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Photo: FameFlynet
Photo: FameFlynet

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The Normcore-ification of Scott Disick

The flashy Kardashian satellite demonstrates that normcore, like all trends, is really about showing off your stuff.

Amid the hype frenzy surrounding everything Kim and Kanye, not to mention Bruce Jenner's transition, fans of Keeping Up With The Kardashians might have noticed something odd in the tenth season's early episodes. The premiere was called "The New Normal," referring to the family's status quo now that Bruce and Kris's divorce has been finalized. But the phrase might as well be referencing a sharp turn in the show's styling. This was the first episode since the all-conquering normcore trend has hit saturation point. And Scott Disick appears to be thoroughly on board.

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Scott's new appearance, extra plain and artificially casual, is a drastic shift from his look in practically the entire series run. Promos for the upcoming episodes paint the same picture: the man whose borderline-obsessive attention to tailoring was incorporated into many a storyline has fallen prey to the trend dictators.

Disick has taken a trend that strives towards invisibility, and turned it into conspicuous consumption.

Up to this point, Disick's constant state of aspirational over-dress had been one of his defining characteristics. But it represented more than just his personality, which is maybe why my heart sank a little when I saw the new shows. Disick had been the rare contemporary icon of men's style and an unlikely upholder of standards. Now, he's proof of the pervasiveness of normcore and the related retail phenomenon of athleisure. Yes, it's fashionable for everyone to look like they're headed to the boxing gym in 1983; shapeless and hyper-neutral are prevalent principles. But in Disick's case, the contrast between his former and current wardrobes is so pronounced that he's even been able to take a trend that strives towards invisibility, and turn it into conspicuous consumption.

If you're not Kaught Up, Disick is Kourtney Kardashian's whingeing man-child partner whose playboy ways and addiction issues perpetually threaten the relationship. Disick's goofy charm is difficult to pin down, but somehow he usually ends up a sympathetic character despite his acting out. Not having Jenner or Kardashian blood, he passes for an outsider, though of course he's barely less privileged than the others, having reportedly come from money himself.

Disick's unique position has allowed him a more winking, self-aware celebration of his wealth than the rest of the family. In early seasons he's set up as an underdog who has to win Kris over, a well-meaning screw-up. And even if his comportment borrowed from the flashy lifestyle of the rap world, the "Lord's"  appearance always belied a classicist impulse. He maintained an identifiable aesthetic for years, straddling the line between Gordon Gekko and Jean-Ralphio. Within the excess-for-excess's-sake, Vegas bottle service world he inhabits, he was almost restrained.

Disick attending an auction in 2011, and leaving a restaurant earlier this month. Photo credits: FameFlynet and Getty.

But in the first episodes of Season 10, Scott appears in pointedly shlubby loungewear. In scene after scene, he's in a plain t-shirt, a plain crew sweatshirt, Springsteen gray jeans, a different plain t-shirt—and that's about it. His hair is natural-looking and matte instead of severely slicked back, his chin is scruffy instead of clean-shaven.

Disick has always looked like a more feminine version of the prototypical RL Black Label model, and although this might seem counter-intuitive, his flashiness has never been truly trendy. Ralph Lauren is both of and outside fashion. The All-American look is an archetype that's tweaked once in a while, rather than totally reinvented every season. It appeals as an ever-present option to people who want to commit to that lifestyle for much longer than a few months.

Disick is actually more on-trend, though arguably less stylish, than ever.

Now that everyone has decided that Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man is the goal, Disick is actually more on-trend, though arguably less stylish, than ever. Where is the Scott who packs a half-dozen suits for a weekender, the Scott who wears formalwear to pregnant intimacy workshops, the Scott who gifts house calls from his tailor?

The new casual isn't just about shunning obvious displays of style or refusing to obey long-held fashion rules. It's about embracing athletic wear as a form of luxury. With the rise of athleisure as a fashion category, celebrities like Disick's brother-in-law Kanye West are able to convey their status through expensive gym clothes.

Once known for his "pink-ass Polos", West became a student of couture and ultimately a designer in his own right. But his first full collection with Adidas, which debuted in February, was all about casual, sports-inspired dressing—a far cry from Disick's dapper, candy-colored suits. On the show, scenes in which Kanye and Scott interact are very rare. But Scott is clearly a Kanye admirer, and the influence is palpable.

Scott Disick and Kanye West in matching t-shirts. Photo: FameFlynet.

No wonder Disick has embraced normcore. His version of the trend disguises and highlights excess at the same time. He might look kind of like you, except that every article is fifteen times the price of yours. The faux-obsolete athletic gear, pristine but bland, comes in size ‘boxy', and in either washed out, ambiguous dark color or heather grey. The style involves ironically ascribing value to something more often than it does actually celebrating design classics. (When it does, as with the recent fashion-world embrace of the re-launched Adidas Stan Smith tennis shoe, it's often a corporate-spearheaded initiative.)

Scott might look kind of like you, except that every article is fifteen times the price of yours.

We're now a year and change into the normcore era. The trend forecasting group K-hole originally put forward the concept, which was taken up and amplified by a prominent New York magazine article. The story conflated the idea of normcore with a distinct trend discussed by K-hole, that of "acting basic", and it's this misreading that took off in a big way. For someone adopting the trend at this point, it's a doubly uniform move—not only are you trying to look like "everyone," you're trying to look like everyone cool, too. Even Kim Kardashian has not been immune to the call; witness her new, Kanye-inspired bombshell minimalist aesthetic.

Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld are frequently cited as the golden standard of normcore, which is apt considering that it really is "The Look About Nothing." But maybe it's not a coincidence that both men are multi-millionaires. The casual look practiced by both Disick and Kanye West is all about subtle signifiers; only the cultural elite are able to read the message put forth by a pair of no-frills Bottega Veneta boots. As with any sartorial in-group of the past, from English mods to Castro Clones, this version of normcore offers adherents a set of codes and rules to follow, letting them satisfy a need for individual expression within a context of group identification.

My favorite example of this bizarre nostalgia and working class mockery is the high-end label multi-pack, e.g. plastic wrapped three-packs of undershirts for $300. For the same price, you can also buy Adidas slides by Raf Simons that don't look any less ugly than the kind I wore in my college residence shower. This thing is out of control.

Of course, if Scott thinks dressing as an Arab sheik for Halloween is a prudent move, it shouldn't really be a surprise that he thinks playing the everyman is a good look. Even when un-suited, Scott is still Scott. In this season's second episode, there's a shot of him slumped on a couch in all-white tennis sneakers with an identical pair sitting on the floor next to his feet. The real question is where he'll go from here.


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