Gene Weingarten is shaken to the normcore when he discovers his form of dress is ... chic


(Eric Shansby)

Life is confusing, and sometimes terrifying. To remain sane and grounded we must jealously hold on to knowledge that anchors us, eternal truths upon which we can rely. Example: Cows moo. Example: Day follows night follows day. Example: If you wear sandals with socks, you are a pitiful dweeb.

That last one is very important to me because of how little else I know about fashion. I know as much about fashion as you know about advanced quantum string theory, unless you happen to be an advanced quantum physicist, in which case I know as much about fashion as you know about motocross.

Gene Weingarten is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writes "Below the Beltway," a weekly humor column that is nationally syndicated. View Archive

My point is that my fashion ignorance at least has a basement. The bar is low, but it is there. Sure, I will still wear one of those wide, dotted yellow power ties whose last sighting in the workplace was on or about Dec. 28, 1986, and, yes, I have been known to combine colors in ways that can nauseate people who are eating. To avoid this, I generally favor drab. I seldom bother to tie my sneakers, which is pretty much my only footwear. When my wife looks at me before I leave the house and says, “You’re wearing that?” I will dutifully trudge upstairs to change my outfit, but without a clue as to what I’d done wrong, so I’ll still be vulnerable to a second “You’re wearing that?” (It has happened.) But my point is, I am not without some fashion sense. I can still feel superior to those persons — in my experience, usually bony-kneed senior citizens — who wear sandals with socks. I have relentlessly made fun of such people in print, from a position of superiority. It feels good.

But just the other day a friend forwarded me an article from a New York City online publication that is so hip its name — DNAinfo.com — doesn’t even inform you that it is a publication. DNAinfo.com specializes in local news from trendy, upscale JLo-named neighborhoods like TriBeCa,SoHo, NoLIta and SoNoHoBec, which I just made up, but I hereby urge DNAInfo to get over there quick and review its nightlife. How edgy and outré is DNAinfo.com? One of the articles in it celebrates a sausage-flavored ice cream.

But I digress. DNAinfo.com also had an article saying sandals with socks is now cool.

Quick research revealed that the Los Angeles Times has also recently chronicled this trend, disclosing exclusively in April that “Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen wore matching black and gold Birkenstock sandals with pristine white socks while walking through an airport.”

I wrote to the author of the DNAinfo piece, Serena Solomon, and told her who I was and how seriously she had shaken one of the bedrock foundations of my life. She pointed out that this socks-sandals thing may be part of something much bigger. Like the secret source who urged Woodward and Bernstein to “follow the money,” she told me that I might want to check into “the whole normcore trend thing.”

I did. It turns out that among the young elite in New York City, a new kind of fashion seems to be spontaneously emerging. It is nihilistic, based on an awareness that there are 7 billion people in the world, ergo that no one is special, so why bother putting on airs? It is hard to describe “normcore,” but after viewing a slideshow, I will try:

It is “bad” dressing.

People wear any old thing, put together without forethought in what amounts to a blunt rejection of “fashion.” Mismatches. Clashes. Goodwill-harvested clothes. Not a trace of flair. Colors so muted and timid that they barely register. Untied shoes.

In short, me. I am currently trending, and hip.

Talk about shaking one’s eternal truths.

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