Everyone wants to be comfortable for as long as it’s cool. 2013 and 2014 saw the arrival of normcore and offered an onset of denim, denim button-ups, and button-ups that look perfect with denim. Pants and tops gave us all a little extra room, and sneakers became a footwear mainstay (or, at least that’s how I think we can explain the onset of New Balances over the last few seasons.) For a brief moment, it was hip to look just like our parents, aunts, uncles, and our middle school teachers—until 2015 took it a step further, and mom jeans were uncool again.
As if inspired by Paris Hilton and the Juicy Couture tracksuit phase of the early 2000s, fashion this year went from “comfortable” to straight-up “comfy.” Adidas’ collaboration with Kanye West and Drake’s Acne turtlenecks became cultural talking points and outfit goals, while at the American Music Awards, Justin Bieber wore an oversized hoodie, channeling Kanye’s loungewear (but very much looking like a kid waiting for his mom to pick him up at the mall). Balmain’s leather sweatpants served only to dress up the trend (as opposed to replace it), and The Weeknd upheld 2015’s comfier than thou trend by wearing pieces from Kanye’s Yeezy collection, as a true friend would. Comfort became a currency. And if you could afford to look relaxed, you’d at least earned the right to put your feet up.
And it’s not like the cultural landscape was defined by men pretending to be Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco. Instead, where sweatpants were condemned in the aftermath of Juicy’s mid-naughties’ popularity, 2015 style guides hitched themselves to the likes of sweatpants figureheads Gigi Hadid and Kylie Jenner, whose pricy bottoms effectively made dressing like a first year college student no longer embarrassing. Suddenly, hearing Regina George say “These sweatpants are all that fits me right now” didn’t seem so tragic—especially since we’re seeing the creme de la creme of this year’s normcore going for hundreds and thousands of dollars. We’re all seemingly seconds away from wearing Snuggies outside and being heralded heroes—especially since the best and brightest sweatpants evoke a dystopian vibe, as if the world has ended and all we have is our personal comfort.
Once upon a time, we cringed at the idea of wearing elastic waists in a public setting. We condemned tracksuits and sweatshirts, but we eventually for crewnecks—recently, when millennials used normcore to turn middle America into a novelty art project. That’s because normcore wasn’t dressing, it was playing dress-up. Especially since those who could afford to buy designers’ homages to suburbanites and mall-frequenters lived a reality far different than the ones they were emulating. Normcore-lovers could leave normcore at the door as soon as the hip wore off, but their inspirations were left behind.
Normcore in 2015 does the same thing. While Kanye West has spoken out on the horrors of classicism and elitism, his Yeezy long sleeve tee still runs for over $400 USD. And this means that once again, normcore is about the elite emulating the pieces worn by the rest of the population and making them quirky or fun or novel. So while the pieces have evolved (next year we’ll just wrap ourselves in duvets and call it a day), the mentality behind normcore has not. To be comfortable is okay only as long as fashion’s finest deem it acceptable. Because if any of us had tried on Drake’s turtlenecks two or three seasons ago or worn Bieber’s oversized hoodie anywhere but to the movies, we’d be hiding behind irony (or the same reason any of us wore applique vests in 2008).
Because we know how this evolution goes: today’s sweatpants are yesterday’s Seinfeld jeans. One year it’s cool, and the next you’re just a person wearing oversized clothes.
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