This is not your typical style article.
This is about the joy of self-expression, of sharing your journey with the world by using your body as the vehicle. It’s about recognizing a symbol on another person’s clothing and excitedly discussing your shared interests. It’s about flying your geek flag from the top of your mountain and yodeling your nerd ballad while everyone watches in awe … and maybe with a little jealousy.
There are some situations, though, where you have to rein in the yodeling to an enthusiastic murmur, like when you work in a more traditional setting, visit the *ahem* conservative branch of your family, or simply have to follow the rules for whatever reason. And that’s okay. This article isn’t about breaking the rules, it’s about bending them like origami until they suit you and your style. This is your how-to-communicate-your-geek-style-no-matter-where-you-are article.
Sourcing Your Inspiration
Most people start by knowing what stokes their fires, but do you know all of it? The categories on this site are a great place to start, especially if it introduces you to a new show / film / comic / etc. (There’s nothing like binging on a new favorite!) From there, you can branch out into inspirational sources in your everyday life. Love building computers? There are some awesome “computer parts” jewelry pieces out there, whether DIY or for purchase. Passionate about Legos? Yep, they got that, too. This is a great opportunity to think outside of the box … and maybe create your own new theme, too.
Applying Your Inspiration
While you might care more about accuracy in dressing for cosplay, dressing for everyday style is more about the idea than the details. Consider some of the following to help you convey the idea if you don’t have actual representation of the idea (i.e. a shirt that reminds you of a show vs. a shirt printed with the show’s actual logo):
- “Regular” substitutions: Look at your favorite character. Can you “regularize” their costume? For instance, if they’re a superhero and wear red tights with a black leotard, you could wear red pants with a black shirt. This is the easiest and most traditional way of expressing your geek obsession while still coloring within the lines. Think of this as a secret handshake. Example: Sailor Moon fans could wear a blue skirt with a white shirt and red bow / scarf / tie.
- Styles: Our favorite entertainment often falls in a particular time period and setting with its own cultural styles, right? Use that! Urban fantasy almost always calls for some piece of clothing that is black leather (but leave the blood-stained shirts at home, haha). My Star Trek fans, you get to pick from multiple time periods: are you going retro 60’s, Voyager, or Discovery? Decisions, decisions. Example: Browncoats (lovers of the series Firefly and the companion movie Serenity) get to have fun mixing it up with American Wild West and Asian fashion. I love cultural fusions.
- Colors: Visual entertainment relies heavily on color to convey a theme, and your clothes can, too. Pastel, primary, neon, or black and white: colors have meaning and depth, without saying a word. Have you noticed how common that bright golden yellow is used in anime? That would be a great color for a jacket, especially paired with some red and blue. And POW, you’re ready to make an impact AND kick some bad guys’ butts. Another great example of color usage that comes to mind is a solid blue outfit to represent Doctor Who’s Tardis.
Getting to the Details
Now that you have your inspiration, let’s get to the nitty gritty: how to manifest that inspiration in practical ways.
Clothing and Shoes
- T-shirts with logos and geeky jokes are all over the place, but they also might not pass muster in a traditional setting. You can, however, wear them underneath a sweater, jacket, vest, etc. If you work in a cleanroom, hazardous waste area, or outer space, well, this may be your only option under your bulky uniform, so live it to its fullest!
- Prints are one of the best ways to work a little geek into your wardrobe. You can go with a BIG design for impact or a tiny design to fly under the radar. The challenge here is finding the right print and on the right item. My experience has shown that there are a lot of dresses with geeky prints, but not many shirts or pants. Boo. If you’re looking for button-down shirts with geeky prints, ThinkGeek rarely disappoints and HeroWithin has a few. See links below and navigate to “shirts.”
- If you enjoy rocking a sweet dress, check out these sellers, some of whom also sell geeky shoes and jewelry (YASSS!):
- Jewelry is an easy one because, just like prints, you can go big or go tiny. Also? You can make it yourself to save some money! We have all seen the jewelry made from typewriter parts; another good example is searching for “jewelry made with computer parts”. You can DIY your geek-lovin’ heart out. For those of you who would rather buy than DIY, you can try most of the links above or hit up Amazon for mass manufactured bling or Etsy for handmade bling.
