Microsoft's 'normcore' clothing line had me feeling highly inappropriate

Microsoft Windows XP background with Katie Wickens's face, wearing Hardwear clothing line.
(Image credit: Future)

One of our favourite pieces from this year, originally published August 26, 2022.

I'm not one for designer clothing. The closest I've come to being fashionable is the pair of Doc Marten boots I wore once, bled into, and threw to the back of my wardrobe so they couldn't hurt anyone ever again. And yet, when Microsoft asked if I'd like to try out some threads from the new Hardwear clothing line, I had a chance to once again dabble in the lifestyle of lavish fashion, and rethink my stance on buying everything second-hand.

And so, my journey into becoming a "normcore" fashion model for a day began.

The first hurdle was deciding on a size. Now, I tend to buy clothing that's a size up so I can wear it as a dress if I'm feeling fancy. What I forgot to account for was the difference between UK and US sizing—extra large seems to mean something different across the pond. In fact, I was sent an XXL which was a massive overcompensation for my little muffin-top, and frankly I'm drowning.

Katie Wickens wearing Microsoft's Hardwear clothing line.

(Image credit: Future)

Though, while I've had to roll the sleeves of this humongous denim jacket up just to be able to type this out, I will say the jacket is very nice. Good pockets big enough for massive nerdy cell phones, too. I'm sure it'll make a great autumn jacket for cool evenings loitering around the server rooms at work, or wherever normies like to hang out. It's a bit strange that they put a paragraph of print on the inside of the jacket, though. Like I'm meant to take it off and be like "Guys, guys, read my jacket!" I guess it's a nod to the questionably-worded overarching theme, which we'll get to momentarily.

I feel the need to hide the slogan from people, in case I get a complaint filed about me.

If the sizing fiasco wasn't enough to put me off designer clothing for good (despite it being entirely my own fault), the fact it started to rain on my already heavy-ass denim jacket really didn't help the situation. Carrying ten pounds of sodden denim home sure is a work out. Maybe I'll only have to upsize to a large size next time.

And then there was the T-shirt slogan. I wasn't actually asked which T-shirt design I wanted, but I figured "how bad could a lucky dip be?"

Boy, did I overestimate my luck.

Microsoft could've have sent me a Bliss XP wallpaper print, or Windows 95 MS Paint icon tee. But no. Instead I got a slogan slapped across my chest that reads: "It's in you, not on you."

To your average normie, perhaps there's nothing off about this statement. Maybe all they see is the earnest positivity about it being 'what's inside that counts.' But in the circles I float between, and even among my esteemed colleagues, you can bet someone passed a risque comment or two. Don't worry, it's nothing I had to contact HR about, but you have to admit there's a potential for some misconstrued undertones here.

Dave James, Hardware Lead's experience

"I'm angry at myself," says my long-suffering wife when I walk in the door. "I shouldn't have let you go outside wearing that. You basically walked in there with 'My name's Dave and I'm a sex pest' written on your T-shirt."

So yeah, maybe strolling into daycare to drop off my three-year-old wearing a shirt with "It's in you, not on you" emblazoned on the front wasn't the best plan. Particularly when his key worker then asks him: "what's that on daddy's T-shirt, Charlie?"

"It's just a silly slogan…" Says I, squirming.

Just a silly slogan with far too many sexual connotations for my liking. Suffice to say that's going to be an at-home T-shirt from now on. Though I'm still digging the denim shacket with Inbox on the breast pocket, that's a keeper.

And not casually offensive.

Perhaps that's what designer Gavin Mathieu was going for? No, Microsoft describes it as a clothing line that "puts the focus on individuals and not on the clothing they wear." That's a much more respectable sentiment than it sounds when worded the way it is. But the thing about designer clothing with slogans like this is that it's so steeped in irony, the message ends up going full circle.

Remember when everyone was walking around with "OBEY" on their T-shirts? The point was to show a "biting sarcasm verging on reverse psychology," urging people to "to take heed of the propagandists out to bend the world to their agendas."

But of course, the real irony is in spending $50 on a tee in order to blend in with your current friend group's world view, while unironically mocking conformists.

Okay, enough of my designer clothing rant. I'm here to write about cores and threads, not clothing threads. The bottom line is that I'm not feeling very normcore; I feel a bit like I'm camping in my own T-shirt, which isn't the fault of Microsoft by any stretch. But my real issue lies in the fact I feel the need to hide the slogan from people, in case someone files a complaint about me.

Katie Wickens
Hardware Writer

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. Having been obsessed with computers and graphics for three long decades, she took Game Art and Design up to Masters level at uni, and has been demystifying tech and science—rather sarcastically—for three years since. She can be found admiring AI advancements, scrambling for scintillating Raspberry Pi projects, preaching cybersecurity awareness, sighing over semiconductors, and gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. She's been heading the PCG Steam Deck content hike, while waiting patiently for her chance to upload her consciousness into the cloud.