“Normcore: A trend in which ordinary, unfashionable clothing is worn as a deliberate fashion statement” -The Oxford English Dictionary
Earlier this year, I got tagged in a Twitter conversation with a bunch of linguists discussing the origin of the word Normcore. I had no idea what they were talking about.
There were links to articles in Newsweek, and NY Mag. GQ said “Normcore is for idiots” and “we just hope Normcore is on it’s way out.” They seemingly got their wish because Salon was calling Normcore “over.” I wondered, if this normcore thing was over before I ever even heard of it, what did it have to do with me?
I asked one of the people in the conversation, and was told it had something to do with a comic I made back in 2008. See, I’m a cartoonist. Six years ago, I set out to draw guest strips for as many other cartoonists as I could and premiere them all on the same day, unannounced. Doing this involved a month’s worth of binge-writing terrible jokes in a sleep-deprived state. Most of these jokes I completely forgot about shortly after writing them.
One of those was for a comic called Templar, AZ. The part of the story that I ran with was the the city is overrun by various strange subcultures. In my strip, I tried to think of the weirdest, dumbest fashion subcultures I could. The final one, the punchline, was Normcore.
When you write hundreds of bad jokes in a month, you forget a lot of them. I had to use the Internet Archive to pull up an old cache of my own site to even find this comic. But what d’ya know, there it is. Defined in the exact same way it was in these articles.
Everything else that happened, I know only by research. I’m not in the loop when it comes to fashion trends, and I live in South Korea so I was far from where any of this was happening. Apparently one year after this strip, in 2009, a trend forecasting firm called K-Hole announced that Normcore was the next big thing. By 2013, the press was complaining about it’s overuse. And last week, in 2014, the Oxford English Dictionary placed Normcore on the shortlist for word of the year.
Did all of this really spiral from a comic I had forgotten I’d made, or was it a coincidence? Lexiconnoisseurs are still debating, and with any word origin it’s hard to dig through the uses, coincidences, popularizations to know for sure. But K-Hole reports on trends, they don’t create them. I’ve spoken with K-hole, and they confirm that they heard the word from someone else. None of the linguists I’ve seen debating it have found any use before my comic, or between my comic and K-Hole’s report less than a year later. So either it’s one heck of an undocumented coincidence, or I straight-up invented Normcore. And that is weird.
“normcore the word still remains very much alive in the vocabulary of English.” -The Oxford English Dictionary
So to those that hate normcore, and call it the stupidest fashion trend in history, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to start a trend. I’m not at all interested in fashion, and I’m as far from a trendsetter as you can imagine. If only there were a word for th- oh, god damn it.
This just keeps getting weirder. First Ron Swanson was called Normcore and Parks & Recreation, and now this…