When did geekdom become 'cool'?

Feature Simon Brew 18 Dec 2013 - 06:20

You can't walk down a busy street without seeing a T-shirt with the word 'Geek' on it, it seems. So: is this a good thing or bad?

It can't just be me that does a double take walking down the high street now. After all, more and more people seem to be wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the word 'Geek' or 'Nerd' on them, as if geekdom has accidentally come into fashion. Lots of people who - at face value - would never be seen dead with such clothing on just a few years ago are now embracing it as a fashion choice. I'd be lying if I said I've got used to it.

After all, once upon a time, you needed to put in some serious work in Sylvester McCoy-era Doctor Who to be lambasted a geek. Now you can declare yourself one - with no negative side effects - by spending the best part of £20 at Next. It's all a bit baffling, really.

Then comes the news that the Collins Online Dictionary has declared 'geek' the word of the year. This, according to posh and well-paid newspaper columnists and reporters, means that geeks are now no longer to be sneered and picked on, but instead being a geek has become a badge of honour. How about that, eh? Good times.

And there's more. Collins has, it turns out, adjusted its definition for the word geek to "a person who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about a specific subject". That's not how people used to put it to me, so it'd be remiss not to take it.

Inevitably, there's been some backlash against the lauding of the word geek, mainly from people on our side of the fence. You can see why too: you can't just pick up a new outfit and be a geek! You need to have passed your Buffy exam, or have corrected someone online about an important plot point in a sci-fi movie! There are standards of geekery, surely, that need to be met!

However, it would be churlish not to acknowledge straight off that there's a positive here. And whilst I can understand the backlash going on, I do wonder if, in the scheme of things, it's something worth fighting over.

Some of the garments that Next will sell you in exchange for money.

History shows that the negative power of derogatory words can be sapped by the target group proclaiming them as their own. There's logic to it: if you call yourself a geek, how can you be offended or upset if someone else does it too? Personally, I don't mind being called a geek, or a nerd. Cards on the table: I can't say it never used to bother me, as I went to school as a child and had to spend time with others who weren't quite as interested in some of the things I was. One or two people had a special way of informing me they weren't that interested, and I'm sure I'm not the only one here who's encountered some form of ostracisation for daring to like something outside of the mainstream.

But over time, I've learned that being interested in quality films, shows, comics and books has far more advantages than not. Not since my younger days have I looked at something hurling out the word geek in a derogatory manner and wished I could change places with them. I think my life improved once I worked that out.

Er, were you expecting not to? [T-shirt sold by 16 Sixty]

That notwithstanding, it's an interesting cultural change that's taking place. Because not only is geekdom less frowned on, apparently, I'm informed by far more fashionable people than me, it's 'cool' to be a geek or a nerd now. Who'd have ever thought that ten years ago?

And more to the point, who actually - when it comes to the nuts and bolts of it - cares?

Because being a geek, and geekdom, never was about being 'cool' - whatever that actually is - and it still isn't. After all, the second you start to desire 'coolness', doesn't it become more about how you're perceived than what you enjoy?

In truth, I've never met a nerdy or geeky person who cares two hoots whether they're declared in fashion or not. I've met plenty who were bullied for liking Star Trek/Doctor Who/assorted genre shows and films, and I've met a smaller proportion of people who still are picked on just for liking something.

With that in mind, I would say this: I've seen some people of the nerdy persuasion get a little bit up in arms at the proliferation of the aforementioned clothing with the word geek on it and such like. That they're getting upset/angry/bemused about it. To them, a request: don't. Please.

This isn't, after all, a badge that needs fighting over, and I can't help but think that the overriding positive of geekdom being recognised, even in this shallow way, is that there may be one less child being bullied in a school playground for being a bit nerdy. Whether the person wearing a 'Geek' T-shirt spends Saturday night watching X-Factor/nightclubbing/writing Doctor Who fan fiction, that the word's negative connotations have been de-sensitised isn't something that should be ignored. It's a welcome step on the road for not being sidelined because you watch and enjoy something others don't.

So what is someone wearing a 'Geek' T-shirt has never read a comic book, or watched the Lord Of The Rings trilogy? What harm, ultimately, does it do? Furthermore, isn't geekdom supposed to be about welcome people, rather than shutting the door in their face?

Personally, the only way I'd ever consider myself cool would be if I took my clothes off and stepped into a fridge. And as fashion fad, 'Geek' and 'Nerd' apparel will be on the sales racks by this time next year, overtaken by some other must have. But we'll still have the shows, films, comics and such like that we've always loved.

What's more, as a result of cultural shifts going on, I can but hope three things.

One, more people get to enjoy said films, comics, games and shows. Two, it opens a door for people to enjoy stuff they've never thought about trying - and that, in turn, they're welcomed for doing so (as opposed to being criticised for not being 'true geeks', as I've seen over the past weeks).

