Ever since Normal People premiered in April, a curious Irish style icon has emerged: Connell Waldron. Not only is the fictional character allegedly responsible for a record number of students applying to Trinity but he, in his quiet way, has become an Irish style icon whose “look” is so pervasive, it spawned hundreds of ironic Halloween costumes this October.
Lying at the heart of Connell’s sartorial appeal is the fact that he elevates many Irish staples that, at one time, would have been derided by certain Trinity students – the GAA shorts, the county jersey and the chain necklace – and gives them new life on screen. His wardrobe has certainly struck a chord with the international fashion community. Brands like Gucci have been inspired to produce shorts that are strikingly similar to the staple O’Neills design – in the Mayo colours, no less – and his chain necklace has a personal Instagram account boasting over 185,000 followers.
Brands like Gucci have been inspired to produce shorts that are strikingly similar to the staple O’Neills design.
This is a rather jarring experience for us Irish, who are not used to seeing our style echoed by influencers and big fashion brands across the globe. If someone had told me last year that Normal People would be the show to take Irish fashion global I probably would have believed them – but if they had also told me that Paul Mescal cycling through the French countryside in Stan Smiths and a rather nondescript grey t-shirt would be one of the show’s iconic looks, I would have laughed. 2020 is full of surprises.
In Ireland, we are used to digesting fashion cues from other countries – American apparel (namely college sweatshirts, Chuck Taylors and baseball caps) has been absorbed into our own way of dressing. Now that the situation is reversed, and we find our regular clothing the subject of Pinterest boards across the world, has it given us a new appreciation of the quintessential Irish uniform? Where once we wouldn’t have given Connell’s clothes a second glance, I believe we can now find a whole new appreciation for these Irish wardrobe staples.
His chain necklace has a personal Instagram account that boasts over 185,000 followers.
What about Marianne, Connell’s love interest and devotee of the velvet jacket? Her staples: berets, silk blouses and of course the infamous black vintage dress, have much more of an Arts Block feel to them. I find it funny that Marianne’s clothes, the clothes of a character who is much more fashionable and who clearly cares about her appearance, have not become part of the sartorial zeitgeist in the same way that Connell’s have. Is it because her style, although popular, is already familiar to viewers?
She too has a uniform of sorts that most college-goers can relate to – lots of vintage, lots of black. Is it the newness of Connell’s wardrobe, at least for an international audience, that makes it so enticing? Or is it rather that the style of someone so anti-fashion as Connell – who would probably think Gucci was a type of pasta – is striking a chord with so many people simply because he doesn’t consciously curate his image? Perhaps the real fascination with his wardrobe lies in the fact that he really does dress like a normal person.
Normal clothes for normal people – maybe that’s what we really crave in 2020, when the world seems so turbulent that all we really want is to put on a uniform and worry about one less thing for the day.