Do glasses still equal nerdy?

Melanie brought this up on the facebook page, which reminded me that I’d wanted to write about this very thing.

A couple of weeks ago, we were out shopping for more shirts for Zoe, since she’s recently gone through a growth spurt.  We went in to Children’s Place, and Chris immediately noticed a shirt with a drawing of a girl’s face wearing sparkly pink glasses.  He pointed the shirt out to Zoe, who was also taken by it.  I rifled through the pile to find the right size, and picked it up and my heart sank.

When we first saw the shirt, we’d only seen the face, not any of the text.  The word “nerdy” hit me in the gut.  Especially since it was clear that the very bright glasses were tied to that word (both are even in pink).  But I was torn, I wasn’t sure how to address it with Zoe, who was still excited about the shirt, and I kept thinking maybe I was being too sensitive.  Long story short, we came home with the shirt, though Zoe hasn’t worn it yet, and now I’m not sure I want her to.  I know that in some ways, nerdy is considered cool now, but I hate that glasses are tied in to the nerdiness.  Glasses have nothing to do with IQ or social awkwardness, or anything other than difficulty seeing without them.  I had thought maybe we were past that – that glasses are common enough that they aren’t seen as a symbol of the nerd.  I loved Melissa’s point in her Eye Believe post about how J.K. Rowling gave her hero glasses, rather than the smart girl or the nerd.

So what do you think?  Do glasses still equal nerdy?   What other non-nerdy characters (especially kids characters) wear glasses?

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18 responses to “Do glasses still equal nerdy?

  1. The 10th doctor in Doctor Who. David Tennant said that he wanted the doctor to have glasses to give kids with glasses someone to identify with.

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      • I remembered it came up in one of the books about the series. “‘The glasses’, says David, ‘were one of those things that just kind of arose. As we put together the look, it was becoming this sort of geek-chic thing, it seemed to make sense to add a pair of specs to that. There was one point where I was thinking about having them on all the time, but that got a bit of resistance from some people, and maybe they were right, I don’t know. I quite like the idea of there being a speccy hero; I mean it certainly hasn’t done Harry Potter and harm. And maybe because I grew up “speccy four eyes” in school, I would have quite liked to have had support from the Doctor on that. It just seemed right.’ I think it came up in the episode commentary for Tooth and Claw as well. (No I don’t have a crush on David Tennant, definitely not, no I don’t)

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  2. I have a 7-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy in glasses and have seen these shirts around everywhere – Target, Children’s Place, Justice, even The Disney Store with Mickey and Minnie called Nerdy with glasses! I’m appalled by them and think they are terrible! I have even been tempted to write to some of these companies and ask them what their point in printing something like this is. I can’t think of a single instance where nerdy is a positive word. And why put a word like that with a picture of someone or something in glasses and just give kids more of a reason to call a child with glasses nerdy?!? I won’t buy them, but I will buy the shirts that say Worldly & Wise with an owl with glasses or one with a giraffe in glasses that says Smart & Cute – LOVE those kinds of shirts! And just to be fair to Children’s Place, I found an adorable shirt with 4 pairs of sparkly glasses on a t-shirt that I got for my daughter that doesn’t say anything about nerdy! She wore it to her eye appt. a few weeks ago and was the talk of the office!

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  3. I met a very nice lady recently who meant well but what she said to my son was a little odd. She said, “I love your glasses you must be really smart!” My son looked at her confused and just shrugged his shoulders. Even at 7 years old my son thought it was odd to relate wearing glasses to IQ. I had thought too that the connection between IQ, Nerdiness and glasses was no longer but I guess not. We didn’t make a big deal of it though and it didn’t seem to really bother my son.

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  4. We saw one at Target of a cute chick with adorable glasses – “Nerdy Chick”
    COME ON??? These are children, why in the world would stores stock this stuff? Why would any parent buy it? and Why would anyone design this for little girls? =( So sad that society has resulted to teaching our youth to label and name call. No wonder we have problems with bulling in the schools.

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  5. totally agree! Why on earth would someone design such silly shirts, especially for children. For goodness sake. I certainly would not buy one for my daughter. We also get the “I love your glasses, they make you look so smart!!” comments. I think if you are going to have a slogan on a t-shirt with a child in glasses make it a really positive one. :). Funnily enough I never connect the glasses and nerdy thing! Didn’t that go out long ago?! Glasses frames are so trendy these days and are a fashion accessory. Why do some people continue to put that slant on them? Aggh gets me annoyed! ok I’ve had my vent lol…..

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  6. As a professional copywriter, I view this as tired, lazy, and outdated. As a parent of a child in glasses, I think it’s just awful and out of touch with reality! I think we should design our own T-shirt. What do you think?

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  7. I have to agree with you on this, Ann. It seems as though I’ve come across more shirts lately that show figures or animals with glasses but am so disappointed when “nerd” is used. I won’t buy those for my daughter either. I will have to say, though, that I ordered Emma a really cute tee from Kohl’s just today with a cat wearing pink glasses and the phrase “Super Cool”. She adores cats so it was perfect. = )

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  8. I wonder if the recent rise in these phrases is because of the rising trend towards nerdy=geeky=cool, for adults at least. If we can’t get rid of the 1950s stereotype of the white male scientist in a lab coat, I think unfortunately equating glasses with IQ has a long way to go. In some sense, I’d like to think that’s why geeky has become cool, because smart is becoming cool. That said, indeed these are not stereotypes we want promulgated to our children (or anyone else).

    @Hazel, thanks for sharing that tidbit about David Tennant. Not that I could love him any more, but that makes me even more fondly remember all the moments he pulled out those clunky glasses to take a closer look. At least there are a few models like that we can point to.

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  9. I think the term nerdy has evolved. I looked it up on wikepedia and was fascinated by it’s origins and connotations both negative and positive. I also think of Weird Al’s White and Nerdy song which is awesome. So I don’t feel nerd is always negative but the t-shirt’s wording of “nerdy BUT cute” makes it clear that it’s negative by putting the BUT in there.

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  10. I went back and listened to the episode commentary again and David Tennant said “I like the idea of the Doctor wearing glasses, I like the idea of him being the hero for all the speccy kids in school because I was one of those speccy kids, so it means a lot to me”. I love that and it certainly would have helped me when I was 7 years old and the only kid in the class with glasses.

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  11. I say write the company. I agree with the comments above, it clearly is a negative thing they are saying. I don’t get why someone thinks a child with glasses would want to wear it. I think the people designing and buying these shirts has clearly never had a child with glasses.

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  12. I too think these shirts are terrible. My daughters cousin was wearing the one with the chick in glasses that says “nerdy chicks rule” and I was so appauled by it. I told her mother that I didn’t like the sterotype and she just said her daughter liked it. I guess she didn’t think it was a big deal since her daughter doesn’t wear glasses. I guess I’ll just have to get my daughter a shirt that says “blondes have more fun” and see how she likes that. Not quite the same thing but close enough to make a point. We’ll see if she gets it.

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  13. i dont even mind the nerdy thing. glasses, no glasses, i think nerdy is actually pretty “in” right now. what i dont get is why it says nerdy BUT cute. like, u cant be both? is nerdy or glasses not cute? it seems like more of a dis to being “nerdy” than to wearing glasses. either way, i dont think its the right kind of message

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  14. I find this t shirt offensive. How can you equate nerdy with wearing glasses? I think this shirt should be withdrawn.

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