If you’ve been having a rough year so far (hi), have I got a 10,000-word gift for you! Menswear writer Derek Guy has gone deep on a style concept he has dubbed Bookcore, which is as elusive as it is expansive, pulling together multiple trends from the last decade or so under the very loose category of “independent bookstore regular.” If you were around for the “What is a hipster?” discourse (c. 1999-2005) you’ll understand this prismatic game of semiotic bingo all too well. And lest you thing I’m being snarky, I am absolutely here for this entire polemic. I love Bookcore.
If you don’t have 39 minutes to read 10,000 words, I have chosen and excerpted below—for your delight and education—some of the best and most emblematic sections of what I am now calling the Bookcore Manifesto. (Guy also does a pretty good job at the top of the piece summarizing the vitality of the independent bookstore over the last 25 years, but you might not need to read that.)
So, what is Bookcore?
Bookcore is an amalgamation of the last five years of trends: normcore, gorpcore, dadcore, vintage, 1990s sportswear, American trad, Westernwear, Native American jewelry, pleats, dad caps, wide-legged trousers, oversized eyewear, Balmacaans, leather blazers, Patagonia, chunky sneakers, intentionally ugly shoes, etc. When rolled into one glorious outfit, this is the aesthetic of your bookstore regular.
Is Bookcore cool?
I want to be clear here, lest I be misunderstood. The term bookcore is not a pejorative. It’s a shorthand for a stylish community I find to be charming. Bookcore describes how I sometimes dress, how I aspire to always dress, and how some people I admire dress.
If Bookcore had a capital city, where would it be?
Some cities are more bookcore than others. The Instagram account Parisiens in Paris documents the true style of everyday Parisians walking around the French capital. The anonymous photographer behind the account says they secretly shoot people around the 1st, 2nd, and 6th arrondissements, the République (3rd/11th), and the Château d’Eau.
Talk to us about the role of tote bags in Bookcore for a second.
Presumably, you already have ten totes stuffed inside of each other like Russian nesting dolls. But if you’re shopping for one, book-themed bags include The Strand tote (for tourists), Books are Magic tote (for people who are hip), The New Yorker tote (for people who want others to think they’re intellectual), not-for-sale Literary Hub Joan Didion tote (for people who want others to think they’re better than New Yorker readers), Literary Hub-inspired Toni Morrison tote (the in-the-know riff), and Barnes & Noble tote (you live in the suburbs and don’t care what your bag says about you. You actually read books).
If Bookcore had a syllabus of, like, actual books, what would it be?
Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction is one of the best books I’ve read on how we judge taste in aesthetics. Material Culture and Authenticity is an ethnography on how people in Turkey and Romania use “fake goods” (counterfeited brands) to create authentic identities, and it forces us to rethink how we conceptualize knockoffs. Minh-Ha Pham’s upcoming book Why We Can’t Have Nice Things challenges how we think about fashion copycats and the digital activism around naming and shaming brands (e.g., Diet Prada). People who obsess over handmade goods will want to read Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman (a book recommended to me by Bruce Boyer, also a great author). The Rise of Fashion is a collection of fashion essays by philosophers and social theorists (e.g., Rousseau, Baudelaire, Wilde, etc.). My friend Réginald-Jérôme de Man recently penned Swan Songs, one of the best books I’ve read about classic men’s style. Avery Trufelman sent me a copy of Imagining Consumers, which I’m looking forward to reading after finishing Consuming Splendor, a book about the emergence of consumer society in 17th century England. Finally, Ametora author David Marx is coming out with a book about how our desire for social status shapes consumer culture. I suspect it’ll be one of the best menswear-related books released this year.