Understanding The Term “Geek Chic”

Being a geek is a label I identify with closely. I watch and own a ton of my favorite anime series and movies, read a lot of shojo manga in my spare time, and play video games. I even own some cool action figures thanks to my own purchases or friends who have been kind enough to give them to me as gifts. If you met me in real life, I doubt anyone would instantly slap on the geek label. Not on the surface anyway. This is why outer appearances are always deceiving.

When I first heard the term “geek chic,” I never understood what exactly this term meant or where it came from. Is it a term to define geeks as cool? Is it a fashion term? What is it exactly? Good thing there’s Google to the rescue!

What I came to understand about geek chic is it’s a style trend to come out of the fashion world. Geek chic embraces all that’s typically geeky, like wearing glasses or wearing T-shirts with Hello Kitty or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the front and making the style “fashion cool.” Those who dress like this for style purposes are pseudo-geeks who probably never read a Batman comic book or touched a game controller in their life. As one of the definitions from Urban Dictionary has described, “identical to hipsters but verge more towards being into comic books, pop culture, technology, etc. rather than hipsters who are more into poetry, brooding, and generally being pretentious.”

Justin Timberlake is bringing sexy back by being "geek chic"
Justin Timberlake is bringing sexy back by being “geek chic”

I don’t completely agree with Urban Dictionary’s definition of geek chic. Geek chic lovers are most certainly hipster geeks, but fake in their passion, devotion, and love for all things geeky. The fashion world and even celebrities have embraced the concept of geek chic, back when this trend really boomed. I do recall seeing in the fashion section of a newspaper I read how the very smart looking and stylish black horn rimmed glasses was a trend a ton of people liked to wear, prescription glasses or not. The trend setters wore those particular style of glasses because it made them look super smart, chic, and…geeky?

The idea of wearing non-prescription glasses as an accessory you toss on before leaving the house for the day is completely absurd. Last time I checked, geeks have been seen as people to look down on or to ridicule. Wearing glasses has also been considered unattractive when I was a kid. I still remember an episode of Full House where Stephanie Tanner finds out she has to wear glasses and is completely horrified by the idea. She feared being considered a freak or made fun of for wearing them. Four-eyes was a common insult to throw at people who wasn’t blessed with 20/20 vision.

These days I don’t look like an obvious geek, as society or the media has defined it. Maybe back then when I was a little girl who has been seen as fat, ugly, and awkward by her peers. Boy, kids sure are mean. In any case, geeks have been unfairly viewed under a harsh light. We aren’t all fat, ugly, socially awkward, or locked in our basements with the glowing television screen and gaming console as our only friend. Any true geek knows this is a flawed image. We live well rounded lives and we aren’t married to our computer games or consoles. What we do have is passion for skillfully crafted worlds, characters, and stories that leave lasting impressions on us. We gravitate towards people who share those very same experiences and passions with us, so that we can discuss our impressions and just geek out together. Being a geek is not a badge of shame.

“I’m trying too hard to be ‘geeky,’ but sexy at the same time,” says the fashion industry people

Going back to what I said about not looking like the “typical geek,” I’ll admit I don’t dress like one either. I don’t wear T-shirts that shows off an anime or video game character or a geeky quote or saying from a favorite TV show or movie. I don’t typically carry around bags or accessories that would proudly scream, “I’m geeky, hear me roar!” My style has always been ultra feminine with splashes of pastels and wrapping soft scarves around my neck. I can even admit to wearing the ultra chic black horn rimmed glasses (prescription of course) that has defined the geek chic style. Does this make me a pseudo-geek?

Maybe those who let their geek flag fly louder than I do may write me off as a wannabe geek on first appearances alone, but those who make the effort to actually talk to me and get to know me will find we share the same interests. Any talk of Mass Effect or Dragon Age will have me fangirling instantly. Talk Lost to me, and I will explain why I’m part of that small percentage of fans who doesn’t think the ending was as bad as everyone made it out to be when the series ended three years ago. I’m a legitimate geek, and I have the evidence to back it up. To emulate being geeky from a fashion angle is more pretentious and fake. Wearing glasses is made for those who really need to use them to see clearly, not to look smart or “geeky chic.”

