Thursday, September 11, 2014

Avant-Bland versus Normcore!

I don't know about you but all of a sudden my somewhat-drab and dreary wardrobe is back in style, perhaps even considered high fashion in some circles nowadays.

The trend toward bland average-looking attire - whether from an upscale department store like Bloomingdale's or Nordstrom, or from the big-box stores like Walmart and Target - is suddenly all the rage and no doubt causing some concern among fashion designers world wide.

The buzz words 'Normcore' and 'Avant-Bland' are all over the place to describe this new fashion phenomenon. Of course, it's yet to be determined if these are real and sustainable trends or if it's just some kind of imaginary hype and babble from the low-end manufacturers and retailers. In either case, there's a subtle difference between the two terms to begin with.

Normcore seems to refer to our everyday blue-collar work attire (the Jerry Seinfeld look), plus the creative street wear that young people come up with all the time.

Avant-Bland on the other hand gives the appearance of Normcore upon first glance. But closer inspection reveals it to be a high-fashion design from a well-known designer, cleverly disguised and jumping on the current, trendy bandwagon of Normcore.

My friend Linda in New York is known to show up at the TV studio where she works in jeans and tee shirts from Old Navy, and a pair of sneakers.

Miss Helen is known to run around her chic Washington neighborhood in old designer jeans and a pair of comfortable but scuffed-up black high heels.

Since the divorce things have gotten more lax around here and I myself show up for work in 501's, sneakers and a polo shirt - but from Brooks Brothers, I might add.

So what are we? Normcore or Avant-Bland? How about a new fashion category altogether: 'Just Shut Up'.

The whole issue will probably settle out as merely another semantic battle between the haves and have-nots, a temporary consumer rebellion against the ruling 1%.  But I think the have-nots are gaining some ground here - which is to say, it's okay to be Normcore in this life, regardless what the Fashionistas have to say.

Thanks for dropping in tonight.



  1. Interesting topic, Andrew. I wonder, do the rich ever dress in a normcore/avant-bland type fashion perhaps when at home alone, or are they still dressed to the nines even when they're just lounging around? I picture a floor-length femme fatale type robe for the former Missus and a slick smoking jacket for the Mister. Any accuracy to my dreamy imagination?


  2. Your imagination is not far off, Clive. The ex-wife was glamorous all day long--from her morning 'femme fatale' robe de chambre, to day wear, to evening cocktail and dinner wear. And while the old man doesn't smoke, he does indeed have a smoking/leisure jacket, frequently worn during quiet evenings. The new girlfriend is a little less glamorous, but she does change from day wear to evening clothes (usually).

    The only time I've ever seen the old man in Normcore is when he's being sued in court for some reason or another. The Missus would occasionally slip into Normcore (complete with big sunglasses and a big floppy hat) when she wanted to run around town unnoticed. (But generally speaking, she always preferred to be noticed.)

    Thanks for stopping by, Clive, and for you questions. Andrew

  3. What no jeans and shirts with tennis shoes ? What do they call their comfy clothes ?KEK

  4. I'm definitely a fan of fashion trends like this. I distinctly remember being excited about loose fitting jeans being stylish in high school just because I wanted to wear something comfortable.

    In general, I tend to think modern society is too busy and interested in the rapid change of technology to worry as much about fashion. There was a great Vanity Fair article* about this a while back that points out how little style has changed in the past 20 years compared to previous generations. I personally welcome not having to think about clothes that much.


  5. I know what you mean, Ben. 501's have been a part of my life since childhood and seem totally immune to fashion trends, worn either loose or tight.

    I can't thank you enough for the Vanity Fair link. What an amazing summation of what's going on in the stagnant world of fashion and design these days, and completely awesome that you've saved that article from 2012. I don't think links work in the comments, but it does deserve to be shared, which I plan to do in a follow-up post. The article is so clever and insightful, bordering on profound in several ways.

    Hope all is well down there in Australia. I guess it's already tomorrow there, right? I'm still sitting here in "yesterday".

