The Beyond Retro Guide to Normcore Fashion

The Beyond Retro Guide to Normcore Fashion

What is Normcore Fashion?

Four years after the word Normcore was a runner-up for the Oxford English Dictionary's Word of The Year (losing out to 'vape'), it's time to untangle the surprisingly complicated meaning of the word 'normcore' along with its viral evolution and bizarre variations - menocore anyone?

The Origin of Normcore

The story begins way back in the dark ages of 2009 before Instagram even existed. A cartoonist named Ryan Estrada was invited to draw a guest strip for the comic Templar, AZ. He came up with a conversation about increasingly ridiculous subcultures, the punchline being 'Normcore. Dangerously regular dresses only in t-shirts and jeans, uses slang appropriated from other subcultures, but only three years after its first use, and only three years after it's been used in a sitcom'. Estrada promptly forgot the satirical poke at youthful tribes and got on with his life.

What Happened Next?

In 2013, unbearably cool trend forecasting agency K-Hole coined the term in their yearly report to describe a generation of youth that was over individualisation and into belonging. One NY Mag article later and the term was turned from a pensive description of a state of mind to a fashion trend that encompassed 'stonewash jeans, fleece, and comfortable sneakers' or off-brand New York ball caps... paired with turtlenecks, sweatpants, and boxy jeans'. The article cited Jerry Seinfeld as the unlikely icon of this new trend, and just like that the term went viral.

The Backlash of Normcore

By the beginning of 2014, the normcore style was already being decried as hipster nonsense, a cynical appropriation of pure intentions, a spoof, a massive in-joke. A fake trend that spun out of control. GQ spelt it out in bullet points with an article entitled '20 Reasons You, Normcore Guy, are an Idiot'.

Is Normcore Over?

By 2015, GQ, Highsnobiety and a host of other fashion publications had pronounced normcore dead. The trouble is, no-one paid attention. The runways have remained awash with normcore elements and the trend keeps resurrecting in new forms. 'Gorpcore' added puffer jackets, velcro and all sorts of sensible outdoor wear to the mix in 2017.

2018 saw a wave of windbreakers, bumbags and slides promptly christened 'tourist chic'. 'Dad style' celebrated tucked in t-shirts, pleated pants and pulled up socks. Most recently, this spring, Man Repeller announced 'menocore', a cross between menopause and normcore fashion. The trick is to dress like 'a mom in a Nancy Meyers movie or an eccentric ceramicist exiting her beach house studio,' or in other words, linen trousers and loose tops finished off with a scrunchie or bucket hat.

So... What Does Normcore Mean Again?

Ok, so. It's basically a response to the conspicuous consumption, fast fashion and logomania of the early 2010s, and just like the anti-fashion statements of minimalism and punk before it, it's become a trend of its own. The aesthetic - as well as the spirit - is a very nineties one, closely linked to slacker style, grunge and even heroin chic. Here are some loose rules.

  1. Functionality above all else. Trainers, skate shoes, washed denim, low key sportswear, workwear, turtlenecks, baseball caps and if possible some sort of reusable water container.

  1. Approved brands include Carhartt, Patagonia, Northface and Birkenstocks. Basically, all those things your Mum wears that you swore you never would. Vintage, obviously. This look should appear lived-in.

  1. No overt logos, no glitz, nothing expensive (looking). The normcore style is about fitting in rather than standing out.

  1. Nostalgia plays a key role, try and remember what you were wearing on a school trip in the mid to late nineties and buy grown-up versions of all of it.

  1. If it's unisex, even better.

Three Normcore Inspirations

Phoebe Philo

The former Céline designer embodies the chicest version of normcore, the anti-fashion fashion uniform of loose trousers, turtleneck, trainers and a ponytail.

Shia LaBeouf

The unlikely fashion icon is so celebrated for his functional looks that there's an entire Instagram account - @shiasoutfits - dedicated to them. Scroll for daily normcore inspo.

Your Dad

Seriously. Embodied here by America's Daddy Barack Obama, note the oversized polo shirt, the high-waisted jeans and the uncool trainers.

A Normcore Watchlist

Early seasons of Friends

Before the group got financially savvy and started working their dream jobs, the Friends gang all embodied their own unique takes on normcore. The styling of the show emphasised the approachable-ness of the characters - their struggles were realistic and so were their wardrobe budgets. Note especially Rachel's sweater and pyjama bottom combo in The One Where No-one's Ready, and the whole group's Thanksgiving football look.

Funny Ha Ha

Normcore's filmic counterpart is mumblecore, a genre of oddly charming, low budget, independent cinema in which everyone has very long, improvised conversations and little actually happens. The very first mumblecore film, Funny Ha Ha from 2002 follows the post-college life of Marnie as she journeys through a series of life challenges and dorky t-shirts that symbolise her struggle to become a grown-up. Pure normcore. Nineties precursors Reality Bites and Clerks can also provide some retro sartorial slacker inspiration.