And finally, that those who choose to bully and criticise those for liking something 'nerdy' or 'geeky' just think twice about it. If that last wish comes true especially , then Next can sell all the 'Geek' T-shirts it likes as far as I'm concerned...

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I know I'm being a snob but I can't stand it when I see someone wearing a "geek" tshirt. I saw one of my friends wearing one and she isn't geeky in any way so I asked her why she got it, she replied "I watch The Big Bang Theory". Ugh.

If you need it printed on a t-shirt its not true, I'm 40 and have had people in said t-shirts stairing at me because I am daring to read a graphic novel on a bus!!

There's the technology aspect too. With the proliferation of social networks, smartphone apps and the mainstream acceptance of game consoles in adult life, there must have been a few people who you could label a 'jock,' 'scally' or whatever singular regional classification you prefer who've worried that these pastimes would have made them geeks/nerds in earlier decades.

Baffling that fully grown men are upset at what people wear. It's a frigging t-shirt. Who the hell are you to decide what is considered "geeky" or not?
Is there some sort of examination board that decides if someone is geeky or not? If someone said they thought TBBT was geeky, I would rather make other recommendations than lambast them.
Those who read comics or enjoyed genre shows as kids may know first-hand what it is like to be excluded. Why on earth would you want to do it to others as an adult? Is it some sort of revenge fantasy? I see it at cons, time and time again. Guys who are happy to perv on pretty girls dressed as superheroes but then question them on their knowledge of a character. Why not ask them what they enjoy and recommend other books?
My partner of six months is incredibly new to comic books but jesus I am enjoying recommedning stuff to her. Listening to her give her views on classics like Watchmen or more contempary titles like Fables is amazing. She will be the first to say she knows little but is always willing to learn and consume more. She wants to cosplay as a couple of characters she likes the look of but has no idea about their backstory or current iteration. And do you know what? That is perfectly acceptable because no one has the right to demand who can dress up as who.
We have a chance to be the most inclusive and understanding group of individuals, but until the huge chip is flicked off the shoulder of many, we remain cold and isolating to countless individuals who would love to try something new but daren't ask as they might be instructed to name all the Doctors in chronological order or speak fluent Klingon.

Do you know why being a geek/nerd is "cool"? Because I get to consume and share the incredible work of hundreds, nay thousands of creative types across the world. Nothing is cooler than than.

This may or may not be relevant, but... I work in the construction industry and I have to visit a local builder's suppliers quite a bit. I get on well with the lads working there. However, when GTA V was released, I went along to the midnight release in my town and one of the afore-mentioned lads was in the store when I got there. There was a certain feeling that we weren't going to acknowledge that we knew eachother in another facet of life. Since then, when I meet him at the counter where he works, I'd love to ask him how he got on with GTA, but I wouldn't dare. It might embarrass him in front of his co-workers, and expose us both as geeky gamers. The hell! Gaming is everywhere nowadays, but the stigma for grown men in some areas of life still seems to exist. I don't get it.

Surely the joke is on these people who wear the T-shirts?

If you have to declare to the world you're a geek with a T-shirt like this, then quite possibly you are not?

I'm a geek and proud of it. I profess this by wearing comic book T-shirts and Doctor who badges. I certainly don't wear clothes to look cool.

"Geek" is a verb, not a noun. It recognises that as a person, you can be defined (not totally, but significantly) by the stuff you like, the stuff you do, you read, you watch. What is a gym rat if not a fitness geek? What is a dedicated family man, if not a geek for his kids? What is a millionaire entrepreneur if not a business geek?
All the word "geek" does is indicate those passions - and yes, as in the case of DoG, possibly focus them on specific cultural properties. But someone walking around in a Geek t-shirt or hoodie does not need asking if they fit a pre-approved template of sanctioned geek activities. They just need asking "wow, what do you geek out on? For me it is ...... what about you?" and from there you have two people actually communicating instead of being snide about how cool / uncool / purposefully uncool / ironic / purposefully cool by being uncool / generally up their own arse a given set of films, activities, books or pass-times are...

See I thought it was noun but turns out we are both right :)

What I don't like is the definition that Google brings up:





noun: geek; plural noun: geeks

1. an unfashionable or socially inept person."

That really isn't helpful, is it? I am friends with and have met countless geeks or nerds who are incredibly articulate and dapper individuals.

Obviously any people-tag is going to be inadequate, so I don't think it matters who wears or claims to be what. The clothing seems like a gender issue - maybe it's because I'm a woman, but most "GEEK" shirts etc I've seen are worn by confident girls.
I won't begin trying to dissect geekery and confidence as perceived by popular culture - but it seems like the 'isolated/socially inept' stereotypes are with males. TBBT... Abed from Community. I think it's easier for women to be 'slightly' geek as seen by society. I can't decide if literal geek labels are making geekery more visible and more 'normal' in society, or more cordoned off.
Ok I've spent ages on this horribly awkward tippy-toe comment so I'm gonna post apprehensively.

