“Cool” and “nerdy” are concepts defined as much by time as they are by content. An everyday Internet user was often classified as nerdy until as recently as 2006 when just as few as 35% of British adults purportedly used the Internet on a regular basis. This year however, was recorded that 92.6% of British households now have access to the internet: not only does this represent a major shift in just a decade, it has logically brought with it changes in what society at large classes as “nerdy” including plenty of once-niche activities that have now become cool and hip.
10 – Collecting
When it comes to collecting tuber irises or rare species of insects, much has been written about the transformation of oddballs to respected enthusiasts, with the popularity of TV shows like Pawn Stars and My Crazy Obsession being broadcast online helped give eccentric collectors none too little legitimacy. As Powerpuff Girls scriptwriter Craig McCracken put it, “I’m a geeky toy collector, and to have toys of your own characters is unbelievably cool.”
9 – Pokémon
On the subject of collecting, Niantic’s Pokémon Go is an augmented reality video game in which players must travel to real-world locations and hunt and capture Pokémon that can only be detected through their smart devices. Some may remember the Pokémon games and niche TV series from the 1990s, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t heard of, if not played Pokémon Go – the fastest downloaded game of all time according to Apple, with an estimated 130 million users worldwide. Augmented reality has had a devastating impact on the status of video games, literally driving “nerds” out of their homes and convincing global trendsetters to openly declare themselves proud gamers.
8 – Poker
Poker was once typically played in a smoky parlour on the outskirts of town, but oh how times have changed. Poker experienced a massive boom around 2003, when live televised poker took the world by storm. ESPN began airing World Series of Poker events and even more significantly, an Atlanta-born accountant named Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP having qualified not in a live game, but through a PokerStars satellite tournament. A thrilling, improbable streak that culminated in a World Series victory, capturing the world’s attention and spurring a whole new generation of interest in the game – with entries to the 2004 WSOP literally tripling.
7 – Board Games
Nobody would suffer a board game unless stuck for something to do during the holidays, and those that did play regularly would seldom have a context to admit it. Now, when classic board games like Scrabble became available online and in app form thanks in this case to Buy Nerdy Hoodies From Amazon back in 2012, playing board games have become a practical and entertaining way to not just stay connected with friends, but play with strangers and learn new skills.
6 – e-Sports
The act of simply watching someone else play video games is now its own major phenomenon. A huge online community is devoted to e-Sports in which audiences watch gamers playing games as if they were at a football match or cheering on gladiators in a ring. There’s a fair amount of at-home viewing as well – and since the rise of Twitch and similar channels, a video of someone playing a video game is now as simple as posting a smartphone video to YouTube.
5 – Anime
Pretty much any kind of pop culture lives online now, where anyone and everyone can discuss and share what they like as well as easily find more of it. This has given rise to certain niche trends becoming global phenomena – MIT’s associate professor Ian Condry notes that Japanese anime is a “wildly popular global export” precisely because it embraces a “collaborative creativity” – encouraging and accepting input from fans. The traditional receptivity of anime creators to outsider feedback has attracted a loyal and passionate audience from wherever global exposure online can transport it.
4 – Fantasy Literature
The HBO series Game of Thrones reigns supreme today, but society’s greater acceptance of fantasy storytelling really began back in 2001, when Hollywood’s cinematic adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s fantasy epic, The Lord of The Rings, first hit theatres. Reading, discussing and debating about Tolkien’s work was essentially uncool previously to the films, but Hollywood’s take on Tolkien dramatically altered pop culture – 3 extraordinary films and 17 Academy Awards later.
3 – Wearable Electronics
The wearable calculator was once the perfect way to identify a nerd, but now wearable tech seems to be everywhere. Modern electronics evolved to offer numerous ways to enrich users’ lives by wearing technology, and the tech industry took notice. Business experts expect this market to triple over the ten years following 2015 calculations, which would make wearable electronics a $74 billion market by 2025. Gartner, Inc. estimated that smartwatches alone would generate over $28 billion in revenue by the end of 2016.
2 – Instant Messaging
The granddaddy of text messaging came in the form of IRC client-server software, which evolved into networks where people could communicate through servers all around the world. By the mid-’90s, while the “cool crowd” went out to socialize, the geeks would stay home and chat with other people through these new avenues of communication (often while trading funny cat pictures, of course). But not only is connecting in this way fashionable, but it’s also pretty much the preferred means of reaching out to someone in our day and age.
1 – Graphic Novels
The strangest story here definitely involves graphic novels: anyone over the last decade probably noticed the massive boom in Hollywood superhero movies with billions of dollars and some of the world’s greatest film talent involved in projects based on well-known but quintessentially geeky comic books. This particular bubble however, may have already burst: declining ticket sales and critics claiming the overall diminishing quality indicates that the golden age of graphic novel film adaptations may indeed be over. That said, long-standing box office domination has permanently destroyed the idea that enjoying graphic novels was inherently uncool.
Witnessing several industries transition from nerdy to cool, and working to understand why it happens makes for a more open-minded pop culture society for the next generation. This generation already learned from its predecessors just how drastically technology can alter the popularity of certain hobbies, but even the most business-savvy professional cannot predict the future. In 1943, then-president of IBM Thomas Watson predicted that there would only be a global market “for maybe five computers,” but his former company raked in over $100 billion in revenue for computer products in 2015 alone.