At The Intersection of Basic and Normcore


Should you choose to look up from your phone between classes and glance at the quad, you might notice something interesting, sartorial-wise.

Or maybe you won’t notice it, because the thing to take note of is that everyone is dressing like everyone else. This, in itself, is not surprising— we’ve known since seventh-grade health class that youths such as ourselves are precariously susceptible to peer pressure in all forms, which extends to what we choose to put on our bodies.

What is noteworthy, then, is not the likeness between peer-reviewed fashion, but rather the varying levels of self-awareness that surrounds it: some people are consciously dressing like everyone else, others are blindly doing so, still optimistic that their clothes reflect their internal special snowflake.

Welcome to the intersection of normcore and basic.

If you are a human who is alive in the universe, you should be aware of these terms.  Both emerged around the same time and followed similar life cycles that ended with over-exposure and vernacular exhaustion, as is the way on the Internet.

For the visiting aliens: “Normcore” is a term that became well-known in early 2014 with a trend piece in The Cut, described simply as “fashion for those who realize they’re one in 7 billion.” Essentially, normcore is the act of dressing to flout the notion of individuality. It includes, but is not limited to: generic track pants, frumpy sweatshirts, deliberately dressing like Danny Tanner.

The advent of “basic” is a little murkier, although many attribute it to the 2011 Kreayshawn song Gucci Gucci, which goes: “Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, Fendi Fendi, Prada/
Basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother.”

Basic, then, is anything “obscenely obvious,” according to Urban Dictionary. It includes, in its most well-known manifestation, yoga pants, Uggs and Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

There is an argument to be made that Wake Forest is currently at peak normcore. This can be supported simply by the campus-wide, unisex prevalence of Chacos, tribal print Patagonias, high-waist jeans/jorts, Wake Forest sweatshirts (without hoods or pockets), New Balance Classics, and Goodwill (or Urban Outfitters, for the lazy) sweaters.

The most damning evidence, however, are those shoes. You know the pair. Converse. Red, white and blue. Seemingly in the ownership of at least half of the female student body. These are pure normcore— inconspicuous, unassuming, and, well, basic. In fact, they are so simple and so widespread that they might even be considered basic basic.

Herein lies the dilemma: The aforementioned “basic bitch” has clearly not yet ended its reign at Wake— Vineyard Vines, Sperry and Lilly Pulitzer still loom ominously, and we are a campus, after all, that requires two Starbucks’ within a five-minute walk of each other.

But normcore is, theoretically, being cognizant of “dressing like you’re one in 7 billion,” while basic is being blatantly unaware of your own ubiquity.  And yet, normcore’s influence is strongest in one location— the “Forest Folk” tumblr— which still seems to consider the style new. Almost every photograph is a variation on the normcore theme (denim jackets, cable-knit sweaters, thick-rimmed glasses) juxtaposed against the site’s masthead, which pithily declares: “Dare to be different.”

Those who appear basic, on the other hand, seem to accept it. The $92 price tag on Lululemon leggings is really just a free pass to wear, without conflict, the same thing as least three other girls in the ZSR Starbucks at any given time. Brands, after all, aim to unify, and all that makes up the basic populace— Diet Coke and Starbucks and Soul Cycle— do just that.

The takeaway: You know how sometimes words become meaningless? Obviously, no one fits as neatly into these binary rules as a terms like these aim to suggest. But basic is as basic does, and, to oversimplify, it seems that normcore might be going the way of basic and basic that of normcore.

But don’t just take my word for it.

While waiting out this liminal state, take a selfie in your tribal-print Patagonia, Lululemon pants and red, white and blue Chucks. Hashtag #WaitChapel #PSL #tbt. Whether that’ll make you normcore or basic is anyone’s guess.

At The Intersection of Basic and Normcore