Monday 29 August 2016

Middle-aged men – embrace Normcore

Published 24/03/2014 | 02:30

Stiller in 'Zoolander'
Stiller in 'Zoolander'

Getting old is not just about not following cutting-edge fashions any more.

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No one in their right mind follows cutting-edge fashions any more. You know you are truly old when you don't even understand the cutting edge any more. That's when you can truly settle back in the easy chair and give up.

But I'm not quite ready to give up yet, so I was delighted to note the emergence of "normcore". You don't know what normcore is? For me, it's the most interesting fashion moment since the heyday of man repeller. Man repeller, championing the wearing of Diane Keaton-style unsexy clothes, was the last big thing, defined as "she who outfits herself in a sartorially offensive mode that may result in repelling members of the opposite sex. Such garments include, but are not limited to, harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls, shoulder pads, full length jumpsuits, jewellery that resembles violent weaponry and clogs".

The man repeller blogger lost a lot of cred when she got married, with many seeing it as a sell-out, though it was pointed out that women didn't follow her literally to actually repel men. Nothing in this article is made up. I swear.

Normcore just could be the way back into fashion for many middle-aged men. On the off chance you are unaware of the movement, it is the latest incarnation of people dressing so badly, it's cool. As one normcore aficionado puts it: "Only those in the know get it." So, basically, 99 per cent of people will think you are just badly dressed whereas the one per cent who get normcore will know you look really cool. You could even find that you are already accidentally normcore and that, while you are generally regarded as a bad dresser, if you went to a fashion week or somewhere else really hip, you would draw admiring glances from cutting-edge types.

So what is the look exactly? Perhaps the best way I could explain it is to tell you that Jerry Seinfeld in his heyday is a normcore icon. Your classic normcore outfit would be snow-washed jeans, a fleece and some comfortable runners. One seminal normcore article likened the effect to not knowing from behind if someone is an art student or a middle-aged American tourist.

I think, in Irish terms, the look could best be described as the first wave of Eastern Europeans to come here meets Michael Guineys. Polo necks and comfortable chinos would probably work too.

Of course, normcore is not just a look, it is an ideology. According to New York magazine, it is about "embracing sameness deliberately as a new way of being cool, rather than striving for difference or authenticity". It is, in a sense, anti-fashion and anti-hipster. Rather than a carefully "curated" pose of Edwardian beard, shrunken lumberjack shirt and jacket that's too small for you, it's about seeming not to care. Because fashion has become so ubiquitous that it is no longer even cool to be fashionable. Fashion is for sheeple, who need to dress fashionably to make a statement. Normcore is saying: "I don't need to try. I am intrinsically cool."

Normcore also apparently stems from the fact that fashion moves so fast that, in the words of one normcore advocate: "It's impossible to stay current; in fact, there is no one current." Isn't that brilliant? Isn't that like something out of Zoolander? Fashion has decided that nothing is 'now'. Everything is 'so last week' before it even gets out there. So give up and go normcore.

The beauty of all this is that many middle-aged men are normcore by default. Now that I think about it, I've been working towards normcore for years. My niece, who follows these things, reckons the desert boots I've been wearing for the last decade are pretty normcore. I am actually ahead of my time. She actually thinks my brother, her other uncle, is a normcore icon.

An appreciation of the normcore aesthetic is allowing me to see the beauty in the banality all around me. I find myself admiring plain-looking Japanese hatchbacks from the early Noughties for their defiant blandness. When I look at my fellow middle-aged men, instead of seeing bland and badly dressed, I suddenly see a determined anti-fashion orneriness. These are men who are making the ultimate statement. These are men who are proudly in an anti-style rut. And there is more beauty and variety in their sagging chinos and non-leather shoes than there is in a craft beer festival full of hipsters.

I had a boiled egg this morning for breakfast and I wanted to blog about it, it was so brilliantly normcore.

Middle-aged men: I say to you. We are having a moment. The world is briefly realising the beauty in our banality. Get your anoraks on and peacock it. And know that those in the know will get it.

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