I find the fact that fashion latches onto these things baffling. They've done it in the past few years with band t-shirts too. And while some people buy them because they like the band, other people buy them because they like the design, and heard that one song they had out a while ago. I wear shirts that have things that I'm invested in on them. Today I'm sporting a Breaking Bad/GTA hybrid. I'd hate to spark up a conversation with someone because of the shirt they are wearing only to hear "oh I don't know them, I just liked the design". It's a lie, it's a false persona!

In the end, fashion is fashion, people will wear what they wear and fashion is a driver for change, however minor. If these girls wearing 'geek' t-shirts destigmatise being one, then that's all for the better.

Not to mention encouraging people to watch, read and get involved in the various geekdoms which is only a good thing. More audience = more funding, more acknowledgement and crucially, more of the geek thing that you love - surely if you've been in such a neglected media niche as 'geek' for so long you realise the importance of that.
Considering how good we've got it what with the proliferation of geek culture at the moment, to complain about that because Topshop are selling some t-shirts seems pretty impotent.

Sometimes I think, that despite the stigma, we all quite liked having our own special club with our own special things and to see them get popular or mainstream takes them away from being just ours because they have been given to the masses. Those dirty, awful masses that deserve our prime-quality sci-fi. Surely it's time to grow up and realise that the more people like it, the better it will get?

Side note: interesting how with the rise of the 'geek' fashion, the rise of fangirl/fake geek girl stigma has risen. Those men complaining about how teenage girls don't deserve to wear the label geek and that Doctor Who is 'only watched because girls fancy The Doctor' are exactly the problem there. Get off your high horse and quit hurling at other people everything that was hurled at you when you were younger.

er, thats your own stigma in your own head.

How dont you get it.

It embarrasses me that people actually think that watching The Big Bang Theory - a show in which every single ounce of comedy (of which there are very few, I may add) results from the central characters being made fun of or stereotyped for being geeks - makes them a geek themselves.

Geek is definitely the new Hipster.

Most of the tops I wear have something related to films or comics, in fact I'm wearing one right now with the Autobots symbol. "Geeks" becoming cool is because of the movies/shows/comics that have become very popular, the MCU or The Dark Knight Trilogy or shows such as Doctor Who or the Walking Dead. I like the Big Bang Theory so I have a top with a slogan of a line that Sheldon says when he knocks on doors and a group of girls who were on the same course as me at college, saw my top one day and started talking to me about the show. Stereotypes are changing, these girls have talked to me and my friends before about partying and getting drunk as well as geeky stuff. One of my close friends who loves football, partying and drinking also likes the MCU and whenever a new one comes out he'll always ask me about the comics stuff, most recently he asked me what the credits scene meant from Thor: The Dark World, so I told him and he replied "Cool".

Well said, Simon. I can fully sympathise with people who are upset about this - it's a version of the old inverse snobbery mechanism, where you feel that your favourite obscure favourite (comic book/indie band/TV program), and a taste that you've been mocked for in the past, is suddenly 'stolen' by the mainstream as it becomes more popular. But ultimately it doesn't matter very much - and if it means kids don't get picked on for liking Sylvester McCoy, that's all to the good.

What we al want to know is did you cop off with those birds?

The teenage girls that I see wearing the above are the kind of girls who would have bullied me in school for being a geek. That's why I object.

So what, if you both like the same thing then the only people stopping you are yourselves.

Real geeks watch Community. ;-)

I wouldn't call myself a geek. Even though I like Bond, Doctor Who, Marvel movies, steampunk etc. I had a friend who wore the name with pride, but although he watched Doctor Who and Star Trek, he didn't give two hoots about Marvel movies or Game of Thrones or The Big Bang Theory and has never read a book in his life. So I wouldn't rate him as a geek, as he hadn't read any of the Discworld or Doctor Who novels or is into superhero films. Yet he's desperate to belong to something as he hasn't been allowed to be involved in anything else, like cliques. So to those people, it's about the very basic, primal need to be accepted by others. For the fake geeks, it's the similar basic, primal need to be liked, as they think the term makes them look endearing.
Also, as we live in a more materialistic society with easy access to films/TV which could be termed geeky, plus we can gather information about said shows easily.
There's also things now which are termed geeky which previously would not have been thus. You only have to look at the things given coverage on this very site to see that the concept has grown much wider than before. Now, BBC's 'Sherlock' is considered geeky, despite it having none of the traditional ingredients (i.e. sci-fi concepts) which were previously essential.

I'm a geek because I bite the heads off chickens at the carnival. That still counts, right?

