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Normcore, wage transparency, and the public trust

Remember normcore? The fashion trend was first reported by New York magazine in February, in reference to young trendsetters’ newfound inclination toward dressing like dowdy dads. It turned out they were onto something. The September issues of high-fashion glossies now on newsstands are beginning to reflect the shift. From mass-market retailers like the Gap to elite brands available only to a monied few, there’s been an aesthetic paring down—a surface-level democratization. And, as it happens, the adoption of a pared-down uniform by those who can afford more lavish looks has happened before.

The Week reports:

It’s unsurprising…to see echoes of today’s fashion in the way the Great Depression altered tastes in the 1930s. Then, fashionistas opted for simpler, more timeless styles that cloaked their wealth better than the freewheeling fashion of the 1920s. Then, too, the fashion tastes of high and low converged. 

Fashion trends can serve as a handy mirror to a given era’s social climate. That today’s cool kids are unwittingly harkening back to Depression-era stylistic sensibilities speaks volumes, whether they realize it or not.

And here, according to a survey released Thursday by the US Federal Reserve and reported by Reuters, are the normcore-birthing figures:

From 2010 to 2013, average income for U.S. families rose about 4 percent after accounting for inflation, the survey showed. All of the income growth was concentrated among the top earners, the survey showed, with the top 3 percent accounting for 30.5 percent of all income.

It goes without saying that worse things than fashion have suffered as a result. As reported in a study forthcoming from the Association for Psychological Science, in the US, trust in others—and in institutions—is at a three-decade low. The authors of the study found income inequality to be at the crux of this crisis of distrust, citing “a growing perception that other people are cheating or taking advantage to get ahead.”

Oh, and full-time working women only earn around 77 percent of what males do. In happier news, apparent normcore peddlers Gap Inc. are making public what they pay their employees—an unusual bid for transparency—in order to demonstrate the corporation’s commitment to gender-equal wages. (Less happy: as the Huffington Post points out, the same cannot be said for the overseas factories where most of the brand’s garments are produced.)

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