Geek Chic: How Being Nerdy Became an Accessory

Between listening to horror stories of parents being social outcasts for liking things like Star Trek and watching kids with glasses on television shows get singled out by bullies, we’ve grown up with this notion of liking certain things or acting and dressing a certain way as being nerdy and social suicide. At the present, seeing someone walk around with a T-shirt or hat that references something that our child-selves would have defined as geeky is totally normal. Growing up in the first environment and ending up in the second is crazy and confusing to me. When did being a nerd get so cool?

There is not a clear answer, but I have my theories, all of which include the media of television, movies and the internet. One personal experience I had with this was reading Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight when it first came out; my friends and I even dresses up as book characters to buy the second book at a midnight release! Reading such a weird book was for nerds and, well, weirdos. And then the movie came out, and those kids who made fun of me before were now wearing their ‘Team Edward' and ‘Team Jacob’ shirts. As soon as the media type became more accessible to everyone (in general, it’s easier to sit down for an hour or so to watch a movie than set time aside for reading a book), Twilight went from geek to chic. This makes sense: if you show a larger group of people something, then you’re more likely to get more positive results. This was even the case for the ever-popular Harry Potter series. Even though the books were always popular (in my experience anyway), once book turned to film, popularity grew!

We grew up in an age where the internet was useful but slow and ended up here, where it is at nearly everyone’s fingertips. What does this have to do with the ‘books to movies’ idea? Information sharing! The easier it is for a piece of information to be shared, the easier it is to be liked by the masses! Our consistent presence on the internet and being surrounded by TVs keeps us in a stream of information, including nerdy shows. Additionally, the ability to communicate has allowed previously-shunned geeks to easily find people who also like the same things! Plus, these people might know about a book or movie that you’ve never heard of but might enjoy.

So, when did being a nerd get so cool? It largely depends on where you were: if you spent a lot of time on the internet, being a geek would have gotten cooler a lot quicker than if you didn’t. However, as internet popularity spread, ‘nerd culture’ got seen in a more positive. This trickled down and created an environment where being a geek could be seen as just a part of yourself rather than social suicide.