Haven't you heard? Norm's the word.
I've advocated in the past for keeping an ear to the ground and a sharp eye trained when it comes to up-and-coming cultural trends, in an attempt to stay ahead of the competition when it comes to stocking your dispensary with the sort of frames particular demographics are going to be looking for. I'm here today to talk about the Next Big Thing (TM) coming at you in the never-ending tidal wave of change that is popular fashion, although it's not exactly big; as a matter of fact, the proponents of it don't even want you to notice it at all. All right, I know you're going to laugh, but, I kid you not: This is real, and it's already happening. Are you ready for it?
The name may leave a bit to be desired, but the Normcore phenomenon has already begun in Australia, the UK, New York, and, I can attest from personal observation, that cultural hub of the American Southwest (and hipster central), Austin TX. It's out there right now.
WHAT IS NORMCORE?
Normcore is an aesthetic ethos that seeks to draw as little attention as possible to the individual by wearing clothes that are the fashion equivalent of "least common denominator." Think plain. Think generic.
In a way, the fashion of normcore is anti-fashion: Replace gabardine slacks with Wal-Mart jeans, oxford shirts for plain tees, and pumps with generic sneakers, and you're starting to get an idea of what normcore looks like. To a particular generation, it's the sort of clothes you might call "mom and dad wear."
THAT SOUNDS STUPID
My wife thinks so, too. Unfortunately, it's happening.
In a way, Normcore is something we all should have (or could have) seen coming based upon the fashion, trends, and culture of the past decade. I myself have mentioned before how powerful an influence Mad Men was in popular culture since its' debut, reintroducing Americans to the idea of careful attention to ones' appearance after the more laisse faire attitude that the 1990s and early 2000s took towards style and grooming. While it may have been beautiful as all-get-out, everyone to admit that the super-put-together look takes a super-lot-of effort: That side part, clean shave, neat bangs and absolutely perfect makeup takes time, attention, and, often, tailoring, which translates to money, money, money. For everything to be said for walking out of your house at 7:00 am looking like Carey Grant or Ann Margaret, it's an awfully time-and-wallet crunching process. In that regard, it's only natural that, after a while, a lot of people were going to get worn out with putting forth that sort of effort, especially without the societal pressure or social stigma that kept folks dressing and grooming that way for so many years.
On the other hand, we also have the great recession to consider. Even taking cash out of the equation, the current economic situation has created a tremendous boom in 1990s nostalgia for Millennials and late-Gen-Xers. Excusing a few tragedies, it was a generally prosperous, peaceful decade, especially for those who grew up in it, and with the current socio-economic strife and uncertainty rocking the country, it's only natural that a sizeable portion of its' population is going to yearn for that simpler time. Consider: Two of the biggest pop cultural phenoms of the 90s-- Twin Peaks and The X Files-- are both getting revived by major networks, Nickelodeon is dumping the cash into creating a brand new television network dedicated solely to 1990s programming, and The New York Times recently ran a story declaring the 90s "The Best Decade Ever." Whether we realize it or not, collectively, we're in love with the 90s right now, and if there's one thing that aesthetically defined the 90s (especially the middle and latter parts), it was a certain blandness. Yeah, the 60s had a revival, there was that neon hangover at the beginning of the decade, and Blossom and Kurt Cobain had us all in throes of grunge/bogo-chic for a while, but, all in all, it wasn't an era that stands out for being particularly classy or trashy. It just sort of... was.
And that's Normcore.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME?
The optisphere has yet to settle on that. Tenatively, normcore glasses tended to gravitate towards the round wire rims that dominated the early 90s, but many afficionados have latched onto round tortoiseshell frames, as well. (In an upcoming issue of 20/20, I'll elaborate on why I believe that another type of frame altogether is going to emerge at the top of the heap. Stay tuned). Whatever direction the trend goes, though, I just want to say one word to you. Just one word: Minimization. If the past decade in eyewear has been designated by the b's (big, bold, black, brown), the next one is going to belong to the m's (metal, minimal, minute). Prepare accordingly: Though you're not going to see an abrupt shift overnight, that shift, nonetheless, is coming, and it's going to stick around for a while. For a lot of folks, I know this will be a relief (it's so much easier, after all, to get that accurate optical center with an appropriately fitting frame and nosepads to work with). For some others, it will be a disaster (particularly those with a lot of money invested in zyl). But, this I can promise you: Just as we survived the 90s, we can not only survive this, we can thrive through it. I promise you. As long as we do it together.
But, yeah, you're right. They could've totally picked a better name than "Normcore."
Preston Fassel was born in Houston, Texas and grew up between St. Charles, Missouri and Broken Arrow, Okla.
In 2009, Preston graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Liberal Arts. In 2011, he graduated Cum Laude from Sam Houston State University with a Bachelor's of Science.
Preston currently works as an Optician in the Houston area. His interest in the history of eyewear goes back to his time in high school, when he developed an interest in all things vintage.
In addition to his writing for The 20/20 Opticians Handbook and 20/20 Magazine, Preston is a featured writer for Rue Morgue Magazine, where he reviews of horror and science-fiction DVDs. His fiction writing has been featured three times in Swirl magazine, the literary arts journal of Lone Star College and Montgomery County. He is the author of the definitive work on the life of British horror actress Vanessa Howard, Remembering Vanessa, which appeared in the Spring 2014 edition of Screem Magazine.