Final Girls provide fertile ground for normcore inspo since practicality is everything in the struggle to avoid the masked murderer and survive 'til the end of the film. Watch Scream, the ultimate nineties slasher, for Sidney Prescott's simple sweater, jeans and sneakers combos, as well as her boring-chic selection of suede, leather and denim jackets, a new one in each part of the trilogy due to those tricky-to-get-out blood stains.

How to Dress Normcore

A lot has happened since the initial trend went viral, here's how to do normcore for 2018 in four simple steps.


Style it up for Summer

Ditch the puffer and the waterproofs and style this trend for summer with the help of some light wash denim, an over-sized sorbet coloured polo shirt and slides over socks if you want to go full on Dad chic.

Gone Fishin'

While the trend started with sweatpants and baseball caps, this season's nod to sportswear takes the form of the fishing vest. If there's one normcore item to invest in, this is the one... but a bucket hat couldn't hurt either.

Mom bags

Forget jeans, the latest Mom accessory is the bag. Look for leather brands like Coach and Dooney & Bourke in sensible medium sizes for your A-Z and wet-wipes.

Make it Girly

Normcore is deviating from its unisex routes to encompass nineties grungy dresses and denim skirts. Pair the former with a checked shirt and the latter with a plain Champion sweatshirt for the perfect no-frills ensemble.

You can get more 90s Summer Pop Culture Inspiration in our blog, talking about our top 5 tv shows that keep the 90s alive.


Words Sarah Cleaver


The Beyond Retro Guide To... Dr Martens

The Beyond Retro Guide To... Dr Martens

Ever wondered about how your trusty pair of DM’s actually came about? In the first part of a new series all about our favourite footwear brand, we delve into the history of Dr Martens.

Who was Dr Marten?

The history of Dr Martens dates back to 1945 in post-War Munich, when an injured soldier, Dr Klaus Martens, created a soft sole for his boots to aid the recovery of his broken foot. Maertens then showed his creation to his friend Dr Herbert Funk (great name) and the two went into business, using discarded military supplies to make their shoes. In 1959 an advertisement for the revolutionary sole was seen by the owner of Griggs’ Footwear in England, a few modifications later, including the addition of the iconic yellow stitching and the ‘Airwair’ boot was born. The team used the date they were created, 1st April 1960, as their namesake and the iconic 1460 boot was born.

"Starting in 1901, the Griggs family were known for making boots in the small town of Wollaston, Northamptonshire in the English Midlands. They were at the very heart of the English shoe industry and for six decades Griggs’ footwear earned a solid reputation as sturdy, durable work boots." -Dr Martens

The brand was popular with people in the workplace for a sturdy, long lasting pair of boots. Then Dr Martens unexpectedly became the brand of choice for working-class subcultures and societal rebels, this was the beginning of their cultural iconic status.

Dr Marten’s in Subculture

The brand grew along with the consistent rise of British subcultures in the 1970 and 80s, from punks to goths, every disaffected youth of the time was wearing them and the trend for customising the laces and painting the boots was born. The trend had also moved across the water at this stage and bands in America were stepping out in DMs, taking the iconic boot worldwide. By the 1990s the grunge trend had kept DMs firmly in the limelight and the brand now became the choice for festival goers.

"Grunge turned the mainstream music world on its head and took Dr. Martens along for the ride. Back in Britain, Britpop rebelled against this so-called ‘loser kid’ apathy but did so in the same boots, the 1460.

The emergence of nu-metal and very early emo saw yet more new music genres adopt the boot. The brand also became synonymous with festival culture." - Dr Martens

Whilst subcultures such as emo, punk, grunge and nu-metal aren't still as prevalent in mainstream culture Doc Martens definitely still are. Whatever style, music or culture you're into, there's no denying that Dr Martens have a place across most cultural scenes as a go-to shoe.

Image result for emo doc martens

Our Top 6 Dr Marten Influencers

1. Pete Townshed

It was Pete Townshend, lead guitarist of The Who, that first brought the Iconic 1460 to the attention of the public, wearing his as a symbol of solidarity with Britain’s working class.

2. The 70s & 80s: The Specials, Madness

Bands like The Specials and Madness championed the Dr Marten boot in the 1970s and 80s during 2 Tone and Ska revival, again as a nod to their working-class routes.


3. The 90s: Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam

It was bands like Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam that made sure the DM boot stayed a subculture favourite during the 90s.

4. The 10s: Miley Cyrus

Love this video or hate it, you can’t deny it got people talking, in 2013 Miley Cyrus rode naked on a wrecked ball in just her Docs.

5. The Present Day: Babymetal 

In more recent years, bands like Babymetal, a 3 piece kawaii metal band, have made the DM boot part of their signature Japanese Gothic and Punk Lolita style.

