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The Undoing: Fashion in PGS

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The Undoing

Pathetic Geek Stories About Fashion

Fashion is such an obvious geek flashpoint, and through the years I’ve gotten a lot of submissions in which fashion—hip, non-hip, or non-existent—is the underlying theme. Here’s a small sampling, minimally edited, with more to come…

When I was in 6th grade I wanted to get the 'faded' look in my clothes, so I heavily bleached a blue T-shirt and black shorts. It worked perfectly. But the next day, about an hour into the school day, I noticed both the T-shirt and the shorts had these little tips and holes in them. Just putting to much pressure on the fabric caused them to just tear! The bleach had destroyed the fabric. I tried to be as careful as possible but by the end of the day, they were just torn to shreds. ON TOP of this, one of my sandals broke the same day and I had to walk around barefoot with my shoes in my hands. I looked like a freaking homeless beggar - everyone kept looking at me and asking me if this was a new fashion statement. It was so embarrassing! My friends still joke about it to this day.



When I was 11 years old my sister invited some of her friends over. I figured this was my chance to impress some girls, and I wanted to make sure I looked cool. I figured cool people wear sunglasses and bandanas while carrying boom boxes on their shoulders. I didn't have any sunglasses, so I had to borrow my mom's big purple ones with the "librarian" neck string on them. I didn't have any bandanas so I used some of my dad's white handkerchiefs, and the closest thing we had in our house to a boom box was a Cabbage Patch Kid cassette deck, which I carried on my shoulder, while marching around the kitchen listening to Weird Al's "Addicted to Spuds.” It took me 15 years to realize how ridiculous I looked.



one day in jr. high (7th grade) i decided to "dress up" so i wore yellow pants, a yellow shirt and one of my mom's yellow sweaters (it was definetly a girl sweater now that i recall). it was mid-term day and one of my teachers gave me my first F. when i went to talk to her about it i started crying. as i was leaving she tried to cheer me up and told me how nice i looked in yellow and that "yellow was my color".



My mother was one of those clueless people that thought she would save money by collecting clothes for us kids from the time we were born for later when we were grown. She had a pair of bell-bottoms in the box of clothes I was supposed to "grow into" genuine circa 1970s. Clueless myself, I wore them to the 6th grade (1989) and naturally got laughed at. One guy took pity on me after awhile and showed me how to cuff them so they'd look sort of like the jeans other kids were wearing, but then they wouldn't hide the size 3 tennis shoes with Big Bird on them that had also been in the box.



Because my parents both worked, and it was the mid sixties, my grandmother had the responsibility of getting my older brother and I off to school. She had grown up very poor, and didn't see the need to blow good money on rubber boots when there were perfectly good used Wonder Bread bags all over the house. She would make my brother and I put the bright red, yellow and blue bread sacks over our shoes, secure them with rubber bands around our calves, and send used to school in yellow raincoats. We also had to wear the enormous, matching rain hats with the little visor that made you look like a chicken. She did this anytime the weather man predicted a 20% chance of rain, or more. In Oklahoma, that was quite a lot. The older guys in the neighborhood would stand on the corner and wait for us to go by, so they could call us "Superchickens."



One day when I was 10, the coolest, richest girl in the school, Becky, Lumpy pantswore this soft, thin mint green sweater tucked into these elegant, slim black pants. I thought it looked so good. The next morning I got dressed in the only green sweater I had - a big, bulky cable knit sweater - and the only black pants I had, which were spandex. I had tucked the sweater in, but my mom told me it looked stupid and I couldn't go to school like that. I was determined. After my mom dropped me off at school, I hurriedly went into the bathroom and tucked the cable knit sweater back into my spandex pants before racing to my classroom. I went in thinking I looked really cool. Becky took one look at me and said, "why is your sweater tucked in? It's all lumpy!" And she laughed with her friends, pointing at the spare tire of sweater bulging underneath the spandex.



when i was in junior high school, i was very slow to change my clothes, even if the weather changed, often wearing my winter coat in warm weather. i was made fun of for it, but for a long time i wouldn't trade the coat for a windbreaker out of pride. but when field day rolled around i figured i'd use the "special occasion" as an excuse for wearing appropriate clothing for a change, and so i went in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. walking to school was the worst humiliation i'd ever experienced: everyone mistook my very tight shorts for underwear. the worst was one kid saying he could see the outline of my dick through the underwear, and that it was incredibly small.



in my freshman year of highschool i really wanted to impress this group of girls who were the "popular" crowd so i spent a ton of money on a designer outfit and these way high platform shoes. the day i wore my new outfit to school i was late for the meanest teacher's class, so i ran down the stairs. on the 2nd step i tripped and fell down 1/2 the stairs then as i was getting up, trying to retain SOME of my dignity, i stumbled in my "cool" clunky shoes and fell down the rest of the steps. i landed right in the middle of the girls little circle, complete with my all time crush! to make matters worse as i was getting up my pants split and showed off my "period panties" and the huge bulge of one of those pads capable of soaking up toxic waste. needless to say, i never
wore those shoes again, or talked to my crush or those girls.