- Pins and lanyards work well as items that are small and easy to remove, like jewelry. Another great point in their favor? Some conferences and authors give them away like candy, oooh. The next time you’re at a con, consider picking up a few for free or cheap (a lot of merchandise booths sell them, too). The lanyard mostly serves its purpose for work (carrying your building’s security card / ID) or vacation (good for con passes and hotel room keys when you don’t have a pocket). You can wear the pins in more ways, such as on the lanyard, a purse, a hat, a vest (insert flair joke from Office Space here), etc.
- Nail polish isn’t just for French manicures and nail art isn’t just for flowers and hearts. There are some crazy designs out there that just boggle my mind how they can do them that small. It helps to have longer nails because you have more canvas for your art, but you can also still do geeky designs on short nails. Superhero logos are perfect for nail designs because they are typically simple graphics and easier to reproduce. And, if your hand isn’t so steady or your art skills not so great, never fear, they sell nail decals on Amazon. (I am seriously considering buying this Wonder Woman set, y’all.)
Under It All
- Underwear: Well, why not? It’s the perfect solution to knowing you’re rocking it without violating any dress code rules. I prefer geeky underwear over bras, because a bad fitting bra can make you just miserable. Also, underwear is more readily available and affordable. Just check yourself before you wear them with white pants … not that I know anything about that.
- Socks with designs are all the new rage, which makes them not only easy to find, but also easy to find with your preferred design. There are entire stores built around socks. The best sock site I have found is John’s Crazy Socks. Not only do they have everything from Rosie the Riveter socks to “Fight Like a Girl” socks to banned books socks, they also have a selection of cause socks that benefit charities. Who wants to live in a white-athletic-sock-only world, anyway?
- Tattoos: I know what you’re thinking: that’s awfully permanent, even more than my love for this manga series I’ve been reading since I was 12. Okay, fair enough. But, how about temporary tattoos? There isn’t as much selection available online for these, but you have a few options. Temporary Tattoos sells both premade tattoos and custom tattoos, although the first will be way more affordable, of course. The other option is to try a local party store and look at party favor packs that follow your theme. A kid’s temporary tattoo works just as well on adult skin, trust me. You could also just draw the tattoo on yourself with eyeliner, but be careful that it doesn’t rub off on your clothes.
- Hair dyes, both permanent and temporary, can make a statement or simply whisper a change. Other than the obvious drastic hair changes – pink, green, purple – there are others that are subtler and can still echo your love of a character. One of the newer hair colors this season? Butterbeer! Harry Potter fans everywhere are drooling for this color, whether it’s on the pale-yellow end of the spectrum or the opposite end at bold orange. (You can see more at Revelist.) For those that prefer a deeper and more intense color a la a favorite anime character, try another current color: blackberry. This deep purple with blue tones will have you craving a dramatic wind-blown scene in no time. Other popular colors this season include rose gold, muted violet, wine, opal, silver, etc. Sounds like a lot of metallics and purple variations to me!
- Partial dye jobs offer a way to get some of the color without going all the way in. A style that came out a few years ago and is still going strong is the hidden rainbow. Here, the stylist colors hair on the lower part of your head under the upper layer of hair. When your hair is down, you can’t see the color. Put your hair up and BOOM, rainbow (or any other color combination you like)! If you still want to show some color, but not do your entire head, you can do a beautiful ombre where just the roots (baylage) or just the ends (reverse baylage) of the hair are colored and then faded into the rest of the hair.
- Hair cuts and hair styles make living a secret life out in the open even more accessible. And you don’t have to shop a specialty store to get one! Just take a picture to your local stylist or give it a go yourself. Kudos if the cut/style is so original it gets its own name.
Admittedly a lot of these are very girly and more on the feminine side. What if you want something more gender-neutral or masculine? In addition to the notes above about clothing, jewelry, and hair, consider a thematic watch (try ThinkGeek or Amazon) or a decorative tie. Pair it with a sharp vest and you could be the next intrepid reporter hunting down the bad guys.
Creating Something Altogether New
Now that you have the pieces to your puzzle, don’t stop with sticking true to character. You are your own new character with their own new style. How would you dress yourself if YOU were the star of the story? Mix and match pieces, throw in a few different styles, and see what you come up with. OH, and of course, don’t forget to share with us. Pics or it didn’t happen!
Featured image credit: Courtney Langdon