The "Normcore Manifesto" is the name given to a study or forecast released by New York City marketing group "K-Hole" in 2014. The short version of "Normcore" was that after 20 years of indie and alternative fashions being used to express individuality, the possibilities of deviance were exhausted, and the only recourse was to dress in dockers and polo shirts. The actual message a little bit more complicated than that, but it seemed to be a fitting message for the time. The past few years have radically shifted how we look at youth culture and American culture in general, as well as reminding us that New Yorkers aren't cool.
The report itself is a bit hard to follow. Its a pdf document that looks like it was written as a power point presentation for marketers who are at the same time gullible and cynical. The bullet points mention terms without explaining them. What does "Empathy over Tolerance" mean, in this context? Is there a hint to the overall principle in the stockphotos of young people and consumer good that make these hastily sketched terms make more sense. Despite the paper's supposed embrace of the "normcore", it is also written by a group that has named itself after a Ketamine overdose, is only viewable as a pdf, and is full of oblique [mixed metaphors:
Mass Indie is like talking about the dream you had last night, whereas Normcore is like talking about the weather.
Both allow significant emotions to be revealed in casual settings. But no matter how vividly you describe it, your dream ends with you, while the coming storm affects us all.
But there is one important passage in this paper, something that, given the writer's otherwise glib attitude, I think they stumbled upon, almost by mistake:
Once upon a time people were born into communities and had to find their individuality. Today people are born individuals
and have to find their communities.
This is a simple statement, and succinctly phrased. That the way I was raised, as an individual who had to find a community, was abnormal, is not something that would have occurred to me for a long time. It is something that I have come to learn about myself by living in a Spanish-speaking country, where (it seems) people always have a group to belong to. Growing up with the happy atomization of communities in the United States, I took the idea of a social contract found in Hobbes and Locke to not be a metaphor or shorthand, but the natural way people lived: solitary people, out of deliberation, form groups. But looking at the world this way was just a byproduct of what I later learned was an unusual time and place in the world. In most of the world, people are born in a group, live together in a group, become economically productive and start families in a group, and only then would people have the luxury of finding out who they were as a person. And perhaps, the cultural pendulum has shifted in the United States, and people are realizing that the idea of people as individuals who only choose groups as a whim or choice is unsustainable, and was only ever possible through a series of odd historical factors. That, at least, is something that is an important cultural insight. How this important cultural insight managed to find its way into a jargon laced piece of marketing research is a mystery for the ages.
The manifesto itself can be found here:
And if anyone can make sense of it, please tell me what it means.