I dont care about what t-shirts people wear or not, if its in fashion then thats fine. The irony is lost on some people though. For example, when I see people with Ramones t-shirts or Rolling Stones etc that I know neither like or have heard them I do find it strange. My brother-in-law has pictures up in his spare room of some AC/DC and Hendrix classic album covers but as a fact neither owns or ever heard those albums and that kind of music deep down he doesnt really like. I guess what Im saing it works like fashion, people are temporarily projecting an image of something they would like to appear to be until the next thing comes along. They dont really think about it very much.

Thats fine, I dont mind that but what I do mind is when I get taken the absolute mick out of in social circles or somehting like Facebook about Doctor Who (ie how good I thought the 50th Anniversary ep was) but you get people going on all the time absolute garbage (to me anyway) about Football or X-factor or something and that is seen as 'normal' or particularly with football 'manly'. I dont get why it is accpetable to be enthusiastic about one thing but not the other. At least compared to football people who really like 'geeky' stuff dont tend to get smashed out of their brains and start punch ups with people.

The mainstreaming of geek culture is weird to behold. I was on the tube a couple of years ago and there was this gang of kids. They were definitely the 'cool' kids of their particular school - all fashionable and fresh-faced, a mix of boys and girls. But get this; they were talking about this online game - probably some RPG - discussing in great detail hit points, stats, items etc - really nerdy stuff! It did strike me that 15 years ago they would have been the kids sniggering at me for my closet RPG-playing and wargaming!

It's a strange new world out there, but kind of a heartening phenomenon. Except for The Big Bang Theory which makes me cringe myself inside out because it's so painfully awful. Spaced and Community are a much more authentic portrayal of the 'mainstream geek' trend.

As for the t shirt thing? Yeah, it's always a bit annoying but somewhat inevitable when the manistream appropriates and commodifies these things - it's really no different form the trend that happened 10ish years back of people who have no interest in or knowledge of rock music wearing Iron Maiden, The Ramones, ACDC and MC5 t shirts.

Community and Spaced in particular are geek shows that get it just right. They relish their geekdom and enjoy the fact that they're geeks and, most importantly, the comedy comes from the love of the things they're referencing.

For example, take the episode in the first series of Community where Abed becomes Batman and makes his speech on top of the college roof. That's funny because the show clearly loves Batman and is having a wonderful time doing a perfect recreation of the films. You don't care that Abed is this skinny guy who couldn't be further from Batman because it's all about the joy from him becoming the character, especially as his impression is so spot on. If the Big Bang Theory, on the other hand, did this (and I'm sure they probably have at some point) the "comedy" would come from the character in question being dressed up stupidly as Batman, but it's "hilarious" because they're a massive nerd who's awkward and nothing like Batman.

Big Bang laughs at the characters because of what they're referencing, so essentially it's laughing at them for being geeks, which is why it'll never be a true geek show. It's basically the distinction between laughing with and laughing at, and laughing with someone will always be far funnier.

I do a lot of talking at schools about this sort of thing and it still surprises me how much anti-geek feeling there is between young adults. My policy is to suggest that we're all - to some extent - geeks; if you have a passion, something that you love and adore, then surely that's s much qualification as you need? There isn't that much difference between a football fan going to a match dressed in his team's strip and a someone putting on a superhero outfit and going to a cosplay convention. We've all got a geeky side - it's just the passions that differ.

I don't think it really matters what labels people choose to attach to themselves or what media they consume. I do believe that it has helped to destigmatise pursuit of academic achievement, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects. If the appropriation of Geekdom by the mainstream helps engender an atmosphere where young people can go to school and pursue their interests, academic or otherwise, without fear of being pushed to the periphery of society, then that's surely a good thing?

I'm in awe of you Dave - I cant read a billboard whilst sat on a bus without feeling nausea let alone a graphic novel!

I'm all for more people getting into geeky culture and the success of shows like Doctor Who and the Batman and Marvel films is certainly something I benefit from as a geek and it's nice that wider audiences are cottoning on to something many of us have appreciated for years. I don't believe most people wearing a geek t-shirt are actually getting into geek culture myself. I personally think that many wear these t-shirts ironically or purely because it's now become a fashion thing like when Topshop started selling Motorhead and Ramones t-shirts. There were fashionistas everywhere wearing their logo's who couldn't name a single song.