Rise and Fall of Dr Martens

By the early 2000s, the brand was experiencing a huge downward turn in sales, which resulted in store and factory closures across the UK. The brand launched a new range in 2004 aimed at young people, intended to be easier to break in and more comfortable to wear. In 2007 the original factory was back up and running, producing the hand-made boots, the traditional way.


Thanks to innovative collaborations with Vetements, Supreme and Yohji Yamamoto, the brand has stayed at the forefront of fashion in recent years. With a knack for reinvention and a reputation for quality, no doubt Dr Martens will be around for the next 60 years (your Docs will probably still be in good shape then too.)

Our Favourite Ways To Style Dr Martens

1. Toughen Up A Tea Dress

Pairing a cute, vintage, polka-dot or ditsy floral frock with a pair of DMs is the ultimate pretty but tough outfit to see you through festivals, parties, dates, summer and winter!


The Combat Boots That You Need In Your Life - Pose & Repeat


2. Laid-Back Luxe

A worn-in pair of Dr Martens boots are the best kind of Sunday shoe, they pair perfectly with your favourite pair of vintage Levi's and your comfiest over-sized sweater. This model-off-duty kind of look will take you from grocery shopping to brunch and to the pub in the comfiest of ways.


doc martens - #doc #martens #samt


3. Desk to dancefloor dressing

Finding the perfect outfit for a Thursday is a different kind of dilemma, how do you find a work-appropriate outfit that will also take you straight through to the bar without having to pack a change of clothes? Simple, a chic knit or long sleeve top, a vintage midi skirt and a pair of DMs - Simple!


Lauren Johnson of Disco Daydream wears Dr. Martens Jadon Platform Boots in Dallas Texas

Now you know the rich history behind Dr Martens, why not check out our blog and get to know the story behind Nike! You can shop our range of vintage Doctor Martens boots and shoes here.


 Words Megan Flanagan-Hunter

How To Spot : Super Rare 1940s Levi's 501 Jeans

How To Spot : Super Rare 1940s Levi's 501 Jeans

From the top of the Rocky Mountains, to the deepest, darkest corners of the Nevada goldmines, hunters search far and wide for the hidden history of Levi Jean’s. Over 20,000  people from all over the world every month head to the Rose Bowl Flea Market to source the rarest and oldest Levis that money can buy and in Japan, denim auctions frequently take place where a pair of Levis can set you back over 50,000 pounds.
Now we are giving you a chance to be a part of Levis history with an ultra rare pair of 501s from 1947 discovered by our skilled hands at Beyond Retro. What makes these jeans so unique? Read on!
Let’s start with the fabric, a tightly woven denim made in the USA by White Oak Cone Denim in North Carolina, the exclusive manufacturers of Levi 501s back when these jeans were crafted. The denim was produced on vintage American Draper X3 fly shuttle looms. These looms give a completely unique weave to the fabric that modern day production can’t compete with. The yarn is left uncut after each layer of weave, leaving a tightly bound edge that cannot unravel, meaning the jeans maintain their integrity throughout their life. You can see this with the white selvedge edge running down the outer side seams of legs and the inner seam of the watch pocket. There is a stain which is only visible on the inside of the fabric which only adds to the character and story of these amazing jeans. 
1940s Rare Vintage Levis
Next we have the coveted red tab. Unlike modern Levis this red tab only has Levis written on one side all in upper case, showcasing the holy grail that is the, ‘Big E.’ This was introduced to Levis in 1936, to differentiate from the many competitors that were copying Levis dark denim and Arcuate back pocket stitching. The ‘Big E,’ ran until 1971 but the one sided logo disappeared in the 50s making these jeans a rarity.
1940s Vintage Rare Levis
The pockets have the classic Levis Arcuate stitching. There are many rumours as to the origins of this design such as a reference to the Rocky Mountain Eagle but no one knows for certain as Levis loss all their records in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. These pockets are from when the double-needle sewing machine was first launched in 1947 in creating the design. Making the Arcuate more precise and uniform. The stitching on the Arcuate and throughout the jeans is in a faded lemon thread, a stark contrast to the modern orange stitching we see today. 
1940s Vintage Levis Jeans
Underneath the corners of the back pockets hide the copper rivets which have slowly worn through the selvedge fabric giving the jeans an insight into the wear of the previous owner. The hidden rivets were introduced back in 1937 and as you can see in pictures are only visible from inside the jeans. They were hidden due to customer complaints of the previous outer rivets that scratched cowboys saddles and the owners furniture. The hidden design was used until 1966 when Levis changed to bar tack stitching. The  rivets themselves which made Levis into being known for strong and durable denim are made from copper before the cheaper flatter sliver aluminium rivets were introduced in the 1960s.
Behind the top button is a small single ‘v’ stitch which runs from the top of the waistband and down at an angle creating a ‘v’ shape. This feature was used on 501s up until 1969. The buttons themselves are the father of the modern Levis buttons that are used today. Solid and without a doughnut core they include Levis country of origin. 
The back is still intact which is near on impossible! It is fragile and marked and worn with the jeans spectacular 72 year past. It’s incredible to see how well this piece of wearable American history has lasted. When we are so use to throwing away fast fashion it’s important to remember and honour the quality of the past and nothing shows the quality of denims past quite like these 501s.
1940s Rare Vintage Levis

