by Logan Miller
That Reno is two years, or five years, or 15 years behind all important cultural trends is an adage with so much mileage that it bears little further repeating. It’s Reno, a city in a fly-over state full of chain restaurants, Wal-Marts and casino-going tourists. But these vanilla mainstays of Middle America aren’t to blame for Reno being a black hole for art, music and fashion; instead, it’s us, the students here at the University of Nevada, Reno, that are to blame. We might consider ourselves authentic little trendsetters, but I have seen the truth and have realized the university is a crushing, unhip singularity.
But don’t fret and don’t worry, we’ve got lessons left to learn. Middle America can save us with sameness. Middle America can save us with normcore.
That’s right, normcore. First recognized and categorized by K-Hole, a trend forecasting group based in New York City, normcore is about acceptance. It eschews differentiation for inclusivity. Above all, it is bland. According to Fiona Duncan of New York Magazine, normcore is “the kind of dad-brand non-style you might have once associated with Jerry Seinfeld.”
Middle America’s plain T-shirts, stonewashed denim and ubiquitous fleece jackets are going to deliver us from the horror of our daily lives. Throw out all of those back issues of Acne Paper, forget Scott Schuman’s name and donate the content of your closet to the nearest Goodwill Store. Stop thinking about whether or not it’s appropriate to accessorize turquoise jewelry with ocean-washed chinos, or whether to wear the tasseled loafers or the penny loafers tomorrow. You don’t need to own any of that shit. Wear Reeboks. If someone asks for your opinion on the Comme des Garçons fall 2014 line, stare at them blankly; you don’t know Rei Kawakubo from the New York City bag ladies she finds so inspirational.
This is where chain restaurants, Wal-Marts and casino-going tourists will save us. What are the meandering undifferentiated masses downtown wearing? Who knows? Who cares? Go to one of Reno’s 72 Wal-Marts and buy fleece, any fleece. It’s warm. Get some shoes. What color? Who cares? Are they comfortable? Buy them. Don’t put too much thought into this. You have more important things to do.
I can hear the bellyaching already. The school is a cornucopia of emergent trends and styles. Enterprising business majors are sporting slim, cropped suits and separates. The boys are filling their closets with grenadine ties in daring colors, while the girls match silk scarves and maxi coats with sexy pumps. Art students are draping and layering monochrome fabrics in contrasting textures. Engineering and geology majors are turning to heritage workwear, pairing Red Wing boots with flannel shirts, to convey their ruggedness. Preppy freshmen are wearing jaunty madras and striped espadrilles. Everyone is wearing raw denim. The Joe Crowley Student Union is a fashion blogger’s dream come true. How can I claim with a straight face that UNR is tragically unhip and in need of a vanilla makeover, when everyone looks so unique?
Because this shit is tired. Fashion is tired. Instead of being the vanguard of culture and individuality, we are dressed by the Internet. We bought our identities from San Francisco boutiques and far-flung online stores. In the interim we lost what made us authentic and in the mad dash to regain it, we’ve doomed Reno.
K-Hole member Sean Monahan described our plight most succinctly:
“People used to be born into communities and were, sort of, thrust into the world and had to find their own individuality,” Monahan said. “And I think today, people are born individuals and are trying to find their communities.”
I’m a prep without a yacht club, a wannabee John Muir without the trees. I can buy the trappings of any lifestyle I want, but I can never wholly invest in any single identity. Before I can identify with a community, I’m spirited away by the next trend. Being different has become soul crushing and unsustainable. Never mind the expense of the whole enterprise. Compared to the rigmarole of trying to make some kind of statement, cheap, bland clothing is just so freeing.
I know what you’re going to say, “Aren’t you guilty of making the same kinds of mistakes with normcore as with any other trend?” Maybe, but how would anyone ever know? Even now, I’m not sure if I am authentically authentic or if I’ve just bought into another new authenticity.
Jean Baudrillard suggests we all crave an authenticity that may never have existed, but if no one will ever be the wiser, normcore can still save us.
Logan Miller studies English. He can be reached at email@example.com.