Not so long ago, Portland was a J.C. Penney in the grand plaza of high fashion, a place where mustachioed lumberjacks and yoga moms were the most stylish people in town. The city's tiny cabal of fashionistas despaired about the general schlubbiness of those around them.
Then came Normcore. Now, we're the J.C. Penney in the grand plaza of high fashion. Overnight, Portland became the planet's best-dressed city, leaving Milan, Paris and Tokyo in the dust. The aftershocks are still rumbling through the world's top design houses as labels like Marc Jacobs put fleece-clad models onto runways.
But Portlanders who know anything about anything didn't blink. We've always known we're each "one in 7 billion," to borrow the unofficial tagline of the Normcore movement.
Normcore gained official notice in late February, when New York magazine realized that the prettiest people under 30 were wearing comfortable, loose-fitting jeans, socks with Birkenstocks, puffy jackets, Tevas, off-brand sneakers, clogs and polar fleece.
"Normcore isn't about rebelling against or giving into the status quo; it's about letting go of the need to look distinctive, to make time for something new," the magazine averred.
Since that story, Normcore has appeared on any blog that's any blog, and in the pages of any fashion mag that's any fashion mag. "Normcore is about dressing like a mild-mannered mental patient or a bewildered Icelandic exchange student circa 1984," wrote fashion commentator Simon Doonan on Slate. "Normcore was a long time coming. Normcore is for real."
Le duh, Mr. Doonan. Nowhere is Normcore realer than in Portland, where we've been wearing the style since shortly after the city's incorporation. With all due respect to Steve Jobs, the good people of Des Moines and the fashion icons of Seinfeld, any expert that's any expert agrees that Portland has long been the normest of cores.
Our colors are generally muted—think tan, brown, tan, slate blue, gray, tan, black, beige, tan and denim. While some oh-so-sadly out-of-touch Portlanders still insist on wearing such things as "dresses," "heels" and "ties," it's inarguable that Normies are the pace of this city. Seeing Normcore in action is as simple as walking by any of Portland's high-fashion bus stops, or strolling the couture-crammed aisles of Fred Meyer on a Sunday night.
At the center of the Normcore scene, you'll find Willamette Week's staff. Known to favor zip-up hoodies, stonewashed jeans and seasonally appropriate outdoor gear made by high-quality manufacturers with discreet logos (think Marmot, Patagonia and vintage Mountain Hardwear), the newspaper's writers shake their heads at those who mistake flamboyance for fashion sense.
Will you find us at Portland Fashion Week? Maybe. But we're more likely to be on Northeast Sandy Boulevard, watching the real runway in action. Come find us: We'll be the ones looking like everyone else.
GET THE LOOK:
Jacket: White Sierra, hand-me-down
Shirt: Big Dogs, $10
Jeans: Levi's 513, thrifted
Socks: Nike, J.C. Penney, $3
Shoes: Reebok men's classic sneaker, amazon.com, $37
GO: Portland Fashion Week is at Memorial Coliseum, 300 N Winning Way, portlandfashionweek.net. Runway shows Friday-Sunday, April 25-27. $30-$100.