A year ago today, New York magazine published a polarizing piece on a fashion trend dubbed "normcore," and I was suckered into being one of the faces of this purported movement. Let me explain. To the uninitiated, normcore is supposed to be an anti-trend of sorts; an idea of dressing that eschews flashiness in favor of intentionally looking plain as hell. The exact definition is more nuanced than I can explain, but that's the gist. And I had never heard of it before Amy Lombard, a freelance photographer from NY mag, approached me in SoHo to take my photo. When she explained she was shooting for NY mag I thought, "This must be for a street style spread, dope." My 'fit was fairly simple, but nothing that resembled what normcore is supposed to embody; I wasn't intentionally trying to look like a nineties Gap editorial.
So did my "Kill Bills" make it on to the pages of a published magazine? Not quite.
I wore a black and navy wool bomber from U Clothing, Club Monaco crewneck sweater, Nike Tech Fleece pants, and "Kill Bill" ASICS Gel Sagas. Perhaps it was the bright yellow sneakers that caught the photographer's attention, but nothing on my person screamed "Hey, this guy is trying to make a statement by not making a statement." At least I didn't think so. It wasn't until we were about to part ways that she told me specifically what this feature was going to be about. "It's a trend piece for this thing called normcore, have you heard of it?" I did not, and when I asked what it was exactly she unironically replied, "Just Google it." If the photographer couldn't explain the concept I knew this could go one of two ways: very good or embarrassingly bad. It turned out to be the latter.
Yes, ASICS had seen a resurgence among sneakerheads and the general public thanks to the likes of Ronnie Fieg, but that wasn't the reason I was profiled. No, the fact that my kicks were golden yellow and looked vaguely similar to orthopedic shoes probably had a lot to do with it, and that's an issue I have with media today. It's annoying when publications wholly unfamiliar with sneaker culture proclaim sneakers to be the next big thing, because it marginalizes the people who wear them because they like them, not because everyone else does.
So did my "Kill Bills" make it on to the pages of a published magazine? Not quite. When the piece finally published four months later, my face was nowhere to be seen in the print edition, but I did make it on to the slideshow of the web version. That's when the Internet went on full assault mode and bodied the shit out of this "trend" I was now associated with. A firestorm of reaction pieces, some by Complex itself and sister site Four Pins, broke down the ridiculousness of normcore and, by association, ethered my already non-existent personal brand to the point where I was ashamed to post the article anywhere on social media.
I even contemplated contacting the magazine to remove my name and image from the piece, but then I realized how silly the whole thing was. The shit storm lasted several weeks and, eventually, the normcore meme ate itself to death. No one, save for a few former coworkers, really recognized me in the article.
Maybe that's the real takeaway. Normcore is supposed to be this mode of dressing as ordinary as possible to not be noticed, and even after the article was published and read by tens of thousands on the Internet, I never really got my fifteen minutes, or any minutes, for that matter. I was so caught up in worrying about getting misrepresented, I didn't notice that my cameo had gone fairly under-the-radar.
In hindsight, normcore got it wrong when they chose me to represent the trend. You can find any sneakerhead or style-conscious guy wearing that 'fit today without even trying—Tech Fleece sweats have become ubiquitous in the past year and a half and bomber jackets are staple outerwear pieces in many of our wardrobes. In focusing on a single element of my outfit they misidentified my style as something completely different than what they'd imagined, and it's insulting.
It's unsettling to think that an article of clothing can pigeonhole you into a memefied existence without first getting the entire picture. It's a lazy precedent to set, especially for such a prestigious magazine. But seeing that I'm not getting stopped on the streets because of NY mag's thinkpiece, perhaps readers saw all along that I was just an unwitting sneakerhead caught in the crosshairs of an overzealous photographer.