How Hipsters Stole the Geek Mojo


(Or, how “geek chic” has somehow become mainstream.)

Geeks are, by definition, an obsessive lot, seizing onto one or more hobbies, television shows, movies, etc. with a frightening passion. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you have at least one geek obsession. In fact, I’d wager you have several.

Geeks of old were the opposite of socially conscious; pocket protectors & calculator watches were the name of the game no matter how many Revenge of the Nerds movies they spawned. Geeks of today are a bit more aware of what others think, though a true geek may wear his “Live Long and Prosper” t-shirt come hell or high water.

A hipster, on the other hand, borrows from subcultures for which they may even have a haughty disdain. And the geek look is no exception. In fact, hipsters have elevated the geek aesthetic to a whole new term: “geek chic” – a sort of fashion statement that says, “I don’t care that countless genuine geeks have martyred themselves to school bullies for this look. It’s mine now. Nanny nanny poo poo.”

Of course, the hallmark of the hipster is the thick-rimmed glasses that, once upon a time, would have been fashionable only on Buddy Holly, or necessary for any number of unfortunate geeks who got wedgies just for wearing them. But hipsters have also borrowed geek t-shirts and geek gadgets in building their impeccably put-together look. Sometimes, to the untrained eye, a hipster may flat out look like a geek – or, in extreme cases, an absolute dork.

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(You went full hipster, man. Never go full hipster.)

For true hipsters, it’s all about “irony”. Of course, the term “irony” when it applies to fashion has been bandied about with no real connection to the literary device with which it shares its name. “Ironic” fashion is wearing a trucker hat or a t-shirt normally only a diehard geek would be seen dead in, and doing so with an air of superiority to the subcultures from which such elements are blatantly ripped off.

Of course, there’s a flip side. Hipsters are almost universally ridiculed, despite the fact that there are so bloody many of them, particularly in celebrity circles. The term “hipster” usually brings an eyeroll, whether or not the listener actually knows what a hipster truly is. On the other hand, “geek”, while once an insult, is now a widely-accepted term. To be a geek is almost a hallmark of dedication and something to be revered. My, how times have changed.

The burgeoning hipster vs. geek rivalry likely stems in the fact that hipsters, while sometimes secretly hating that which they embrace, have co-opted so much of the geek aesthetic that they can look like parodies. And that does nobody any good.

And, let’s face it: geeks are a pretty intelligent lot. Whether they care what people think of them or not, they’re savvy enough to know when they’re being ridiculed. And sometimes, all that “irony” is just what it’s about.

But should geeks be grateful to hipsters for having made it kosher to wear obnoxiously large eyeglasses, kitschy graphic tees, comfy cords, blazers with elbow patches, Casio watches, and practically surgically-implanted gadgets like iPods? Gone may be the days – by and large – when geeks were ostracized for their appearance, but arrived are definitely the days when such an appearance is more or less mainstream.

Or have hipsters simply stolen the geek mojo, taking the wind out of the sails of the relative, albeit not terribly en vogue, individuality geeks enjoyed before the hip revolution?

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