Normcore Started with Sandwiches
Now that we can simultaneously wear sweatpants with Birkenstocks and be considered fashionable, let's not overlook where the trend began: sandwiches.
All photos by the author
Welcome back to our sandwich column from Scanwiches creator, Jon Chonko. Every month, Jon dives deep between two glutenous slices of metaphorical bread to explore current events, personalities, and contemporary issues through the lens of sandwiches (with the help of a very hi-res scanner).
I'm certain I went shoe shopping a few weeks ago and had more trouble than usual. I've worn Teva sandals (the uncool, hyper-practical, normcore staple) as my go-to summer shoe since I was seven years old. Unironically. I needed a new pair, and for the first time ever, the clerk told me that they were sold out. He elaborated, perhaps out of guilt, to tell me that they couldn't stock them fast enough to meet demand. People are buying these attraction-killer shoes by the dozen.
Teva demand isn't the only thing pointing to normcore being the "thing." Birkenstock sales are up, socks in sandals are walking off the runway, and even princesses are dressing to blend in. I predict summer 2014 as the summer of normcore.
If I sound a little skeptical, it's because there's been a lot debate this year about the authenticity of normcore as "thing." Even my girlfriend, a fashion designer, emphatically dismisses it as a conspiracy-level inside joke between a few select trendsetters and a gullible media. A sort of Seapunk 2.0.
But I buy it, and not just because I can't get a pair of sandals as easily as I used to. The big tenets of normcore—comfort, ubiquity, nostalgia—aren't superficial things. To me, these are legitimate kinds of feelings that other things (like food) often evoke. I can relate to that.
Maybe what the critics of normcore are missing is something less superficial than clothes. Maybe a culinary element? A lifestyle needs to be fed, after all. A menu to go with this summer's wardrobe, perhaps? If that's the case, I'd like to humbly submit some normcore sandwich candidates to go with the big sweatshirts, dad jeans, and white Keds.
This sandwich is kinda gross, but totally comfortable. I consider this the Adidas sandal of normcore food. It's a cold-cut classic that most of us can slap together without even thinking about it. It's a little weird to eat one as an adult and is probably too similar to its footwear equivalent in actual materials that it's made from. But there are few things in life that taste as satisfying as a short stack of that pink meat between two pieces of bread on a summer picnic.PB & J
It's colorful and flashy but one that everyone has eaten, unless you've got some sort of nut allergy. This is the graphic logo tee of the normcore universe—your Nike/Gap/A&F shirt. This is the sandwich that no matter the time of year, the time of day, or even the time of life you're living, you probably would be happy to eat one. However, to truly be culinary "normcore," it's got to use the most ubiquitous brands: Jiffy and Smuckers on white bread, please. If you swap those out for a nice organic crunchy peanut butter or a locally sourced, small-batch preserve, you'd take all that classic lunch-box nostalgia out of it altogether.Grilled Cheese with Kraft Singles
This is the warm sweatpants with a faded college logo on it, that thing you throw on when you get out of bed and end up wearing the rest of the day. This is the food that comforts you when you've just come out of a bad day at work, or a weekend after a bad break up. This is the warm embrace of cheese with a buttery crunch of safety.Tuna Salad I've lost count of all the times I came home to an almost empty cupboard, destitute and hungry, looking for something to make for dinner and feeling that miraculous kind of joy that comes from discovering a tuna can hiding in the back. A simple tuna sandwich with a little salt, pepper, and mayo is something that never feels like a desperate end of the week dinner, but something great. Something that I subconsciously planned all along. I like to think of it as the stuff-able windbreaker of the normcore world. A simple thing that comes out to save you from unexpected tribulations. Once it's there, you feel like you planned to have it all along.
None of these are particularly cool sandwiches, but sandals with socks, Gap shirts, and mom jeans aren't particularly cool clothes either. Normcore sandwiches should be a particular kind of unglamorous comfort food that appeals not because of it's culinary prowess, but because it's nostalgic, simple, and as easy to prepare as a pair of Adidas sandals are to slip on.
Vogue seems to think that comfort is the best thing that normcore has possibly brought the fashion world. I think that's a good thing. Comfort is something that sandwiches have offered forever, and if comfortable clothes are as addictive as a good sandwich, I think it might be a while before I purchase that new pair of sandals.