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Style wars: the battle over geek chic

Jennifer “Jay” Poole

Geeks and nerds have not been exactly what one would call fashion-forward. Sure, it's a stereotype, but its one that holds water. In all my days of role-playing, programming and general geeking out, I've met very few "well-dressed" nerds – most of them would give the Queer Eye men a cardiac episode.

Most of my male friends on Friday nights aren't heading for a hot club or waxing their BMW to cruise for hotties, they're decked out in a faded band shirt and worn jeans (both of questionable cleanliness) and parked in front of their computers. And the only time a car is even involved is if they're hauling their computer to another person's house for a LAN party. Or if they need beer/takeout/[insert energy drink of choice here].

(A LAN party is like a rave for geeks. Except subtract the hard drugs, and add the alcohol and caffeine, subtract the glowsticks and add the LED lights in computer cases and optical mice, subtract the dancing and add something like a HALO tournament, and usually the clothes stay on. Usually.)

Most of my female friends are pretty much the same way, but they're a little more concerned with hygiene. We wear dark colors and band shirts, shirts with witty sayings or anime shirts, some wear things they've knitted themselves-we look good, and we're quirky, but day-to-day clothes are for function, and less offensive than going naked.

So I guess what I'm saying here, is that most geeks see clothes as something they have to wear, not something they necessarily put a lot of thought into.

And now the emo kids have moved in on us. And We Don't Like Them.

Let me tell you, geeks had been wearing faded, tattered band tour shirts long before Hot Topic started cranking them out en masse. Our jeans have been ripped and stained for years before Abercrombie turned them out for the masses pre-screwed-up. Not because we're trying to make a statement-because we hate doing laundry and hate clothes shopping even more.

And glasses? The thick-framed nerd glasses? Not emo. Functional. The frames do what frames are supposed to do-they hold the lenses near your face so you can see. Nothing more, nothing less. They are plastic because we're too cheap to spring for titanium. Watch Revenge of the Nerds sometime. We totally wore them first.

And I'm sorry I'm a little vehement on this one; the other day someone complimented me on my "emo glasses." I was displeased.

And shoes? Some geeks make poor footwear choices-usually whatever's cheap. Many, though, are particularly fond of Converse. The emo kids have moved in on this too.

You know those kids in your Jr. High who would run their sneakers into the ground? Usually the jocks and rockers. The kid who would wear his sneakers until the canvas upper separated from the rubber and resembled a gaping maw? Geek.

So I picked a fight with the emo kids who sulk outside the Barnes and Noble in my town with expensive coffee. Yeah. I did.

I leaded it off like this: "Cheer up, emo kids!"

(You know you've totally wanted to do that.)

Anyway, they just stared at me. Disappointed, I went inside, got the new notebook I needed and headed back out. By then, they'd thought of a comeback.

"Well you're emo toooooo." (And I typed that with extra o's to capture the idiocy.)

"No, I'm not. I'm a geek. There's a difference." (I was wearing a shirt that says "Geek.")

"Nuh-uh. Emo is like, being a geek except, like, being in touch with yourself."

I went on to point out that I don't cut my hair diagonally and dye it BLACK LIKE MY SOUL and take black and white pictures of myself in the mirror with candles and razorblades to put on my MySpace page. Emo Kid pointed out my orange hair. I pointed it out that it was a mistake. And catch this: he said, "Isn't everything a mistake?"

The rest of the conversation hurt my brainbone, but the gist of it was that emo kids use their clothes as a form of expression, trying to wordlessly convey the deep pit of despair and the all-encompassing liquid blackness that sloshes about in their souls, and geek clothes show the same disregard for practical hygiene and conformity.

Ooook. Well, all around the world there are smelly, misunderstood people and the emo kids had to hijack my counterculture.

Most of them are anti-procreation. They'll die out soon enough.

Jay Poole is our resident techie. If you have comments about this column, e-mail