There Are More Colors Than Black
Now that your home’s taken care of, it’s time to attack your closet. The old cliche’d image of the typical nerd – with the high-water pants, over-sized glasses, suspenders and an ugly buttoned down shirt – may be outdated, but the fact remains: being a “geek” means not having a sense of style.
The stereotypical modern nerd tends to frequent Hot Topic far more than the softer side of Sears. Their closets tend to be full of black tees, black hoodies, jeans and studded belts and scores of comic, game and band logos.
As with your pad, it’s time to audit your clothes and put your closet on a limited nerd gear diet. Once again: this is not to say that you have to toss everything out or hide your geeky clothes, never to be worn again.You just need to be able to mix things up a little.
First things first: learn how your clothes are supposed to fit. I don’t care if you’re overweight, underweight or have the body of a Greek God: if your clothes don’t fit, you look bad. How your clothes fit speak volumes to the message you send to others. Too small and you look like you’re trying to fool yourself. Too big and you look like you’re trying to hide.
Once that’s done, it’s time to lay in for some basics: 5 basic t-shirts in colors besides black. One pair of dark-wash jeans without any decorations or holes. At least one pair of pants that aren’t jeans or cargos -preferably khakis. Two button-down shirts appropriate for work. One pair of loafers, lace-ups or work-appropriate heels. One decent jacket – not a hoodie, not a jean jacket, not something with a giant logo. A sports coat is great, but there are other options out there. Start experimenting with looks; you’d be surprised how well a graphic tee, especially a well-fitting vintage tee, can pair with jeans and nice shoes.
Learn which colors work best with your skin tones; the Internet has plenty of blogs that will cover this, but you can find a very basic primer here. When in doubt, blue, white and grey work with damn near everyone.
Once again: it’s not about hiding your geek tendencies, it’s about knowing how to present them. You can get away with a lot more geek chic looks when you can cloak them in a functioning style.
Putting Your Best Face Forward
Next up: Your face. And your hair. And your breath. And your body odor. You need to do something about them. Like, now.
Let’s face it: we’re all familiar with the stereotype of the “smelly geek.” Anyone who has ever spent any time at comic or science-fiction conventions will have heard the endless numbers of jokes about “con funk”, “nerd stink” and the need to attack entire crowds with aerosol bombs filled with Fabreeze. Similarly, acne, greasy hair and dubious facial hair choices are synonymous with geeks.
It doesn’t help that geeks will frequently avoid conventional skin and hair care as a way of rebelling the “mainstream” and deliberately standing in contrast to the people who make their lives miserable; the jocks with the stylish hair who beat on you or the bitches with the fancy who ostracize you, who the fuck wants to look like them? Others avoid make-up or hair care out of a sense of low-self esteem; make-up is for pretty people, not me.
You don’t want to be associated with those images. So you need to put the time in.
Everyone, man or woman, needs to devote at least a little time to their skin. You don’t need a long and arduous skin-care routine; in fact, the fewer products, the better. But at the very least, you should have a facial cleanser – not just soap – and some moisturizer. It can make all the difference, especially if you tend towards dry or oily skin. Ladies: consider some basic, simple make-up1 and learn how to properly apply it. A little bit can go a long way to even out skin tone and flatter your face without looking overdone.
Gentlemen: please reconsider that facial hair. Certain faces benefit from specific facial hair. Square faces work best with light beards, just a step above stubble to help soften the lines. Round faces can pull off the full VanDyke. Thin, triangular faces could benefit from a medium length beard to help add bulk while longer, more rectangular ones can rock the 5 o’clock shadow. A carefully groomed goatee can help with a weak chin or jawline. Growing a beard to hide your double chin is unadvisable. It’s not really fooling anyone. Just look at George Lucas.
If you can’t grow facial hair evenly or fully, don’t bother. Patchy or wispy beards just look childish; the last thing you want to do is come across as though you’re trying to pass for 21 with a fake ID. Especially if you’re over 21. If you do decide to grow facial hair, then for the love of all things holy, keep it groomed. Invest in a beard trimmer and use it on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. A well-groomed beard can be attractive; a ratty or shaggy one makes you look like the Unibomber’s nerdier cousin.
And while we’re talking about hair care: get some shampoo and conditioner. Use them daily. Nobody likes lank, greasy hair. Know your hair type too; if you have fine or oily hair you’re going to want completely different shampoo than if you have thick or curly hair. If you have dandruff, you definitely want specialist shampoo – in fact, you may want to talk to a dermatologist and get something that can work a little better than Head and Shoulders.
I’ve talked about getting that cool hair style before, but I want to stress it again: find the style that works with your hair type and shape of your face. The right hair cut can make a night-and-day difference, especially if you’ve been getting the Supercuts special. I hate to say it, but you really do get what you pay for and this is one of those areas where you should be willing to splurge a little. Ladies, if you have long hair, you should talk to your stylists about what you can do with it besides just cutting the tips on occasion, especially if you’re using it as a veil to hide behind. One of the most common things I see amongst girl geeks is the low-maintenance long hair: high speed, low drag, low style. I know it takes time, especially after washing (hey, I used to have hair down to the middle of my back. I’ve been there), but even a little attention to your hair can affect how people see and react to you. Putting a little effort into your hair says that you care about your appearance, which in turn says a lot for your self-esteem and confidence.
- Yes, I understand just how complicated it can be to make make-up look simple. [↩]