Geek chic should be about making geekdom cool and not a style conscious effort the fashion world has seized upon to set the next wave of ever changing trends. Who really wants to be geek hipsters? It’s bad enough we have regular hipsters to begin with. We don’t need to add geeky hipsters to the equation. The better definition for geek chic should be a person who shows the world how having a geeky passion is truly kickass and expresses them in however manner they see fit. Cosplay? Work the conventions as if it’s your own catwalk. A comic artist? Share your work with the entire world. Bottom line, you have to have the geek cred to back it up. Geeky pursuits and geeky people are sexy. Don’t just dress like a geek, but really own the identity of geek. We’re a cool bunch. Promise.

9 thoughts on “Understanding The Term “Geek Chic””

  1. Great post! Your stuff about hipsters made me laugh, we’ve got a whole bunch of those here in San Francisco… but it’s cool. And I totally agree with your post. Being a geek is more than skin deep!

    As much as I love, say, Mass Effect and Doctor Who, I don’t go around wearing those T-shirts all the time. (Although I have two in mind that I really really really want to buy soon.) Maybe it’s because I started dressing myself and developing my own fashion sense long before I got into those things. (I will say that I used to emulate Claire’s clothes from her Lost flashbacks. Is that geeky? haha) Personally, I feel like trying too hard to look like a geek would just limit me, sort of cornering me into the instant “oh she’s a geek” category to anybody who doesn’t know me. There’s nothing wrong with owning your geek attitude or wearing geeky things… but I’m with you that we geeks are well-rounded people. That means that if DO we wear geeky things, it’s only because they’re a natural extension of what we’re already passionate about!

    1. Hipsters have taken over Williamsburg, Brooklyn. New Yorkers have joked that it’s hipster mecca over there. 😛

      I have the same experience as you. I think I developed my own personal style over the years to not really feel compelled to wear the super geeky T-shirts. I always admire the geeky T-shirts worn by my other friends, but I just don’t think that style is for me. I like being the girly girl. That still doesn’t mean that makes me any less geeky than the girl who wears a cat ears hat in the winter with her super cute anime bag to match. We all have different ways of expressing our geekiness is all. 😉

  2. All good points. I for one totally rock my Kingdom Hearts red and black tshirt, but I love that we all have so many different ways of expression.

    1. Exactly. We come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, etc. And whatever style/expression you are into, we know how to make it look good.

  3. Having moved to Seattle, I see hipsters and geek chic EVERYWHERE. But, I honestly don’t have a negative opinion of them, nor view them as posers. I actually appreciate them a bit for helping make those interests and what used to be consider strange now socially acceptable, even fashionable. I used to feel self conscious about glasses and forced myself to wear contacts growing up, but now am cool with wearing them everyday to work (also chose thick black rims because 1) I have horrid vision and the thicker rims hide the thicker lenses and make them look less like coke bottle caps, 2) my love for eye makeup doesn’t get all over contacts and irritate my eyes, 3) the frames actually fit my face perfectly, and 4) they feel like they complete my young professional look.

    But most days I think I probably am very similar to you: professionally semi-formal (blouses, slacks, etc.), and on off days I stick to jeans and simple shirts. Usually only for conventions or other events do I pull out my geeky bags. I guess I just dress to the setting.

    Fun post! I look forward to reading more from you here, though of course I’ll keep following on your origina blog ^^

    1. That’s a different way of viewing geek chic. Considering fashion tends to make a lot of things cool, even if it’s just for one season, I can see how the geek chic trend helps make real geekiness acceptable. Something to think about.

      And yes, definitely be sure to check out this site regularly. Not just for me, though you know I love you, but for everyone else here too. 😀

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