Hey Dr. Nerdlove.
I have a question for you. I’m a kinda short, black teenager in high school and this year (junior year) I decided I want to dress in matching clothing and have some style as much as possible. So basically I’m not a “socially-inept nerd” but I am a sports playing nerd. I can match my clothes but being in style is hard. I would like your tips on style and maybe some of your style. Thanks.
My first rule about high-school is: try not to worry too much about high-school. It’s a giant morass of surging hormones, social Darwinism and a whole bunch of proto-sociopaths who’re busily sharpening their metaphorical knives on anyone and everyone around them where the rules of engagement seem to have been written by people who spent twenty to thirty years in the high-security wing of Oz (and I don’t mean they were trying to find ruby slippers for the Wizard).
Now that having been said, high-school is a place for laying the groundwork for who you will become later on. The sooner you master the basics, whether it’s with social interaction or sartorial mastery, the easier you will find that aspect of your life later on when it does start to count: in college.
So with that in mind, I’m going to advise you that you don’t worry too much about your personal style yet. Start off by making sure you have the basics down pat. This means making sure you’re wearing clothes that actually fit rather than trying to hide any flaws you may perceive in layers of clothing.
Next, keep some simple rules in mind.
- Don’t go overboard with flashy clothes; stick to one piece of clothing that’s the center-piece of your outfit. Everything else should be basic, otherwise you start to make yourself look overly busy. Same with accessories: keep it simple and minimalist. The more attention-grabbing a piece is, whether it’s a hat, jewelry, a flashy watch or a novelty belt-buckle, the more it’s going to overwhelm everything else. Think of it like a point system; the flashier it is, the more points it’s going to cost, therefore you will have less room for other accessories.
- Jeans should be the work-horses of your closet; they can work with any outfit, provided they’re good quality and fairly minimalist in design. The more holes or unusual washes (sand-blasted, for example), the less you can do with them. Dark washes are ideal, as they will work with damn near everything you own and can be dressed up or down. And no decorations on the back pockets. The early 00s have many fashion sins to answer for.
- The last thing you put on is going to be the first thing people notice. Keep this in mind, especially now that fall is slowly turning into winter. Never underestimate the power of a cool jacket.
- I’m a big fan of keeping displays of nerdery simple and understated1. Graphic tees reproducing comic covers or X-Men fight-scenes tend to be too much; something simple like the S-shield or the symbiote white-on-black Spider-Man logo are iconic and classic, especially when that’s your centerpiece.
- Athletic shoes are best used for being athletic in order to keep them from wearing out too quickly. Keep some casual shoes for every-day wear, whether they’re Chuck Taylors, Vans, Addidas or what-have you. You also need one pair of shoes that goes with a suit.
- Your belt should match your shoes.
- White socks are best for working out. Dark socks work best for every other occasion.
- Track suits are for warming up before exercising or lounging around the house when you don’t give a damn who sees you. Period.
- Dr. NerdLove tees make you 100% cooler.
You may notice I didn’t say much about style here. This is because style is an extension of who you are and at your age, your identity and archetype is going to be a moving target. This is a good thing; you should be experimenting with different aspects of your personality and identities as you try to find out who you really are. Find styles that speak to you and people who can serve as a fashion role-model. Just don’t try to lock yourself into who you think you should be or let other people tell you who you are.
This is also a good time to start learning how to shop for clothes properly. Start learning to take advantage of sales and where to find discounts. I’d also recommend signing up for daily sale sites like JackThreads ((I have no affiliation with them, nor do I get anything from recommending them)), which can help you score some cool clothes on the cheap.
More often than not, when it comes to clothes, you get what you pay for – but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get it for cheaper if you’re smart.
Long time reader here – finally decided I had something to ask you.
You mention in your articles that part of getting out there and meeting people is changing up your routine – and one of the things you suggest is to get into better physical shape. But what if you’re someone who’s currently struggling with that very thing?
Allow me to explain. I’m in my late 30s. I’ve been told by some women that I’m cute, but I don’t really give my appearance very high marks – largely because I am rather overweight.
I’ve actually started taking steps to try and remedy the situation – I’m watching what I eat more, taking vitamins, and trying to exercise when I can.However, one thing I don’t seem to be doing is meeting any women. And I think know why.
I’ve had it in my head for quite some time, that someone in as poor shape as I am shouldn’t bother trying to meet anyone. I’ve always thought to myself, “If I just lose X amount of pounds, then maybe I can think about it”. After all, a big part of attraction is physical, and right now, I’m not cutting it.
Another factor is that I do suffer from depression, and this makes things all the harder. To give you an idea of how hard: I haven’t had a girlfriend since late 2007.
Now for the twist – I’ve recently resumed regular counseling sessions, and am on a decent regiment of meds – so I’ve actually started thinking about meeting women again. But here’s the thing – I’m still pretty hung up on my weight, and not sure whether I should bother trying, or wait until I’m in better shape.
So, Doc – what’s your take? Am I completely wrong-headed here?
–Unhealthy and Alone
Now before I get into the meat of your question: congratulations for going out and trying to get your life in order. Better nutrition and more exercise are always a good thing – not just for aesthetics (more on that in a second) but also because of the way it will make you feel. Doing something good for yourself will make you feel better and learning to enjoy some form of exercise – whether explicit exercise like running or weight-training or activities like sports or rowing – help get your endorphins pumping, which will help with the depression issue.
I should know; I’ve dealt with depression issues most of my life and a combination of healthier eating and activity (as well as therapy) helped immensely.
Now that having been said: your problem isn’t in your waistline, it’s in your head.
Your biggest issue is your self-image: that you can only be attractive at X weight, for whatever value you’ve assigned at X. You’re letting your weight become a self-limiting belief and it’s going to be a millstone hanging around your neck. When you keep telling yourself that you’re too fat to be attractive, you’re going to miss out on the fact that there are people who do find you attractive. Hell, they’re even telling you to your face that they think you’re cute… but you won’t let yourself believe it.
I know that the media tells us that only men and women of a certain body type are attractive, but the fact of the matter is: there are plenty of women for who will quite happily date fat guys. Hell, there are plenty of women (and gay men, for that matter) who really dig big guys.2 Kevin Smith’s been happily married for 13 years now, as has Patton Oswalt. Lots of women find John Goodman incredibly sexy just for his voice and personality alone. You’re letting your hang-up get in the way of meeting and dating some really awesome people.
You definitely should start looking into meeting women even if you’re not at your ideal weight yet. Putting up artificial barriers (“I can’t start dating again until I’m X pounds”) is just a way of excusing yourself from getting out there and taking some emotional risks. The closer you get to your goal, the more oh-so-perfectly-legitimate reasons why you can’t possibly date will keep coming up: your car sucks and you need a different one, your job just keeps you too busy, you’re still in therapy… there will always be another reason until you decide to make your stand. You’ve been out of the dating scene for a while and the more social you get, the more comfortable you’ll become in interacting with women – even if you’re not at the physical ideal you hope for.
Talk with your therapist about your self-image issues; they’re in the best position to help you get past the idea that you’re somehow undeserving of dating and nobody could possibly find you attractive.
Good luck. Be sure to write back and let everybody know how you’re doing.