Your Orange Kilt Does Not Make You Special

« August 2005 »


Today, on Be A Better Nerd, we're going to be discussing Nerd Affectations. As always, Manifesto.

The Nerd Affectation is a common reaction to social ostracism. Since they're gonna be treated different anyway, nerds often figure they might as well be REALLY different. So they develop, if you'll pardon the technical jargon, a thing. An identifying thing.

It might be a bit of clothing, an accessory, or even a little ritual, but it's all the same in the end. The Nerd Affectation is designed to turn Joe Nerd from "that guy" to "that guy who...". It's about getting noticed, standing out, whatever. It's a crutch.

And like any crutch, there are a group of people for whom it's appropriate (people with broken legparts) and people for whom it's inappropriate (everybody else). So I should, at this point, exempt certain classes of nerds from the ridicule associated with the Nerd Affectation. Let's say anyone under age 25. If you're that young, you probably need the Identity Crutch, as you understandably don't really know who you are yet. Once you turn 25, though, we take the fucking kid gloves off if you won't take the fucking red fingerless gloves off.

A Level One Nerd Affectation involves either clothing or an accessory that is unusual under any context, OR a social ritual that under other circumstances would get you checked out for OCD.

Common Level One Nerd Affectations include rolling 20-sided dice every time you need to make a life decision, shouting "Excelsior!" before entering any room, cat-ear headbands, antennae, Spock ears, any jewelry that emits light, and, of course, any uniform or costume from a major media franchise. If you own or do one of these things, and you do it all the time, and people know you as "that chick who wears her Babylon 5 uniform to work", you have a Level One Nerd Affectation.

Your Level Two Nerd Affectations are a bit trickier. This would be an item of clothing or accessory that wouldn't seem out of place, except that the person ALWAYS HAS IT ON. A hat, a coat, a backpack, whatever. It's distinctive more for its omnipresence, but the underlying cause is the same. A trademark, a signature, a way of "branding" yourself because you need other people to know who you are and can't convey it merely by existing.

And yes, I'm aware that there's a bit of a fuzzy line between "personal fashion" and "nerd affectation". And yes, I'm aware that it requires making a subjective judgment, from afar, on someone else's motives. Having taken that into account, I do feel there's something all you affectation-nerds need to be aware of:


Again, we give you a pass when you're young, because we know you'll grow out of it. Or, if you don't grow out of it, we know what that means and will attempt to achieve Minimum Safe Distance accordingly. You can rationalize it, you can explain it away, but the fact is, we all know.

So take off the goddamned communicator pin and save it for a con-weekend already. You don't need it when you're just going to Subway. Life should not be turned into a prop comedy routine. BE A BETTER NERD.