The title of today’s post comes from a comment on Kotaku in response to pics from the upcoming Nintendo by Torrel clothing line. (More on Torrel and the line at this article from Black Enterprise.) In the words of Kotaku writer Michael McWherter, “Torrel LLC has taken the best of Nintendo, run it through the ‘urban market’ filter with plans to provide thousands of clothes-conscious gamers with over-sized and wildly tacky Nintendo authorized gear.”
The comments on the Kotaku post offer a glimpse into what gamers think about nerd apparel moving beyond web stores and Hot Topic and targeting youth demographics not typically thought of as geeky: Fashion-conscious, urban, Black youth. The reactions range from a number of derisive comments about “gangstas” to a few genuine (if usually reserved) expressions of approval. Some examples, out of order and context:
BY OKARI AT 10/17/07 07:43 PM
Me and my homies r gonna look so kewl wearing those clothes. Any1 who don’t like that is a fool.
Ugh, do we really need more kids wearing baggy clothes thinking that it’s cool?
BY ETERNALPLAYER2345 AT 10/17/07 07:44 PM
wow i sure hope my mario shirt doesnt get me shot now!
BY IGNATIUS AT 10/17/07 07:52 PM
[…] The sad thing is, […] as long as I’m not associated with the “STREET THUG WIGGA 4 LIFE” crap that seems to be prevalent nowadays, I’d gladly buy the Bowser and Mario Bros. sweatshirts.
BY SORIYA AT 10/17/07 08:01 PM
@FrigidAir44: Gangstas are NOT cool. Gangstas think nerd gear is cool. Which makes nerds cool. So basically nerds are awesome.
BY SPARX88 AT 10/17/07 09:51 PM
Ok being white and pretty much hating anything of the sort (i.e. rap, pants half-way down the ass, and pretty much anything else “gangsta”) I’m kinda feeling the NES pad jacket.
BY JONN AT 10/17/07 11:14 PM
[…] We are talking about people who are, almost by definition, idiots. They idolize Tony Montana, and honestly think those shirts are clever.
Perhaps I’m misjudging, but from here, the negative comments suggest some serious cultural intolerance and potentially a major double standard. I can’t reliably predict anything about the musical tastes of anyone commenting here, but it’s worth noting the popularity of nerdcore hip-hop acts at gaming cons like PAX. Why is it okay for gamers â€“ who are typically “white and nerdy,” in Weird Al’s words â€“ to appropriate urban Black culture, but it’s ridiculous when the transfer goes in the other direction (if we can even accept to begin with that pop imagery created by a Japanese company really belonged to the white and nerdy set to begin with)?
When commenter balls187 (who happens to be Black) actually offers a completely unapologetic, positive comment â€“ “That red bomb-omb shirt is win” â€“ it goes mostly ignored. I strongly suspect, though, that the people offering negative comments here don’t see their denigration as related to race at all, but about related to subculture. Commenter TheIrishNinja pipes up to agree with balls187, noting, “i hate it when anything hip-hop comes up on this site, i forget how many abject haters there are of an entire genre due to its radio exposure.” And Ignatius’s above comment about the “wigga” image suggests that his main concern with the clothing is that it would make him look like a member of a White subculture he wants no part of.
Do we buy that this is not about an ignorant, retrograde, or even racist understanding of Black youth culture, but simply a vehement disagreement in taste and style? That seems too convenient from where I sit, especially considering how easy it is to read this as members one self-styled resistive subculture completely discounting another based largely on appearance. By the same token, I do suspect that the group here has been no less critical of any number of products stereotypically coded as “White” that show up on the site. And, admittedly, I have heard (apocryphal?) stories about the origin of the baggy clothing style as being from prison culture, so perhaps one could argue that this is more a Bill-Cosby-style criticism of genuinely tragic and destructive values. Still, I can’t help but bristle at the way some comments affect poor diction and equate a popular style with veneration of criminals, if not outright criminal behavior. Shouldn’t that be the kind of stereotype gamers are sick of themselves? (I wish I could find a link to the old ThinkGeek shirt: “Guns don’t kill people. Kids who play video games kill people.”) Am I simply reading too much into this as I prepare to give a lecture tomorrow on the intersection between the nerd stereotype and racial identities?
Eventually, Torrel himself shows up and thanks everyone for the input. He also directly responds to one of the most frequent early criticisms from commenters about the embedded music on his site, which he acknowledges was a terrible idea. (If you want to engage with computer geeks in their domain, you must play by their rules or face their wrath.) Some commenters throw actual pointed suggestions then, which he also responds to graciously. I suspect things quieted down a bit when commenters realized the designer was listening in. Perhaps that is polite on the commenters’ part, but I would have liked to have seen where it was going to go from there.