Leonard: I’m the king of nerds.
Penny: What does that mean?
Leonard: It means if anyone displeases me, I don’t help them set up their printer.
--The Big Bang Theory
The nerds have inherited the Earth -- Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have certainly taught us that. The nerdolution is upon us, where technology and social media leaders have become idolized, changing the definition of today’s celebrity. Yet, even outside technological advances, nerd culture has made significant strides into the spotlight.
On television in the 1990s and early 2000s, the dorky character was in a few scenes and got a couple of laughs per episode (i.e. Minkus from Boy Meets World). TV Execs thought that wide audiences wouldn’t relate to a nerdy lead. (A quick cancellation of cult-favorite Freaks and Geeks is an example of this.)
Today, the dorky background character has given way to a multitude of television shows starring the nerd -- which now comes in many different forms. Here are a few modern incarnations of this new leading character:
First, there is the classic nerd. Urkel from Family Matters is the look widely associated with nerds. He is socially awkward and makes others uncomfortable on a regular basis. This is due in part to his arresting visual presence: Urkel wears pants that are too short, with suspenders and large glasses.
Before the “nerdolution,” nerds were always marked by their poor clothing choices, glasses, and socially awkward nature. However, if you re-envision the same features (glasses, short pants and suspenders), you get a fashionable style. Specifically, television icon Doctor Who (pictured above) and his sidekicks, Amy and Rory Pond. While this trio dresses in what would be considered classically nerdy styles, they are trendy today. Nerd-inspired styles have become popular, when worn in a ‘hipster-fied’ way. These also don’t have the socially inept nature of Urkel or Amy, which allows them to wear such styles ironically. If you want to channel a Doctor Who nerd style, fun pieces like glasses or suspenders can add a touch of classic nerd without going overboard, Modcloth.com has a lot of great options.
Another more recent type is the “cool nerd.” Zachary Levi’s title character on Chuck fixes computers, wears t-shirts featuring floppy discs, and loves the text-based computer game Zork. While he has no socially awkward side, Chuck is still a full-out nerd. While a ‘weird’ vibe is a common trope of the nerd, it’s not a necessary part of being one. He is likeable and has no trouble ‘getting the girl’ on the show, even with a Tron poster in his bedroom. This charming guy shows his signature nerdy edge in a good-looking ensemble. He pairs a nice blazer and jeans with a favorite t-shirt as a “cool nerd” look. Zachary Levi is a real life “cool nerd,” too. Keep up on your news with The Nerd Machine, his company. They regularly post articles keeping fans informed on all the corners of the nerd universe.
Then there is the “not-so-nerdy-nerd,” like Zooey Deschanel’s character Jess on New Girl. She shows no interest in classically nerdy topics, but she has plenty of personality quirks. She is a little socially awkward and often tries to inject herself into situations where she is unwanted. Jess’s nerdiness is visualized in her thick-framed glasses and non-traditional outfits. If you have a love for old movies and want to emulate New Girl’s vintage style, look to bettiepageclothing.com and Anthropologie for vintage inspired ensembles.
Today, the nerd is what many television watchers want to see. The Big Bang Theory, a show featuring 6 nerdy main characters, is the most watched comedy on television and currently finishing its 6th season. From TV’s nerdolution and beyond, the rest of us can get cozy with our inner nerds. “Nerd” isn’t synonymous with Urkel anymore. It just means embracing your enthusiasm for your favorite things, whether they are video games, books, or tv shows. Everyone is a little nerdy about something. Now is the time to triumphantly break out your nerd style and embrace your oddities.