If people want to wear these t-shirts, fine. Personally I wouldn't wear one because it smacks of trying too hard. I can understand why people feel affronted by them though. Being a geek is, I realised as my tastes developed and I grew up, who I am. It's not just a label. I never had a problem shutting down anyone that even considered mocking my geek tendencies earlier in life and didn't suffer bullying. It's famously not always they case and for a lot of people their geekery is a place of comfort to escape to when things get bad or when people are getting on their back. It's who they are and it means a great deal to them and it's only in recent years that people have managed to co-opt the word so it's no longer an insult. To get that back and then see their identity marketed as a fashionable slogan, I can see why some people would be uncomfortable with that. I wear lots of comic book and music t-shirts but they're for things I genuinely appreciate. If I wear a lying cat t-shirt, people who know SAGA will recognise it, it might start a conversation and we'd recognise that we have a mutual appreciation of the material. People who don't know what it is, it's just a t-shirt I'm wearing. You don't get that with a t-shirt that literally says geek on it.

Geek culture seems to be breaking the mainstream more than ever, and that's cool and we all reap the benefits. I don't think it's the case that geeks are against more people getting into comics, films, rpgs or whatever, and generally I think we welcome anyone with an interest. I'm never happier than when someone engages me in a conversation about geeky things and in the past I've drawn up reading lists for people that are looking for a way in to comics. It's a very welcoming club to anyone with a genuine interest. But I don't think that's what's going on here. What these t-shirts mainly do is make people who aren't geeks say 'I'm a geek' when they're wearing a t-shirt that says geek on it. Yeah, it's not for me or anyone to say what is or isn't considered geeky, but ultimately the word has to mean something or there's no point in having it. For some, seeing fashionistas where geek t-shirts is like seeing John McCririck wearing a t-shirt that says 'Feminist' on it.

While I agree with many of the positive sentiments here with regards to how being geeky is now acceptable (I would also be very glad if the current "geek" trend meant that people were less likely to bully or otherwise single out others and enjoy it when my friends now take an interest, or can openly admit to taking an interest, in MCU or graphic novels and games and the like), the outright adopting of "geek" as the new slang word for alternative and in some way hip by any company trying to flog T shirts (just go to HMV - at least half the shirts are Big Bang Theory related proclaiming their wearer to be a geek) has somewhat reduced the descriptive value of the word. I don't mind being called a geek, because I'm into things that are (or at least were) traditionally a bit geeky. This very website identifies itself by reference to that term, as it covers such things, and features banner advertising for a dating website that also identifies itself by reference to the same term. Semantics, maybe, but when a formerly descriptive word becomes used for any old thing, it loses its value as a word. I want Den of Geek to continue to mean a place for people who are actually into these things, not some general entertainment site that's got a cool name and, if I ever did sign up, I'd like to think that a lady I met on Seek a Geek would actually be interested in such things, and not just looking for an internet dating website that matched her T shirt.

Sadly the rise of geek culture has also shone a bright light on some of the more unpleasant aspects of that culture. The article mentions people being bullied at school for being a 'geek'... these days it seems far more likely that it's the geeks themselves doing the bullying. The 'fake geek girl' accusation is probably the most well known but it's just one of a horde of attacks that get thrown out on a regular basis. God help you if you happen to wander into a geek discussion with a contrary opinion to the collective or dare to point out the hypocrisy of acting this way towards dissenting voices.

And while we're on the subject, video game geeks seem to have developed an entire sub-culture based around being rude, homophobic, racist, sexist and intolerant. Any suggestions that they may possibly want to reevaluate that attitude is met with derision and, in some cases, incredulity. Any thoughts that the gaming opening up to the masses is a good thing seem to be interpreted as an invitation for a mass virtual stoning.

TV geeks seem to fare a little better but, let's face it, that's not a high bar to clear. I'm a huge fan of Doctor Who but I don't dare venture into the big fan web sites any more because the outpouring of negativity towards a show these people profess to love and the fans that enjoy it was actually turning me off the show itself! At a time when those fans should be sitting back and enjoying the sight of their show conquering the world some seem more intent on tearing it down than the tabloids! And why? Reasons vary of course but the most common argument, by a mile, is it's not what THEY want. And if it's not what they, specifically and personally want, then it must be dreadful and no-one else will like it. It's a selfish attitude that seems to run through everything these days - it's OURS and you can't have it!

I dunno, maybe it's just the Internet effect bringing out the worst elements but the geek world doesn't seem a particularly pleasant one at the moment. Certainly those I meet and know in the real world don't tend to act this way but those voices are drowned out by the multitude. Maybe it's most accurate to say Geekdom has reached the difficult teenage years and these are just growing pains as adulthood beckons. At least I hope so, otherwise a community founded on finding likeminded people to share and enjoy common interests might become something just as nasty as the world that mocked it at its inception...

I have being having a similar conversation with my friends recently about this very subject. I'm currently 36 years old and have been saying that i've been a geek, long before it was cool.

I agree, that thanks to shows like The Big Bang Theory and the popularity of comic book movies, the culture of geekdom is no longer the domain of a privileged few. However, I do believe "true" geeks (and by that, I mean the ones who collect comics, obsess over star trek wars etc etc) would never wear a t-shirt that said geek.

