Assignment #1 – Normcore: Consumer Culture

Assignment #1 – Normcore

For this assignment, I want you to ponder the case for and against the existence of a cultural movement that relates to taste, status, consumption and fashion. The movement was dubbed normcore, a portmanteau of normal and hardcore. Normcore was first articulated in late 2013 by the New York based ‘trend forecasting group,’ K-Hole. Shortly thereafter, in early 2014, it received a flurry of media attention. In the jump from the trend articulated by K-Hole to its media coverage, its definition changed a bit, but some core ideas remained. By Summer 2014, interest it subsided, but the notion came up again in subsequent years. It also spawned a series of related portmanteaus (gorpcore, cottagecore, cluttercore, goblincore, etc) and connected to some other fashion trends. Broadly stated, your assignment is to review the evidence and determine what exactly is going on.

1) “Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom,”, 2013

The original piece on the trend focused on some sociological changes they were discerning in culture. These trends probably have huge implications for consumer culture.

2) “Normcore: Fashion for those who realize they’re one in 7 billion,” by Fiona Duncan, New York Magazine, February 26, 2014.

3) “Why the “Normcore” Phenomenon Is a Fraud,” by Lauren Sherman, Elle, March 4, 2014

4) “Is Normcore really a thing?,” by Erica Cerulo, Vanity Fair, March 20, 2014.

5) “Normcore: Fashion movement or massive in-joke?,” by Alex Williams, The New York Times, April 2, 2014.

6) “Beware of Normcore,” by Simon Doonan, Slate Magazine, April 7, 2014. 

7) “Irony, sincerity, normcore: Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, David Foster Wallace and the end of rebellion,” by R. Jay Magill, Jr., Salon, May 18, 2014

8) “The end of the hipster: how flat caps and beards stopped being so cool,” by Morwenna Ferrier, The Guardian, June 21, 2014.

9) “That’s A Total K-Hole Thing To Do,” by Danielle Sacks, Fast Company, May 11, 2015.

10) “First Came Normcore. Now Get Ready for Gorpcore,” by Jason Chen, The Cut, May 25, 2017.

11) “The Death of Clothing,” By Lindsey Rupp, Chloe Whiteaker, Matt Townsend and Kim Bhasin,, February 5, 2018.

12) “Millennials are dressing more like their parents — and it’s terrible news for H&M and Forever 21,” by Mary Hanbury, Business Insider, March 1, 2018.

13) “Dad wore it first; the cool of ugly,” by Max Berlinger, The New York Times, June 14, 2018.

14) “Cottagecore, cluttercore, goblincore — deep down, it’s about who we think we are,” by Maura Judkis, The Washington Post, September 13, 2021.

15) “Frank Ocean’s in, so is Tom Holland: welcome to Normcore’s well-worn new wave,” by Finlay Renwick, British GQ, January 27, 2022. 

Below are some questions to structure your thinking. You do not need to answer these questions, per se. Rather, I want you to ponder these questions as you study the phenomenon in question.

What exactly is Normcore? Is Normcore real? Yes or no? Is this what follows the successive status games of leisure -> social class -> coolness -> authenticity? What are the implications of this for consumer culture. Where do you see evidence to support your position? There are lots (and LOTS) of essays written about these phenomena/this movement. No one can seem to agree if it is a thing or not.

There are lots (and LOTS) of essays written about these phenomena/this movement. No one can seem to agree if it is a thing or not. How could you use what you have read and learned in this course to justify your position? You should find ample opportunities to connect this topic to ideas, concepts and arguments (in the readings, cases and lectures) encountered in the first five weeks of this class. You should aim to make at least four or five meaningful connections to course content.

In two-thousand words or less, explain what is happening here. Interpret what you read and what you see, using the readings and class notes to inform your thinking. Formulate an argument you wish to make and integrate your thoughts into a cohesive and coherent essay. Make sure you explain the significance and the connection of any of the quotes of course content that you use. There is no single right answer. Rather, there are several paths you could take in your analysis that could be supported by what we have covered thus far in the course.

Citations. If you are citing one of the readings from the prompt, you can simply use the author’s last name and the year. If you are citing one of the course readings simply use the author’s last name and the year. To cite class videos or lectures, give me the title of the clip or lecture and the week number.

You can work on this project alone or in groups of up to three people. That is entirely your choice. Naturally, I will be expecting a ~little~ more from groups than solo work. Last Fall, the work on this particular assignment ranged from good to great to the truly astounding. Students got into it. Allow yourself to have a little fun with this.

At the bottom of the paper, list the number of words in the document. The word count does not include references, or any other appendices you might want (but don’t have) to include. Must be submitted via Digital Dropbox in D2L. If you work as group, you only need to submit one copy, but there are a few guidelines for submitting group work. First, have the student whose last name appears first alphabetically submit the paper. Second, list all student names (alphabetized by last name) in the D2L Dropbox submission form. Third, list all student names (alphabetized by last name) on the title page of the document

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