A Fashion Post? Yeah, I’m shocked, too.

9 Feb

I shrank my cardigan. It’s very upsetting. You thought I was kidding about that cardigan thing, didn’t you? No, it’s true. I have several. But my go-to cardigan is a grey lamb’s wool grandpa-looking one that I wear just about every day. Very Kurt Cobain. Holes in all the right places. Warm enough that I don’t have to wear a jacket, but light enough that I can wear it when the sun’s out in California. The perfect cardigan. And I shrank it in the dryer. Shrank? Shrunk? I don’t know. Motherfucker’s too small now, is what I’m saying. Due to laundry ineptitude.

So I started shopping online for a new one. Which kind of goes against my nature anyway. I don’t think I’ve bought any clothes new from a store for years. I would rather get them at a thrift store or a yard sale or something. I prefer to not buy new things if there’s something perfectly serviceable still out there. And it’s cheaper. Also, I have this weird thing about fabric. There are certain ones I can’t really stand to touch. Gives me the willies. It’s an OCD thing, I think. Shopping online? My idea of torture. I live in the middle of nowhere, though, so I’m stuck either shopping online or driving two hours to civilization.

Point is, just for funnies I typed in “geeky cardigan.” And oh holy Asimov, how many cardigans came up? So many. Then I typed in “nerdy cardigan.” Not as many, but these were cooler. How terribly odd. Weirder still, there were lots of websites coming up with titles like “Dress for that geeky look,” “Sexy nerds,” “How to do geek chic right,” “How to be a nerdy girl.” So I went on a little quest. Because that’s what I do.

Apparently, nerds are very in right now (makes me cringe to say that, cringe cringe). The key things to dressing trendily geek are: glasses, canvas shoes, cardigans, and plaid. Which, for the record, is exactly what I wear every day. There are also a lot of cross-body bags, scarves, Urkel-waisted skirts, long shorts (fashion loves a good oxymoron), heels with knee socks, and high collars. It seems to be a weird hybrid of boho and sexy librarian. If you can pull off bookish and arty at the same time, you’re golden. As a point of interest, though, I would’ve called most of these people hipsters. To their faces. Did I miss a memo? Are geeks/nerds the same thing as hipsters? To the outside observer? Do you have to be in one group or the other to recognize your own? Like wolf packs. Or AA.

Maybe that’s geographical vernacular again. To me the mark of a true hipster is simply emanating disdain. But to be fair, I do have two distinct breeds of hipster in mind. The urban hipster is that of the skinny jeans and fedora and that weird Arabian neck scarf thing. The other variety is one I’ve encountered mostly in Asheville (North Carolina, whence I recently emigrated) and may not exist anywhere else. These people wear trucker caps and drink PBR (but only tall boys) and listen to obscure bluegrass. They’re sometimes extensively pierced and usually a little grubby. Out here in Cali there’s a similar group, lovingly called crusties. But the difference is that these people actually have jobs that literally involve dirt, so there’s a legitimate reason for them to look like punks who worked on a farm all day. Back in the Ville they’re just street kids. Or people who want to look like street kids. Because being homeless is cool. And tall boys are only a dollar in the Ville.

I’m really overexaggerating my hipster fear. I don’t care what people wear. The cross-pollination is pretty interesting, though. They dress like nerds and rednecks because those groups aren’t cool. But nerds are getting cooler. So maybe hipsters are losing their stranglehold on the pulse of what’s obscurely cooler than cool. What a weirdly vicious cycle that is. Maybe future hipsters will wear really nice suits ironically.

So anyway, I’m flabbergasted by this nerd fashion thing. Can I say that? Flabbergasted? Gobstopped, perhaps? Because let me tell you straight up: I am not stylish. I’m the tomboy library lurker who only cares about clothes because evolution robbed me of my body fur and it’s required by law that I not be naked. Not that I’d want to be naked, either. I just don’t care what I wear. Being comfy is more important to me than giving a shit what anybody thinks about my style. I wear glasses because I have to. I wear my Converse sneakers because they go with everything and they don’t wear out for five or six years. I wear jeans because, well, all I own are jeans. And corduroy. I genuinely like plaid. And I have an inordinate number of snarky t-shirts. Also a few kind of nerdy shirts (Kermit the frog, Serenity, vintage Smashing Pumpkins merch shirt from the Mellon Collie tour). But I’m looking at all these fashion models strutting their stuff in outfits I own. Like, verbatim. Admittedly, most of them are men. Which is a whole new can of self-esteem worms we can deal with later, I guess.