Buy your own piece of history here

Words Hugo Harris
Beyond Retro Exchange: Recycle & Refresh Your Wardrobe

Beyond Retro Exchange: Recycle & Refresh Your Wardrobe

Help close the loop on fashion waste & sell us your pre-loved pieces <3

Hey vintage lovers...

We are all about Out with the New, In with the Old. And in our journey to bring our lovely customers more ways to be sustainable, and to help close the loop on fashion waste... we are launching our Exchange programme across all our stores in the UK & Sweden!


So what does this mean? If you want to clear out your closet... plus fancy a wardrobe refresh, our buy back can help! We're looking for the best designer, sportswear, workwear items and on trend, vintage pieces from the 70s to the 00s. 

Become part of the circular economy, bring in your best pre-loved and high street pieces, and get money off your next vintage purchase! Check out the list below that will be updated regularly with what we're on the hunt for and bring in your pieces in store. If there's anything we don't take, we can recycle for you with Love not Landfill in the UK, and Human Bridge in Sweden!

The Nitty Gritty

How it works...

1) Clear our your closet. Launder items you wish to sell to us.

2) Bring them to one of our stores.

3) Our team will look through your pieces and let you know what we'll take.

4) You'll receive 20% of the selling price in a Beyond Retro giftcard to spend in store


- All pieces must be laundered before bringing them in.

- Please ensure all pieces are in excellent condition. We cannot accept damaged or stained items.

- Please keep an eye on what we are currently buying...

Find out more here

Brands we always love:

Designer ---> Aquascutum,  Balenciaga, Balmain, Berghaus, Burberry, Celine, Chanel, Chloe, Christian Dior, Comme des Garcons, Coogi, DVF, Dolce & Gabanna, Fendi, Givency, Gucci, Helly Hanson, Hudson Bay, Jaegar, Lanvin, Loewe, Mary Quant, Missoni, Miu Miu, Moschino, Oscar de la Renta, Prada, Pringle, Valentino, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent and any designer brands.

Brands ---> adidas, Ben Sherman, Calvin Klein, Carhartt, Champion, Coach, Columbia, Converse, Dickies, Diesel, Disney, DKNY, Dr Martens, Fila, Fred Perry, Fubu, Guess, Harley Davidson, Hugo Boss, Hunter, Kappa, Kenzo, Kickers, Le Coq Sportif, Lee, Levi's, MaxMara, Nike, Osh Kosh, Patagonia, Pendleton, Puma, Ralph Lauren, Reebok, Stussy, The North Face, Timberland, Umbro, Vans, Wrangler

Products we are buying now ---> Sports, Tshirts, Jeans, Jumpsuits, Playsuits, Dungarees, Flares, 90s shirts, 70s shirts, Silk Blouses, Sherpa lined denim jackets, Puffer Coats, 70s dresses, 70s blouses, Workwear, Silk Dresses, Denim shorts, Hawaiian shirts, 00s pieces, sweater vests, 80s dresses, 80s dresses, prairie dresses, prairie blouses 


Introducing Re:Yak

Introducing Re:Yak

If you want to clear out your closet... plus fancy a wardrobe refresh, you can bring them into store and we will buy back items in exchange for Beyond Retro credit. We're looking for best designer, sportswear, workwear and now Lucy & Yak items!!


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INTERVIEW: Leon, a vintage legend.

INTERVIEW: Leon, a vintage legend.

Leon Herbert is a UK based Actor, model, designer and vintage icon. He has written 11 feature film screenplays and directed several theatre productions. Leon is a true vintage fashion advocate, known as ‘the best dressed guy on the soul scene’.
Interview: Haidar Beden at Copenhagen Fashion Week

Interview: Haidar Beden at Copenhagen Fashion Week

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Interview: Beyond Retro & All That Plazz

Interview: Beyond Retro & All That Plazz

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International Womens Day 2023

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We ask these five amazing women about everything from their style icons over the years, to what this years theme, #EmbraceEquity means to them.
Upcycle Jeans from Beyond Retro with Fanfare Label

Upcycle Jeans from Beyond Retro with Fanfare Label

Give your pre-loved jeans a new lease of life this Repair Week, with @fanfarelabel, an independent sustainable fashion house leading the way for circularity and positive change! 💛