I first noticed the stonewashed jeans returning to clothing stores this past February. While out for coffee with a friend I asked, “Are the ’90s making a fashion comeback?” I wasn’t too far off. Stonewashed jeans, plain white T-shirts, fleece jackets and non-brand name items were becoming the “it” materials of a new fashion trend. What was going on in my fashion-forward, uber-trendy New York City? Fashion was, well, letting me down.
Not too long after my initial observation, Fiona Duncan at New York Magazine wrote a piece on this blank slate fashion trend that’s come to be known as “normcore.” Normcore is a combination of the words “normal” and “hardcore.” It is the extreme version of plain, the ultimate blending in. Duncan wrote, "The Internet and globalization have challenged the myth of individuality (we are all one in 7 billion), while making connecting with others easier than ever. Normcore is a blank slate and open mind - it’s a look designed to play well with others."
This fashion trend (or blip, depending on how long it lasts) leads me naturally to think about theology, specifically Jesus. The Incarnation, I believe, is a picture of God going normcore. And on this Good Friday I find myself reflecting on Christ’s rejection of His unique, privileged status and its relationship to the crowd’s rejection of Him, leading to His crucifixion.
The Holy Week story begins with the crowds waving palm branches exclaiming “Hosanna!” and crying out to be saved. They projected their hopes onto this God-man. Some wanted a revolutionary leader, some expected a new ruler and still others expected a new era of peace or a year of jubilee. Scripture says He arrived into Jerusalem “humble, and mounted on a donkey.” In other words, plain and lowly: normcore.
Was Jesus’ whole life in some way an incarnation of this fashion trend? In New York City, I see eccentric fashion and I relish in the creativity of its individuality. Multi-colored hair, people of both sexes wearing high heels, and others with more or less layers of clothing than appropriate for the season. I certainly celebrate individuality. Yet the way of Jesus was to take on an unassuming form that would play well with others. Still, the people rejected the normalcy of the God-man.
The irony of Jesus, of course, is that in choosing to empty Himself to the point of death on a cross, Jesus was anything but plain. This is the greatest act of non-violent love. In God’s great sacrifice for all of humanity, God went hardcore, loving both the most normal and the most eccentric of us all.
The unpretentious look of normcore reminds me of the unassuming and humble servant of God, Jesus. Christ, the most hardcore human infused with divinity, vulnerably crucified. This is Good Friday, a day of somber reflecting on the crucified normcore Messiah. Just like us all, Jesus breathed His last and committed His spirit into His God’s hands.