We shouldn’t make a statement at all

In a pleasant and  predictable  comedy Crazy, Stupid Love (2011)  the main character – 40-year-old  father of two and a good husband – during one of many ordinary evenings with his wife learns that she wants a divorce. Devastated by this revelation systematically gets drunk in a fancy club, frequented mainly by rich singles looking for a one-night stands. After few evenings of his loud lamenting at the bar, local womanizer (played by  Ryan Gosling at that time THE leading Hollywood sex symbol) takes  pity on him. After few practical advice sessions mainly on how pick up or rather seduce women, he also changes his good-daddy fashion style. The main loser of the story is a good and a decent man who usually dressed in sports gear, comfortable sneakers, shirt and jeans which go well with everything. That has to come an end, as a new image of “saved” divorcee is an evidence of his luxurious life and good taste. “Be better than the Gap”. a golden rule  put into his head by Gosling, shows the fashion trend he should not follow. He didn’t, with ensuing success with women. But  this already got démodé, as the daddies-weekend-style entered the most current fashion and lifestyle trend – normcore. Who’s the loser now, Ryan?

Gap must have waited for this moment – it stayed off the mainstream and entered  high fashion trend at the same time. Dress Normal , the latest slogan of GAP’s autumn campaign touches  the key question  of normcore phenomenon – being normal. Obviously,  advertising, considered as a source of power over people, is the result of precise research on  target groups which should be influenced by them.  They necessarily  follow the latest trends and social needs to show products in  sufficiently attractive way. Beside that the language of ad must  not only be simple and understood quickly , but also universal to reach the widest target group as  possible. Due to the ebrevity of the message advertising forms relates to cultural codes – current well -known events, language, expressions – sometimes are even able to create them, when a slogan enters an usus[1]. Gap’s  definition of normality is given within a series of ads directed by David Fincher. Within his short form he found a perfect balance between popular and high culture, between being normal while seeking one’s own personality. These shorts brings the essence of what contemporary global capitalistic society considers as normal.

noir-armored-car-robberyArmored Car Robbery (1950), directed by Richard Fleischer

All Fincher’s ads shot for this campaign are based on asimilar structure. These micro movies seems to be extracts of long future stories. The viewer doesn’t know the entire plot but is thrown in themiddle of situation. Fincher’s esthetics  harkens back to the tradition of cinema noir: black and white colors, strong shadows, slow and long shots. The  framing and editing, both far from any experimental  or fast and popular “catchy” montage, are unnoticeable like in classic American cinema in the 1950s. Each story takes place in an easy identifiable location: golf course, staircase, in front of an elevator, in a car. Characters in each mini-plot they don’t stand out from each other in any way: neither with clothes nor with physical beauty or ugliness. The main hero of Fincher’s ads is not GAP’s new collection, shown here in such an ordinary manner that it is difficult to recall them even after watching it several times. Slogans like: Dress like no one’s watching or let you actions speak lauder that your clothes focus the viewer’s attention on the action, decision taken by a character obviously contradictory with his or her habits. Still, the moments when girls takes off her wet clothes in the back of the car or other kissing a main in hall of the building are not crossing any socially accepted border. They stay in norm.

Gap, as a fashion brand  for all obviously tries not only to sell  clothes but also make a potential customer’s lifestyle attractive in their eyes. Fincher’s heroines are dressed in simple trousers, t-shirts and they like themselves in this way. They break some little limits, but we don’t even know how and where it leads to. They collect impressions they like, they feel good.

05-forest-whitaker-gap-adForest Whitaker for Gap’s Fall Campaign 2007

The so-called  normcore Gap campaign is part of a company’s strong and simple promotion policy.  Depending on period and mainstream popular culture , people like Liev Shrieber, Lucy Liu, Forest Whitaker, Usher and many others took part in it. This most popular way of reaching out to  cultural code plays with  the viewer emotions and brings a positive connotation with a celebrity who brings his or her whole media image: the beautiful one, the nice and funny girls from a recent TV show, etc.  This time famous names found their place on the other side of the camera. Contrary to GAP’s previous strategy Fincher decided to engage unknown actors.  This  makes it easier for a viewer to enter this normcore world. Smilingly Sophia Coppola followed this opinion, while she prepared a this winter holidays GAP campaign. Her few short-movies-like ads underline that Gap is good for everyone, even these we don’t understand – people when don’t know well, or  from different generations etc. In other words,  GAP clothes are presented as something so normal and natural that fit to everyone.

When Gap embraces the idea of normcore it proves  this phenomenon has a certain status which apparently  can be understood not only in fashion. The attitude of being so normal  that the notion describing it has to be enforced by “core”(from hardcore). Apparently it is not enough to be normal, it is being normal to the limits. So what is on the other side than?

Supermodels asked by a fashion magazine “W” what is a normcore, answered in ambivalent ways. Some of them were sure of the definition, given with an enumeration of type of clothes “normcore” may accept: sneakers or daddy’s trousers, ordinary t-shirts. Few  interviewed  didn’t know what  normcore is at all. One simply said – with a Mona Lisa smile – that it doesn’t exist. This is a clue. Maybe there is no such thing? A trend, an ideal model of fashion or behavior is usually unreachable  – as many other modeling concept. The normcore attitude is even difficult to define on so many levels. The problems lays in  the definition of being normal, which always raises the question of who establishes norms and according to what criteria.  Confronted with Acting Basic (dressing neutrally to avoid standing out) normcore claims to be part of a natural process of human beings who  nowadays are born individual in order to find their communities[2]. But that can be said about any other fashion or a lifestyle trend.  To be accepted they have to fit, in this case to be  extremely normal. The celebration of the sameness. A pose of us being others, that sounds absurd to me. Normcore clothes often are inspired by 1990s fashion, movies and Tv shows like Seinfeld. Isn’t that just in a current cultural trend of looking back to this decade, so recently visible recently in the arts for example? The historization of this moment of collapse of political systems, of radical changes in media and an iconic turn triggered by the popularization of the Internet is happening now and by different disciplines. Is  it just a coincidence?

[1] A. Pomieciński, Reklama w kulturze współczesnej: studium antropologiczne, Poznań 2005, p. 9-15.

[2] K-hole, Youth Mode. A report on Freedom, 2014


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