Well, OF COURSE I don’t ACTUALLY think you can pick out a geek or a nerd just by looking at them. Some guy once said geekery and nerding aren’t about what you love, but HOW you love it. So certainly there is no prerequisite that you wear your geek on the outside for all to see. Still, it’s comforting when I get on a plane headed to a comic convention to play and I see “my people” with me in the terminal. I normally only feel the calm of being surrounded by like minded people when I’m actually AT a convention. It’s nice to see them out in the wild.
Playing “spot the nerd” in an airplane terminal brings up an issue I find interesting. Just like there are mutants in the X-Men universe who can pass as human, and there are others with blue fur or parts of their bodies constantly on fire, I think there are degrees of “nerd mutation” with regard to outward appearance. Since my late 20’s, I think I’ve been one of the ones who “passes for human.” I rarely wear t-shirts that advertise my geeky proclivities anymore and my hair is less crazy that it used to be. For the last year or two that I’ve had a larger than average beard, I’ve found it harder and harder to pass (not that I’m trying to, mind you. I just pay attention to the amount of stares and/or comments I get). I don’t think the beard immediately identifies me to the world as a geek (certainly not as well as a Doctor Who scarf or Jayne hat would), but it seems to scream to regular people that A) I’m somehow different, and B) I REALLY want to be asked questions about my facial hair.
With regards to nerds passing unseen among the general public, I really love the idea of having just a hint of nerd on the outside at all times. A piece of jewelry (have you seen my wife’s new Game Of Thrones inspired necklaces for you Starks and Lannisters in her Etsy store?!?!?! HAVE YOU?!?!?) or a bit of stealth cosplay (this one by my friend Dandy Geek is quite fantastic) serve as a secret handshake or sly calling card to your fellow nerds. Just a nod to say, “You aren’t alone out here in the big, terrifying world.” My wife’s custom TARDIS purse sends this signal everywhere we go, and brings stealth Whovians out of the woodwork (“It doesn’t work on wood.”)
COMMENTERS: Do you “pass?” Do you wish you did? Do you have a signature “outward geekery” that tells your fellow geeks what you’re all about?