This week, I tried nerd style. There were few reasons I wanted to give it a go. 1) I wanted a contrast from the fiercer styles I tried last week. 2) A friend said, “You know what would be hilarious? If you did nerd style!” (…challenge accepted…) 3) Got some new glasses and wanted to try them out! 4) I’m a nerd already, so why not?
Why does the world malign the fashion sense of the nerds, the geeks, the dweebs? Is it because nerds (by the definitions set for us by movies and TV shows) are outsiders and can’t shape the mainstream? Is it because nerds have a reputation for not caring about their clothes and prefer to spend their mental energy on other things? I think all those thoughts are pretty funny, especially since I’m a nerd about clothes and costumes and fashion history and OH MY GOSH IT’S SO COOL CAN I TELL YOU ABOUT IT. Is there something you love so much that you can’t be cool about it? Is there anything you geek out about? I think being a nerd is a combination of being unable to keep your enthusiasm to yourself (plus some social awkwardness sprinkled on top of that enthusiasm). Being a nerd doesn’t mean that you don’t care about clothes!
Outfit 1: The Mom Homage
I wanted to do a throwback to early high school, when I basically dressed like a mom. High-waisted jeans? Check. Tucking the t-shirt into those jeans? Check. A braided belt to tie the whole look together? Check. Glasses? Heck yes. I’ve been wearing glasses or contacts since early childhood. I even had an eye patch that I had to wear to help with my amblyopia, a muscle weakness in my left eye that caused it to drift. The eye patches definitely helped – I don’t have a lazy eye at all now – now I’m just near-sighted (and I don’t have depth perception). All that to say, glasses have never been a voluntary fashion accessory thing for me – they are very much functional and necessary.
15-year-old Ashley was definitely a nerd, but definitely happy and blissfully unaware about most things (especially pop culture). I wasn’t trying to look like anybody in particular. Trying to recreate that look, I realized the main difference is that my clothes FIT now. If I wear something oversized, it’s designed to be oversized. All my shirts used to be huge. And I know I didn’t wear the correct jean size, because I remember having a WHOA HOLD ON WHAT IS HAPPENING moment when I tried on my first pair of jeans that actually fit.
Thinking back, my clothes showed that I wasn’t too concerned what people thought about me. Still not very concerned. I have a fondness for that little nerd with the oversized shirts, who checked all the fashion history books out of the library, who put on plays in the backyard, who didn’t worry about much at all…. This outfit reminded me that it’s all right to not being wearing the most flattering thing all the time. You don’t have to wear your best look every day. What you do always trumps what you wear. Personality and confidence and enthusiasm will carry an outfit, but I needed a LOT of confidence to carry off the printed mom jeans + tucked-in tee + braided belt + cardigan vest + glasses.
Outfit 2: Japanese Inspired
Nerd style has a ton of different subcultures. When you don’t fit in with mainstream fashion, sometimes you just run off and try on different subcultures until you find one that you like. Nerds are observers and researchers – if we find something we love, we try to find out all about it. In this regard, nerdy fashion can be some of the most out-there, risk-taking, distinctive fashion you will ever see. It is fashion based on an entirely different frame of reference.
I picked a style inspired by Japanese animation – cute, but also a little strange and kooky. The outfit was pretty straightforward, because I just wanted things that were little and cute. Cute little skirt. Cute little top. Flats, because cute little skirts work better with short legs….. I kept the outfit fairly simple, because the hair was going to be the star of this show. I’ve been wanting to revisit the two-little-buns-on-top-of-the-head look, but I wasn’t sure how it would end up looking and how if they would stay up all day. I shouldn’t have worried – it was a blast. I loved it and the Sailor Moon buns will probably be coming back around again, because they were so darn fun.
Outfit 3: A Little Retro/Bookish
This is the kind of outfit that I would wear anyway – it’s a bit retro, a bit librarian, a bit scholarly looking. Especially with the glasses.
This is my brand of nerdity. My job involves researching and trying to organize messy information into meaningful systems. I love precision. My dream job is Archivist. I sometimes get sad thinking about the Library of Alexandria burning down and it burned down thousands of years ago. Give me a pair of oxford shoes and a tie-neck shirt and I’m a happy woman.
Outfit 4: The Weird
Sometimes I find clothes and I think, “This is so weird. I love it.” This skirt is super strange. It has a slanty inside-out pocket on the front, a tag in the front, the length is all over the place, and this beautifully random pocket in the middle of the back:
I chose most of this outfit based on the It’s Weird I Love It principle. The cardigan is a weird yellow green color that is unlikely and awesome. The shirt has a contrasting front and back – it’s like two different shirts in one.
I feel like it’s nerdy to enjoy weirdness. I stick to conventional clothing for the most part, but some pieces stand out to me, because they don’t look normal. Every once in a while, I like to go a little past the edge of normality.
Day 5: Star Wars!
This week was the 40th anniversary of Star Wars coming out. Wahooo!
I wanted to end this Try with a nod to the geekiness that can’t keep its enthusiasm to itself. Literally wearing your heart on your sleeve. I don’t usually wear shirts that have writing on them, but it is the easiest way to show you like something. What we like defines us. One thing I love about nerds – nerds don’t pretend to like things in order to look cool. They already know they aren’t cool. It is freeing.
Go ahead. Geek out a little.
To continue the party, I have a special Ashley Tries next week – fandom dressing! I’m going to be joining forces with my friend Sara to create outfits that reference our favorite fictional characters. We’re going to be Tandem Fandoming it next week and it’s going to be so much fun!