Nerddom will eat itself unless it can crawl out from it's own arse.
There are a section who are increasingly arrogant and defensive now that they're actually being embraced by popular culture. These are people who put stock in being "outsiders" and who identify and defend their label, like a sulky insecure child, as if it's actually worth defending. I swear I actually heard someone say "That is our word" just recently.
It's all pretty pathetic to be quite honest

The reason true geeks get up in arms about this is that we've always felt like outsiders - there's something about us that doesn't quite fit in the mainstream of society. But there was always a place on the outskirts we did belong - geekdom. That was where we found our kind and felt at home. As geekdom is appropriated into the mainstream, we ourselves have not become more mainstream. We're still the proud weirdos we always were, but the group we used to belong to is evaporating. That's where the discomfort comes from. If we're no longer geeks, then what are we? How can we still define our identity and find our brethren?

I should have made it clearer that it was the other guy who made it clear we weren't going to acknowledge eachother in the game store (body language, his face when he spotted me walking in etc.) I personally have no problem with my interests being geeky or not. I struck up a conversation with a guy in a tool hire store because he was wearing a filthy old t-shirt with a Megadrive pad on it. Now we play on Xbox live the odd time. With all the talk of geekery becoming mainstream, I just wanted to point out that some adults still have trouble with being seen as someone who enjoys gaming.

Oh i see your poit now. Yes im sure we all know what that feels like. Well if he cant be true to himself then its his loss.

I think it's particularly hard for our generation of geeks, and that the problem will (hopefully) dissipate as time goes by.
We after all got the worst of both worlds. We were picked on as children: bullied by the sporty boys, laughed at by the popular girls. And now we're seeing those self same people claiming that they identify with those whose lives they made a misery - "Oh yeah, I'm a total geek!" - just because they have a game app on their phone. No wonder the old guard are riled.
But if we can learn to let it go then hopefully the subject will lose all its sensitivity and, as the article says, maybe there'll be less of the aforementioned ostracisation as a result.
At the very least, let's not become the thing we hate.

"geekdom" didnt become cool. the concept of being a geek did.

You can be a geek for x and y but not for z, but still count as a geek nonetheless.
I've long felt that certain types of sport fandom (especially the people who can name past players, remember stats etc.) is a form of geekdom, but I mentioned that idea to an anti-geek friend once and she dismissed the idea out of hand simply because she couldn't associate geekdom with sports.
I think geekdom has to be defined by focussed passion for detail rather than by topic.

Geekdom hasn't. Fake geekdom has. I.e. anyone who wears one of those "GEEK" t-shirts and/or wears massive black glasses

< This is me. I'm 6' 6", and 19 stone. I have always been a geek,
But never looked like one. Sports at school? Borrring. It was D&D for me - the paper version - ZX Spectrums, 2000AD and Marvel comics.
And I have to say, I haven't changed a bit, and I've watched as the masses have embraced the things I love.
D&D in my day, watched Skyrim sell millions. I loved it too.
Marvel? Thor, Spidey and Iron Man my faves. Loved seeing the masses take to them and love them as I always have.
Okay, so 2000AD is still a bit niche bar JD, but there is some great stuff in there - Johnny Alpha begging to be given a script.

Point being, being a geek is embracing what you love regardless of peer group pressure. There are sports geeks, gym geeks, SCI FI geeks, fantasy geeks, and so on.
Enjoy what you love, be passionate about it. Don't give a fek if others don't like it, and don't judge them if they don't. The only reason to maybe get annoyed with someone is if they prejudge without experience of what they are judging - bigotry by any other name.

I have never really liked the idea that your clothes are supposed to be a statement about yourself to start with. To be as blunt as printing a one word summary of your personality on a t-shirt strikes me as a bit shallow.

Geekdom has always been cool in the UK - we appreciate clever people

Sherlock Holmes fandom has been a central pillar of geekdom since the concept first arose. He's an archetypal geek hero - the direct fictional ancestor of Spock!

I love it that geek is cool, mainly coz its easier to find people who are into the same things as you, then being able to geek out together.

But lets get real: wearing a shirt that explicitly states you to be a certain "genre of person" is totally tacky.

I think this is a great piece, Simon, and I really appreciate your inclusiveness. I have always felt that geekdom should be the place where all the outcasts and weirdos are welcome to revel in our collective otherness.

Guys, you are COOL. How many of us have ever been able to say that before? Enjoy it while it lasts! (And when its over, go back to not giving two f***s what anybody else thinks.)