Besides being a huge nerd with thick glasses, I was also one of the "poor" kids at a private school. While most others wore Guess and Air Jordans my mom bought the cheapest clothes and shoes. Not only would kids often call me "Pro-Wings" or "Pro-500's"…but also they were so cheap that often the soles would rip off my shoes while I ran at recess or my jeans would tear up the crotch. At least when my jeans tore badly up the crotch kids would lay off the "Kick me" signs. I now hate both designer labels and no-name clothes leaving me little to wear.


After months of admiring the shiny, zippered clothing on the racks at Chess King, by far the coolest store in the mall, I finally purchased my very own pair of parachute pants. They spoke to me. They brought out the breakdancer within. I had arrived!


The first day I wore my parachute pants to school was perhaps the proudest of my life. I can't say that I remember receiving any compliments on them, but I felt like the best-dressed kid in all of Vermont. I had never looked that good.


The next morning, I was still in love with the pants, and decided to wear them to school again. It was a tragic mistake. Blinded by my love for my parachute pants, I violated a major section of middle-school code: Never, Ever Wear the Same Article of Clothing Two Days in a Row.


And so...when my science class was about to start and all the students were settling in at their desks, I heard "Hey, Jon!" It was one of the popular girls. Everyone turned to look.


"Didn't you wear those pants yesterday?"

-the (mortifying, red-faced) end-

—Jonathan F.

For Christmas in seventh grade I got a new Members Only jacket from my parents. It was bright white and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I wore it the first day after we got back from Christmas break. At lunch that day, I was making fun of this really pretty cheerleader who had the assigned seat across from me. She picked up a cup of ketchup from her tray and threw it across the table at me. It splattered all over my new white jacket and everybody laughed. Her parents paid for it to be dry-cleaned, but you could still see the stain. I tried to wear it a few times after that, but people made fun of me so I hid it in my room and told my parents I lost it.


This story comes from my 8th grade year in high school and all the Birdanxiety of trying to find a group of people that I fit in with. My family was not well off at all and we often wore hand me downs or clothes from the cheapest stores around. In a time of acid washed jeans there was nothing more obvious than wearing the darkest pair of jeans that K-Mart made. Late fall rolled around and I did some work for my grandfather around the yard and made some pocket money so that I could buy a few of my own clothes, determined not to continue to look geeky in my "Salvation Army clothes.” I went out and bought an expensive shirt and proudly wore it to school on Monday morning. It was a cold morning but I didn't wear a coat so I could show off the shirt as much as possible. Venturing over to the smoking section where all the cool kids hung out, I leaned up against the wall and tried to look as nonchalant as I could. Things went ok until the group started to head back to the main building as the first bell rang. Crossing back to the building and walking under a tree, a bird on a lower branch decided to relieve himself...and of course it landed on the shoulder and arm of my brand new shirt! I was mortified as the entire group heard me yell out and stopped to point and laugh. I made my way to a bathroom in one of the lower halls and did my best to clean up. I arrived late to class, with my shirt wet, and everyone already calling my brand new shirt the sh*t shirt. I only made it through one class before skipping and walking home because I was just too embarrassed to go on. I never wore the shirt again.

—Jonathan G.

It was the fifth grade and I was the only new kid in the entire grade of 60 kids. The hottest, most popular girl had an assigned seat right in front of me. She turned to say something to me just as I was reaching behind my head to get rid of something that was poking me in the neck. She opened her mouth to talk just as I pulled the cardboard collar support that came with my brand new shirt out from under my collar and, changing what she was about to say, mouthed "LOSER" as I pulled the 8 inch strip of cardboard under my desk in embarassment.

—M.K. (guy)

One day in 7th grade a friend and I were late for class so we were running down the hall. She had just told a joke so I was laughing with my head thrown back and my braces-covered teeth bared. As we rounded a corner I bumped into the chest of a 9th grade, very cute football player—my head just came up to the middle of his big, brawny chest. I felt my braces get caught in his red fuzzy sweater. I pulled myself away quickly once I realized I had hooked myself onto his sweater. I tried to play it off and looked up at him to smile. But there in my teeth was a red piece of yarn from his now ruined sweater. He looked horrified and then I ran away.


When I was about 13 some of the cool kids started wearing blazer type Jackets.

I had a Jacket that was "kind of" similar and wore it among my lame friends one day. They said I looked stupid but I was sure I had it right and told them they didn't know what they were talking about.

We went to the cinema and saw from a distance some of the cool kids. They instantly spotted me and started to point and laugh at which point I leaped to the floor behind a trashcan and crawled off out of sight.

