From Outcast to Awesome: 17 Famous Nerds Who Paved the Way

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hot-nerds-opener-gridIn a different age, the label Nerd induced visions of tapered, high-water jeans, thick-framed glasses, and preppy, ill-patterned shirts. Oh, the horror! Now, check out the East Village on a typical weekend and what are the most stylish gents donning? Why, tapered jeans, thick-framed glasses, and button-down shirts! My, my, my, how things have changed!

Now, the public perception of boys and girls who spend all their time on the Internet has shifted. Dorks no more, this fleet of dweeb-tastic movers and shakers has evolved into the realm of Neo-Nerd! Translation: A successful young go-getter braving the dangers of the cyber-frontier and looking good to doing it! But tech-heads aren't the only ones leading the geek-chic charge. Nerd style has been sweeping the streets in a major way, and although we hate to say it, we were way ahead of the curve on this one.

We'd much rather be sharing a glass of perfectly aged Pino Noir in our Second Life with one of these tech-savvy boys than spending $12 a drink with some greaseball at Beatrice in the real world. Here is a sample of the newest crop of digital dorks we've been crushing on, and the fashionytes that have so beautifully appropriated their style.

Read on for our list of the hottest nerds of all time...

The Neo-Nerds.


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Tom Anderson, Co-founder MySpace—He was our first internet love (OK, obsession), our first friend on MySpace and the man who acted as guide to the world of Web 2.0. Sigh. His smiling face (and plain white T-shirt) was always there when we signed in. We'll always have a special place in our heart for him. (pictured above, top left)

Jakob Lodwick, Founder Vimeo—He's the bad boy of the neo-nerds. He's like The Cobra Snake of the Silicon Valley crowd, a hipster who makes money off the web and uses it as a forum to spread his oh-so-coolness to the masses. Swoon. (pictured above, top middle)

Nate Silver, Statistician—He's so sexy that we don't even really understand what his job entails. We're just imagining romantic nights with him as we watch The City whilst he calculates the probability that our spawn will have his eyes and our hair. (pictured above, top right, photo via Blog Indecision)

Matt Buchanan, Associate Editor, Gizmodo— Because blogs are cool. And Gizmodo is the Refinery29 of the techie blog world. He could fix our computer and then some other stuff any day! (pictured above, bottom left)

Jack Dorsey, Founder, Twitter—With his steely blue eyes and shaggy hair, he's less of a neo-nerd and more of a model who just happened to start an online business model that is quickly sweeping the nation. Heck, even we got into it. The best part? You can Twitter-stalk his ass if you think he's playing the field behind your back. (pictured above, bottom middle, photo via Business Week)

Sam Stein, Huffington Post Reporter—He is striving to make online political reporting legit, and he's got that shy/quiet guy thing going on. He was the first web-based reporter called on by Obama during his first press conference. Presidential seal of approval? We're already doodling "Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Stein" on our notebook as you read this. (pictured above, bottom right)


The Fashion Nerds.


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Scott Sternberg, Designer, Band of Outsiders—Bow tie? Check. Sweater vest? Check. Glasses? Check. Sternberg's a member, if not one of the leaders, of the preppy faction of nerds, and his simple-chic take on college campus classics actually get us thinking that the library might just be the sexiest boite in town. (pictured above, top left)

Tina Fey, Multi-hyphenate—Tina Fey has never been part of the hip crowd, and for that we're lucky. Whether she's mocking politics or the TV industry, she's always classy and with a hint of stern schoolmistress, Fey makes geeky seem cheeky, all while balancing her seemingly never-ending duties as writer/producer/actress/mom/nerd goddess. And, we especially love that she brought on the sexy in Vanity Fair earlier this year. (pictured above, top middle, photo via Vanity Fair)

Wes Anderson, Director—Anderson's quirky films have stolen our hearts time and time again. A master of clever minutiae, his films are somehow both aloof and warm. They're what we wish life was like. His schoolboy style, signature look and circle of taste-maker friends is what really seals the deal, though. (pictured above, top right)

Iekeliene Stange, Model/Artsy Person—Stange may be a pretty face, but this Dutch beauty now dabbles in geeky pastimes like photography and painting. And as for this girl's quirky hodge-podge style? It's pretty undeniable that she is a stunningly gorgeous dork at heart. (pictured above, bottom left)

Thom Browne, Menswear Designer—If there has been a second-coming of the nerd, then Mr. Browne was definitely at the forefront of that movement. His drastic take on menswear tailoring, and now notoriously out-there showings have made him the fashion crowd's American messiah. When he first introduced the nerd staple of floodwater pants, no one could have guessed the geek-chic revolution that it started. (pictured above, bottom middle, his designs, bottom right)


The Geeks Who Paved the Way.


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To be fair, we feel that we must tip our hats to all the nerds of yesteryear who paved the way to today's nerd insurgency:

Michaelangelo—This dude was the ultimate know-it-all nerd, and we guess it paid off, since we still know who he is. He pretty much single-handedly created the template for shut-in bookworms for centuries to come. (pictured above, top left, image via The National Gallery)

Cameron Frye, Ferris Bueller's Day Off—This is one of our first memories of having a soft spot for the dorky dude. We know that compared to Ferris, he was supposed to be the forgettable techie BFF, but we couldn't help fall a little bit in love with him anyway. (pictured above, top middle )

Albert Einstein—We've been seeing too many wild mustaches around town to think that Einstein doesn't have anything to do with it. And those wacky hipster locks? Bedford Ave has nothing on this infinitely brilliant trailblazer. (pictured above, top right)

Ben Stein—Stein has made a name for himself in the American canon of dweebs. Few others can claim to having made a name in Hollywood solely on looking like someone you wouldn't want to hang out with. (pictured above, bottom left)

Richie Cunningham, Happy Days—Richie conjures up images of the typical '50s squeaky clean geek, and set forth a handbook for preppy-wear that's influence is felt even today. And talk about the nerd made good? Amid all that film biz slickness, Ron Howard still wears his geek-chic like a Hollywood pro. (pictured above, bottom middle)

Tina Brown, Editrix—Brown's insane resume, which boasts tenures at Vanity Fair and The New Yorker as well as her own mega-blog The Daily Beast, make most competitors' CVs look like classifieds ads. This English publishing nerd has a magical knack for whipping entire magazines—and now websites—into shape, and she has the numbers to prove it. We, though, just admire her subtle take on buttoned-up, UES chic. There's something to be said about a gal who loves a pencil skirt and classic white oxford, but always keeps her blonde locks just a little bit messy. (pictured above, bottom right)