The people who wear T-Shirts about being a geek, are not geeks. Geeks will never truly be cool, and I think we all know and accept that. We may briefly seem cool in the eyes of others, but this is a passing trend brought about by things like the popularity of TV shows about geeks, comic book film adaptations, etc, They will move on to the next thing before too long and we will still all be geeks (and hopefully loving it!) :)

Being a geek is to be part of just another social group. Like being a Mosher, when you're young you think you're an individual, but you're not. If your friends are geeks you likely are too. I've grown out of geeky things this year (bored to death of superheroes) and I finally started dressing like a grown man. Gone are the cartoon t-shirts and hoodies. People should dress their age, not their shoe size. As for everyone else, it's just a passing faze, fueled by the Big Bang Theory and Doctor Who 50.

Yeah, this. It's a hard pill to swallow when you're acutely aware that the same people that wear these tops are the same one who would still mock somebody for having a 'nerdy' passion.

I don't even know what "geek" means, which are the boxes you have to tick to be a "geek"? Since I don't know that, I can't judge who is and who isn't entitled to wear A T-SHIRT.
And I certainly don't dress according to what I do in my free time. I've been asked quite a few times upon entering a comic store if I was looking for a present to my boyfriend just because they thought (and I've been told this) that I didn't look like someone who reads comics. Whatever people who read comics are supossed to look like.

That is incredibly sad to hear, Sarah. Personally, I would just take solace in the fact that even as a young woman in school, you knew who you were and stuck by it. Sadly, I hid my geek side as a teen and I regret it wholeheartedly. I missed out on so much cool stuff in the late 80s and 90s because I just wanted to fit it. Ironically, it didn't stop me being bullied.
Fashion will move on and the t-shirts will be forgotten. Your love for geek culture etc won't be and therefore you win. Those girls are slaves to fashion, you on the otherhand are awesome.

Thumbs up for you and your partner. Sometimes the "true geek" shaming goes so hard on people that they don't actually allow for them to learn about things they are starting to like.
I agree 100% with everything you say.

Well damn, I must've gone to the wrong school.

I find where I live, that being a geek is still my own thing, each person has a passion or hobby that they enjoy more than other people will. I only twitch when someone screws up what they're talking about just because it's the topic of the month. I'll be a geek long after the current boom of comic book movies/tv shows have slowed down.

I commented on this to friends for one reason - in 25+ years of card-carrying nerdish geekdom, I have NEVER felt the urge to wear a T-shirt with 'TRENDY' on it.

I don't think it's quite as simple as that - Community is certainly aware of how ludicrous and alienating the geek/pop culture thing can be, and while geek culture is an important aspect, it doesn't define the show at all. I'd like to think it has a far wider appeal than that, as does Spaced.

A good contrast is the Dungeons & Dragons-themed episodes of Community and Big Bang Theory. Community acknowledges the inherent silliness of the game while also being affectionate, creative and laugh out loud funny - it's perhaps my single favourite episode of the show. The BBT ep - at least the clips of it I've seen (you couldn't pay me to sit through an entire episode) - is tired, lazy, hacky, predictable and desperately unfunny garbage.

Another show that feels like it's a truly heartfelt, authentic depiction of geek culture - perhaps even more so than Spaced or Community - is the wonderful Freaks and Geeks (which incidentally also has a fantastic D&D-based plot). If you haven't seen it, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Oh yeah, that's true for both of them. At the end of the day they're comedy shows first, geek shows second. The great thing is that they're funny if you get the references or not. If you do happen to get them then the experience is just that bit richer.

Ah the D&D episode! What's great about that episode too is that it never relies on making jokes from the fact that the guy who joins the study group (I can't remember the character's name) likes to play D&D, and at the end of the episode he becomes the hero rather than the butt of jokes. It all comes from how the study group interact with each other in the D&D world and that they get so into it, rather than the fact that they're playing it in the first place. I've never played D&D myself but you know a show is doing it right if they make you want to play the game. Both Community and the IT Crowd's role-playing episodes made me want to do just that.

Cool? Not where I live. I don't think people even have a label for a sci-fi/fantasy/comic book fanatic in my school. Still not very common.

This, exactly this.

Being a geek doesn't mean you have to know the comic book universe, you don't have to love Star Wars, you don't even have to have watched an episode of Star Trek. I was raised to believe geek meant exactly what the dictionary said it mean: someone who is passionate about something.

I'm a military history geek who branches into the mainstream Marvel/IT Crowd/Star Wars/Star Trek fandoms. But a geek nonetheless.

Was I teased for it? No. Do I know people who were? Yes.

Does that give us the right to turn into the elitist jerks we disliked so much in high school? Absolutely not.

If someone self-identifies as a geek, good for them - it just means they may have some interesting things to talk about!

My only real beef is the co-opted nature of the 'Geek' T-shirt - people wearing it because it's cool now but that's just fashion, give it enough time and it'll move on to something else to co-opt.
All the people that are really geeky inside (T-shirt or not) will still be geeky long after the trend has died.

Oh, and one other beef: In all this Geek/Nerd love, where's the love for us Dorks?