—Simon (U.K.)

Empire Strikes Back came out when I was eight and, like most kids my age, I was a full-fledged Star Wars fanatic. I made my parents buy me anything that had anything to do with the films: action figures, playsets, trading cards, books, you name it.

I was back to school shopping with my mom (at Weiners, if memory serves), and I came across a pair of UndeRoos I had to have. The set had dark blue underwear with a black waistband and a dark blue shirt with an iron-on of Darth Vader. When I got home I couldn't wait to put them on and spent the rest of the day in UndeRoos reading the comic book adaptation of Empire.

A week or so later, my pride and enthusiasm for the UndeRoos had not waned a bit. I decided to wear them on the first day of school, simply pulling a pair of jeans over what was sure to be the crown jewel of my back to school wardrobe. Of course, every one would envy me my Darth Vader shirt, not knowing about the matching underwear.

I got to the bus stop, and some kid I didn't even know said, "Nice UndeRoos!" All the other kids laughed at me. I was so humiliated I never wore them again.

—Chris G.


In the 7th grade I was 6 feet tall and built like a stickman. My parents didn't allow me to wear jeans because that led to drugs, sex and rock and roll. But late in the year they finally relented and let me get one pair of Levis big bell jeans. The coolest girl in school, Carol E., sat by me in science class everyday. I thought she liked me and I had a terrible crush going, but later I realized she mainly liked copying my homework. Anyway, the first day I wore THE JEANS she told me how cool I looked! I could not go back to my old slacks then! I wore those jeans for five days straight without washing them. By the fifth day things had gotten pretty rank and when I sat down in science class Carol's friend said, "Ewww! What's that smell!" and they got up and moved across the room next to another smart kid, never to return.


When I was 11, I couldn't wait to get back to school after the winter break, because I had gotten my first designer outfit for Christmas. I just knew that my new clothes would rocket me from oblivion to the ranks of the super cool. The first day back, as I walked down the hall, waiting for my moment, people started laughing and pointing. In my haste to get to school, I hadn't noticed that the pattern of my new Christmas underwear (printed with red bows and green holly) bled through the white knit stirrup pants as if I weren't wearing pants at all!


I still have flashbacks.


I had no idea I was such a geek Red Polountil I told this story to one of my co-workers (don't remember how it came up either). They suggested I write in...


My family didn't have a lot of money and as a result my Mom would look for bargains anywhere. Turns out one year she found RED polo shirts at a real bargain price. So she bought me THREE of them!!! I would try not to wear them all the time, but I didn't have a lot of clothes so I had no choice.

The embarrassment came when, in art class, I was sitting next to this really cute guy one day in art class. He looked at me kind of funny and then said, "Hey - didn't you like, wear that yesterday???" I denied it (as I turned beet red) until I was reminded by several other kids in the class that, yes I had in fact worn a red polo shirt the day before. Everyone laughed.


I tried to explain that I had 3 of them, but no one believed me at that point.


When I was a 9th grade freshman in high school around 1984, my father brought home a surprise that he said all of the "cool kids" were wearing. Of course, how my 55 year old father knew what "cool kids" were wearing I'll never know. Anyway, he opens a bag and pulls out a red leather jacket with mesh on the shoulders and zippers all over it just like the one Michael Jackson wore in his "Beat It" video which was out at the time. I was a pimply-faced, 14 year old white kid who went to a private catholic school, so I had no intention of ever wearing the jacket, but not wanting to hurt his feelings, I thanked my dad and put the jacket in my closet.

The next morning, my mother didn't feel well and asked my father to drive me to school. When I met him at his car, he asked where the jacket was and made me go put it on. We got to school and I tried to run to my locker so I could hide the jacket, but before I got there, the guys in the senior class saw me. They grabbed me a pulled me into the library where they made me stand against a wall. One of them pulled out a stop watch and they divided into relay teams to see who could run up to me and unzip and rezip all of the zippers on my Michael Jackson jacket the fastest. I thought I was saved when the football coach walked into the library, but he just laughed and wanted to know who had his stopwatch.

It was truly my most humiliating moment and one that haunts me until this day. Whenever Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video comes on VH-1, I turn off the TV and curl up into a fetal position.

At least I didn't hurt my dad's feelings…


When I was in the eighth grade (1966), my family couldn't afford new suits for both me and my older brother, so I was forced to wear his collarless "Beatles" suit jacket, which was woefully out of fashion by the time I got it as a hand-me-down.

I complained that I would look like a geek, but my mother assured me I looked fine.

The day before the eighth grade dance, I had to wear this suit jacket to school for another function and I was already embarrassed.

The girl I had asked to the dance (the one it took me so much courage to approach), took one look at my jacket and said, "Is THAT what you're wearing to the dance?"

I was humiliated. I still had to wear it the next night for the dance.

—Alex V.