    1. [Forgive the super long comment]
      Well, you give me too much credit for 'saving' the article. I let the internet save it for me, and the vague google queries I used to find it again are somewhat embarrassing. :) That said, I just re-read it and it reminded me of the impact it had then, and it's just as true today.

      Interestingly, I would say our modern tendency to rely on collective memory, as I described above, could also be a part of this cultural 'sameness'. There are subtle side-effects to outsourcing your memory, joining the 'sharing economy', and generally moving away from a focus on individuality as defined by material things. Perhaps one of them is that we stop spending time inventing crazy fashions? Is that really bad?

      And, bringing it back to the super rich, are the things that make them feel special being de-valued as a result? As soon as we got to a point where it seems every nerd with a great idea and good work ethic could become a billionaire, it has become cool not to care about money.

      Case in point - Notch (the creator of Minecraft), was a newly minted billionaire yesterday. Read his blog post about how he never wanted any of it, and see if you can imagine him in the same room as your employers (even though he's probably worth more than them now).

    2. That article from Notch is fascinating. And no, I don't see him in the same room as the kind of rich types around here. You could be right about the values and lifestyles of the old rich being slowly devalued, and in time, as they die out, they might be looked upon as dinosaurs as the new instant billionaires take over. We'll see.

      But if the new billionaire's decide to take on airs and adopt the same arrogance and pretensions as the current and historical rich, then we're still in the same boat, aren't we?

      After all, the most fun part of being rich is having other people do all your work for you. Whether that's slaves as in former times, or modern-day house staff, like me. I wonder how long it will be until Notch realizes he doesn't have to do his own laundry anymore, or take his car out for an oil change.

    3. Very interesting thoughts posed here. Although I wonder if the rich (such as your employers) ever do get to mingle or be around the newly minted rich, as Ben puts it, and if so, how would they ever react? Are the old guard rich types making any attempt to modernize themselves, perhaps by participating in social media, investing in start-ups for apps or the like, or even just trying to simplify their lives by keeping up less airs and pretensions? Would love to hear your thoughts as usual.


    4. Yes, Clive, the new rich do mingle with the old, at charity balls and fundraisers. It's the way the new rich get noticed and move up in higher society, if they so desire. You do understand that old rich means inherited money, not 'old' as in age? In that respect you can have a twenty-or-thirty year old member of the old guard investing in new and modern ideas and inventions. As for shedding airs and pretensions, that would be an individual choice as far as I can tell, and involves each individual's reason for wanting to accumulate all that money to begin with.

      Thanks for the question. Andrew

    5. Yes, Andrew, I have always understood that old money means inherited money instead of geriatric, but thank you for clarifying that anyway.

      My premise for asking such technologically-related questions is the reality that technology heavily perforates privacy, which the old money types guard heavily. Would they ever engage in social media such as Instagram despite its unbridled view into one's life? There is a site called Rich Kids On Instagram, although I have always presumed that these were new-moneyed kids who don't have parents who frown upon such exhibitionism. Or would the young old-money evade such new money types? Would members of inherited money ever lobby for technology such as Google Glass or being able to track someone via iPhone or payment via implanted microchips in place of money? My query is mostly about the old rich's response to all the technological advancements that make it harder and harder to hide or lead a private life for those who reside in cosmopolitan cities rather their very own private island 365 days a year, but thank you for responding reductively.


    6. Sorry if my reply seemed reductive, but I have no way of knowing (beyond speculation) as to how all rich people accept or reject technology. Even around here, while I suspect there's no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram activity going on, I'm not at liberty to check their browsing history. And neither would I know if their avoidance of social media (if that's truly the case) is from caution or merely disinterest. Andrew

  6. I like your suggestion about a name for this current fashion trend, Andrew. I think jeans and t-shirts are never going to go out of style. No matter what they're being called right now. I've got a question, where do the super rich shop for furniture, aside form a museum that is?

    1. Hi Justin. I think your question deserves a full blog post (already scheduled for October) but just off the top I can tell you the rich usually rely upon their interior designers to locate whatever they need and want. They also prowl the high-end antique shops, of course, and keep their eyes on the major auction houses for unusual pieces.

      Hope all is well. Andrew