I've been a geek all my life. I'm now 36, and can remember the exclusion and hostilities and prejudices often levied our way.
That being said, I wouldn't wear a T-shirt with the word "geek" upon it. I'd prefer something more specialist, like my T-shirt with "No, not the mind probe" on it, or "Five Rounds Rapid". The real geeks know those references straight off.
I don't think that the sheep-like masses following trends to be accepted are taking something from us. The lessons from most of the shows we love are about acceptance and tolerance of others, after all.

I don't think being a "geek" ever got cool. The term has just been co-opted into the latest "brand name" marketing tool. People who would have been considered geeks 10 years ago are still socially undesirable to the "cool people", it's just the term that's been marketed as the latest fad.

So yeah, being a geek didn't get cool. Calling yourself one did.

I understand what some people in the comments are saying about how we shouldn't look down on people just for pretending to be something they're not, or wearing a silly t-shirt.

On the other hand, it is quite annoying to remember how much you felt like an outcast or were made fun of as a child/adolescent/teen, but stuck with your passions (whether comic books, fantasy/fiction novels, star trek, etc.) because that's what it was, a passion. Now you have many people who never were subjected to those taunts (and who, in some cases, I suspect were the ones throwing the insults) carrying on like they're a nerd/geek/dork just because it's now 'the thing to be'.

I hear what you're saying, but sometimes it isn't so easy to forget or be the 'bigger person'.

Outstanding article. Den of Geek is pretty much my first port of call for the day recently, mostly down to these brilliant articles.

I spent my entire childhood indoors watching Indiana Jones and Ghostbusters, so I used to get picked on by my siblings, being called geek and nerd all the time. It is a little baffling that a word which was used as an insult - at least when I was at school - is now some kind of fashion thing. I'm not sure how it happened, and I don't really care. I just find it very interesting that it's progressed, especially when you see the terrible people that went to school with you emblazened in a word they used negatively.

People are strange.

But unless we make that change and accept that people are taking an interest, we are never going to move on. If someone just loves the Marvel Film Universe but doesn't know who Ultron, why don't we push them towards their local comic book store and pick up a trade or two?
Instead we mock and make snide comments. It is summed up perfectly by that meme of a cosplayer who is accused of gender swapping Joker and giving it a steampunk twist. In fact it turns out to be a rather obscure character called "Duela Dent". Not gonna lie, never frigging heard of her but I thought the costume was awesome instead of assuming she was just "trying too hard".
I feel like I am ragging on the community a lot when in fact, when I am in queues at cons, I have the most amazing conversations with complete strangers. It is just this small minority (at least I hope it is small) that have a self-entitlement issue mixed in with sexism.
I genuniely could talk about this subject for hours and plan to with a whole sub-section of geeks. If anyone wants to contribute please email me on 3b1p at outlook dot com.

Geeks are not cool. Geek aesthetics are.

I like to think that it's just because us geeks were ahead of the curve here. How many of the top grossing films of recent times been based on comics or been sci-fi? In fashion in general we seem to be going through a pretty much anything goes time period were people are free to express themselves however they want. So it's fine for someone who loves to go clubbing to love LOTR. It's fine for a football fan to love Star Trek. Certainly society in general seems to be more embracing of geekdom. If I mention my love of Star Trek to a non-geek they are now more likely to just say "I'm not into that" rather than "Get away from me you freak!"

Or maybe it's just that as I've gotten older I've been drawn more towards people with similar interests.

I suppose we could draw a dodgy parallel to how society has become more open towards issues of race and sexuality.

Death to the false geek heretic...PURGE WITH FLAME.

Time will turn this fad to dust as the cool locust will move on to devour
something else in-at-the-moment leaving the naive geeks who think
they are accepted in a barren field of dust.

Look at the havoc of Comicon! A nerd oasis, easily entered and enjoyed.
Nerds passed those wondered halls with a blessing upon their lips!
Hallowed days long gone, Corrupted by Movie Agents and Hipsters

Cast out the Cool Infidel who hides his hipness with a I (heart) Nerds
t-shirt with a d cup padded chest. Shun them, CAST THEM OUT!

"..Let him not breed
in great numbers, for he will make a desert
of his home and yours. Shun him. Drive him
back into his jungle lair: For he is the
harbinger of death'.!" - DR ZAIUS the twentythird Scroll,
ninth Verse.

Does anybody feel that Marvel has something to do with this recent trend? I must say I noticed a mass flux as soon as the Iron Man hype was created way back in 2007 and since then it has just appeared to thrive. I'm actually conducting a study on this phenomenon and looking to speak to those who identify themselves as part of the 'geek' and 'cosplay' community and many I hasten to say 'outsiders' identify a link between the success of marvel and the prominence of Geek Culture. Does anyone else feel this way?

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