Another thing at play here that’s worth mentioning is the retro loop. A lot of these people are dressed like it’s the 80’s and I doubt many of them were even there. They don’t know the true awfulness of the 80’s. It wasn’t all neon stripes and side ponytails and Cyndi Lauper, whippersnappers. And it weirds me out to see people dressing up pretty in the shit that I was forced to wear when I was a little nerdy kid. But I’ll take it, I guess. We’re adults now, grups in our thirties (name that Star Trek episode reference for bonus five geek points), and I think we’ve earned the right to be cool, whatever that stupid word means. Even if it’s just for a minute.

And don’t give me shit about that shrank/shrunk thing. Of course I know which is correct. I needed a funny line for that paragraph. Cut me some comedy slack.

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6 Responses to “A Fashion Post? Yeah, I’m shocked, too.”

  1. LaissezFarrell February 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    1) Don’t place your sweater in the dryer.

    2) Cardigans tread dangerously close to hipster-chic, too (at least in my conception/experience). Labels are nebulous like that.

    • geekinacardigan February 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

      I know. I need to quit with the pigeon holes.

      • laissezfarrell February 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

        More to the point, the term “hipster” (like the perceived divide between geek/dork) is more and more being used as a blanket (and derisive) term for “other”.

      • geekinacardigan February 11, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

        I don’t come across as using it that way, do I? My ridiculous ideas on how people dress aside, I really think hipsters are just people who look down their noses at things that big groups of people like. If it’s mainstream it’s too cool. If there’s no irony it’s not cool enough. Those folks who smirk at everything and can’t take anything at face value.

      • LaissezFarrell February 12, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

        You don’t particularly come off as that, no. It’s just a general commentary on the relative usefulness of the term. I think that this most recent comment of yours more accurately describes an “elitist”. The irony thing doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, unless you’re referring to people defend their like of (for instance) Beyonce’s dance numbers (or whichever Top 40 pop act happens to release a particularly catchy earworm) as “ironic enjoyment”, which is just a stupid turn of phrase (and not terribly accurate, in the true sense of the irony (although my own grasp of irony is, at times, tenuous, so there’s that)). You either enjoy something or you don’t, even if you know full-well what you’re enjoying is entirely disposable.

        The mainstream comment–hasn’t that been a highlight of indie or underground culture for years? Didn’t many paragons of alt-garage-grunge rock go too mainstream and sell out in the 1990s? What about the 1980s? I guess ultimately, I tend to think that with a term like hipster, every person has a different idea of what it means. The more I talk to people about their conception of it, the more I realize that many (if not most or all) of the hipster trappings are better defined in other ways, or have existed as part of the popular culture milieu for a long, long time. In the same way that people argue you can express yourself often more intelligently without swearing (and seriously, fuck those people, but they have a point), if you can articulate in specific terms what you find distasteful, as opposed to using a blanket term that many people will misinterpret…

      • geekinacardigan February 13, 2012 at 6:13 am #

        “Elitist” is probably technically more accurate but I feel like it has a different connotation. I’m not sure how to put my finger on exactly why. Stupid linguistics. And I think that the term “ironic” is being really overused right now, and has lost a lot of meaning. People seem to use it instead of “sarcastic,” though, which bothers the shit out of me. Like people who use “literally” in exactly the wrong way. But “hyperbolically” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. Also, I use words like “cool” and “mainstream” extremely loosely. It’s a for-lack-of-a-better-term term. Like hipster, apparently. Maybe it’s one of those words I didn’t know was a hot button. I had to stop saying “midget” a few years ago. And I recently learned that “ginger” really hurts people’s feelings. Moreso if they’re British, which is pretty interesting. So I will cease and desist with the h-word. And issue un-ironic apologies to our hipster brethren.

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