The other day someone was wearing Tommy Hilifiger Tommy Girl. My first thought was “Oh, I love this stuff!” I think Tommy Girl is one of the best tea fragrances on the planet. And this is saying something since I was suffocated by it during my teenage years. This was the perfume that ALL of the girls wore or put on their Christmas lists or stole from the department store. Tommy Girl was this one thing that preppy, geeky and even a little skanky sort of girls wanted. It was so “mainstream” that I refused to wear it because I thought I was so unique and so cool. I haven’t actually smelled this perfume on someone in over 15 years. I started thinking, man, is Tommy Girl now “normcore”?
If you use the Internet, I’m sure you’ve heard about this little fashion-ish thing called “normcore”. I’ve noticed that for the past few years that the youth were wearing things that I wouldn’t have dare worn in the 90’s – “mom” jeans, white socks with sandals, Tommy t-shirts… My thought was that was the stuff that is now readily available in thrift stores these days and this was a group of kids so detached from pale denim overalls and white sneaker flatforms, that they thought they could make this now readily available cheap stuff cool. I know I did that with thrift store stuff when I was that age and I’m sure older people thought I looked stupid. But, then I started seeing Adidas slide sandals and basketball shorts sold at “hip” designer stores and used by stylists in fashion shoots. I knew that this trend was “something” but didn’t know the name or if it even had a name.
Well, the New York Times outed this aesthetic as “normcore”. To sum it up, it’s basically young people dressing like somebody’s lame blonde boyfriend from high school that was on the cross country team circa 1995. It’s a mix of labels and brands that middle class America could afford and easily pick up at their suburban mall. And now these clothes (a mix of sport, active, casual and ready-to-wear brands) are the anti-trendy trendy things to wear (are you gagging yet??) My beef with it is that it’s all about irony and I’m so over irony. These slim, attractive, hip young people are saying “Isn’t it ironic that I’m wearing something that you’re supposed to think is ugly but I still think I’m cool and because of this I think I look cool“. Why can’t people just be their genuine true selves? My thought is that it’s insecurity. It’s the insecurity that we may poke fun at something that is their genuine true selves. Irony and silly phrases/trends like “normcore” are ego protectors. I mean, there are people that wear Dansko clogs (and don’t work in a restaurant or hospital!) and sport Land’s End jeans, but those people don’t care about fashion and certainly wouldn’t have a name attached to it…those people are being their genuine true selves.
Anyway, I started thinking about perfumes that could be labeled as “normcore”. These are the perfumes that I remember all of the “normal” people wearing back in the day. When I say normal, these were the brands and products readily available to suburban America. It’s a mix of accessibility and “herd mentality”…fragrances to wear if you desire to blend in.
Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers – I tweeted earlier this week that Tommy Girl was normcore. Elisa, poet, perfume lover and blogger over at The French Exit replied that Sunflowers was the most normcore perfume. And I completely agree. Sunflowers is the Patron Saint of Normcore Perfumes. It’s the Joey Lawrence “Whoa” of perfumes. It’s Blossom’s silly floppy hat. It’s Eileen’s scrunchie. But, at the same time, from bottle to scent, it’s the most standardized perfume of the 90’s. It’s not sexy, stylish or even memorable. It’s just what it is. It encapsulates all of the dorkiness and naiveté of the 90’s.
Coty Exclamation! – The different between Exclamation and something like Sunflowers was that we’re supposed to remember Exclamation. The ad campaign said we could say it all without saying a word (NOW these are fashions I can endorse!) We were to wear Exclamation to stand out. What’s funny is that this perfume was a conformist perfume. I remember my slightly older cousins wearing it. All their girlfriends wore it. If you wanted to blend in with your peers, you wore Exclamation. – The bottle was really cute though.
Dana Navy – Navy really mirrored the mall fashions of the time. It’s that “all-American” sportswear look. It’s private school in Connecticut, East Coast beach houses, Tretorn sneakers and blonde high-lights. And the deal with that fashion genre is that it emphasizes “playing it safe” and frankly, “playing it White”. Anyway, Navy, the perfume, is a campy version of this wealthy American “I own beach houses” aesthetic. But, it’s so off. It smells like a heavy, powdery amber. It has no idea what it going on, a lot like these normcore kids… I recommend reading Angela’s review on Now Smell This. It totally sums up how I feel about Navy.
Coty Vanilla Fields – My genuine true self wants you to know that I never want to smell this again. It’s in the same class as Sunflowers for its normcore boringness. If the color taupe was translated into perfume, it would be Vanilla Fields. And not like a pretty taupe, like that cheap, generic light taupe carpet that apartment complexes seem to love. Vanilla Fields is this weird blend for people that like the idea of wearing perfume but don’t want to stand out at all. I don’t know why but it’s always reminded me of every Jane Seymour series of the 90’s.
Bath and Body Works Cucumber Melon – Stand-alone fragrance stores with cheap merchandise really says so much about 90’s consumerism. Stores like Bath and Body Works define mall culture and the American mall experience. Before these malls sold more expensive designer perfumes at department stores where a shop girl would walk you through various European perfumes. And then Bath & Body Works happened and women were skipping out on the Givenchy and buying bottles of watered-down cheap aromachemicals. Because…VARIETY! and CHEAP! and Buy One Get One Free! And like junk food, people started developing a taste for these sort of fragrances. Soon people were actually preferring Cucumber Melon over French perfumes. So, I guess, Cucumber Melon really is normcore. It’s rejecting “traditional” fashion and intentionally selecting something simple/unsophisticated.
Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl – Absolutely beautiful tea fragrance. Really it’s here because it was so popular during the time. And the popularity had nothing to with its genius but to do with the brand. It could have smelled like anything (possibly smell like nothing) and would have sold bottles. Wearing something Tommy became some sort of aspirational middle class wealth cult. I feel like Tommy Hilifiger is the reason I still can’t stand seeing a logo on anything.
GAP Heaven – Here again for it’s popularity and its “mall culture” associations. Like the brand, this jasmine-musk perfume plays it safe. It’s a baggy tee, denim and a baseball cap studying for finals. It’s the “not even going to think about it” perfume. Since it’s GAP, it really fits with the normcore stuff.
Liz Claiborne Sport – Here because unexciting active wear is apparently normcore. It’s actually an OK aromatic “sport” scent, but it’s definitely not a stand-out. It’s the epitome of clean and inoffensive. And it’s sporty. And they even have another version for sporty women. You know, for matchy-matchy sporty couples…and matchy-matchy normcore couples.
Well, I had a lot to say regarding Normcore for a slightly farcical “haha” post. It’s interesting to see how these trend things tie into fragrance. And I rather enjoyed the nostalgia of thinking about popular perfumes form my “school days” and how they are relevant (or irrelevant) to today’s world.