap’s Dress Normal hasn’t had the same success as the buzzword that preceded it. Normcore was our thing, and by ‘our’ I mean we, the hipster people. It was our smug little joke that helped us feel better about doing things like grocery shopping, and wearing a white t-shirt, and hanging out with our family. It doesn’t belong to Gap, or to any other corporation. Like when Marks & Spencer put some studs on a t-shirt and call it “edgy”. No.
In all seriousness though, all this “normcore” and “basic” stuff is fascinating. If every action has an equal and opposite reaction, then basic normcore is the reaction to our celebrity, #yolo, #fomo culture. It’s just science folks. In just a few, short years the odd bit of humblebragging on Twitter, has morphed. We seem to be caught in a self-imposed dedication to the constant evocation of living an Instagram lifestyle, eating Pin-worthy food, residing in Airbnb-quality homes and dating Right-Swipe worthy people.
In 1963, Betty Friedan began to unpick “The Feminine Mystique”, citing the ideology and imagery of wife-ing and motherhood as a key contributor to female anxiety, stress, depression and all-round urgh. 1950’s housewives felt compelled to live up to the image of successful femininity presented to them by advertising, entertainment and even the Eisenhower administration.
Fifty years later, are we (now both women and men) in the collective grip of “the selfie mystique”? Are we each struggling to maintain an image of perfection set by the Kardashians which is simply unachievable in day-to-day life? In which case, is the answer to what Friedan termed the silent question - “Is this all?” - simply normality? The New York Times may scoff at the idea of Normcore, and Fallon may poke fun at “basic bitches”, but maybe it’s ok to be a bit normal. Perhaps there’s something quite empowering about accepting - even celebrating - the run-of-the-mill.
Gap’s Dress Normal failed to be aspirational, because a complete lack of aspiration is what lies at the core of normcore. It’s the very lack of wanting to think about it, talk about it or Instagram about it which makes it so appealing. So embrace the next time you put a whites wash on, or buy some loo roll, or order 'the chicken'. See it as the scientifically-proven reaction to your otherwise incredible life.