Nerds

This is Jarvis Cocker: etiolated, goggle-eyed, gangly, appallingly dressed, but still, incontrovertibly, a sex symbol. Jessica Berens thrills at the rise of the unlikely lads

Nerdery is upon us. Look around. Observe that no self-respecting male is complete without eyewear last seen on Brains from Thunderbirds; no fashion pages are complete without a quota of checked shirts, kipper ties, zip-up drip-dry jackets, plaid pants, striped tank tops and leather monk sandals. And then consider Jarvis Cocker.

Jarvis, 31, no relation to Joe, is the lead singer of Pulp. Tall - 6ft 4 - thin, unco-ordinated, Cocker (thanks to a hit with "Common People") is known as rock's Mr Sex. Looking like a cross between a stand-up comedian and a gannet, he is a welcome and long-awaited foil to the absurdities of machismo, standing testament to the truth that animal magnetism is unrelated to the number of hours spent on a rowing machine.

Cocker's erotic appeal is founded on genuine love of women teamed with an unbounded desire to be funny, dress up and show off. Pulp have released many albums over the years but it is Jarvis's clothes that collect the column inches. At a concert in aid of Shelter he caused "widespread outrage" by sporting pink slacks, plastic sandals and a satchel. At Glastonbury an orange and yellow striped shirt was found to be in volatile relationship with a brown pin-striped jacket. One journalist who met him could not help noticing that his outfit comprised the following: "a knee-length fake fur coat, a tartan scarf, a tweedish jacket with leather detail, an oil-slick-slinky purple shirt, burgundy needle-cords, pointed, stack- heeled banana-hued cowboy boots and plastic-rimmed glasses the size, shape and weight of shop windows".

The combination is compelling. Women know they would have fun with Jarvis; he is unpredictable without being dangerous, clever without being pretentious. Most important of all, he would never be a bore. These are his attractions and they set him apart from the biohazards that populate his milieu. The successful geek knows that his peculiarities are his advantages but that it takes courage to sell them. The successful geek can be ill-proportioned, pale or mad, he can be almost anything, but he cannot be a victim. As a child he might have been called Speccy and the contents of his lunchbox would have been thrown around the playground; as an etiolated teenager he probably read Rimbaud and had sand kicked up his nose. Now he is a sex symbol.

"It's like this," Cocker explained to the Face. "There's something freakish about you, so you either consign yourself to the margin of society or think of it as unique. I was amazed when I first saw a picture of Jean-Paul Sartre. The first thing I thought was boss-eyed get! You know? Very ugly man. One eye's looking over here and one eye's way over there. I thought if he can get over that, which is generally a bit of a no-no as far as going out with girls is concerned, then there's a chance for me."

There is indeed a chance for Jarvis. And not only for Jarvis but for Jarvis's ilk. There has always been room for decrepitude in that frightening netherworld known as popular culture. David Byrne, thin-necked, wild-eyed, weird as hell, delivered "Psycho Killer" as if he was one; Elvis Costello pursued the Buddy Holly line in four-eyed puniness. And then there was Morrissey, Manc poet and archetypal anti-hero. They paved the way. Who knows how it started but the winds of modernity are pushing the underdog forward. He could be a product of feminist terrorism or slacker demographics or something as simple as the street fashion for skatewear. It is difficult to be certain of his origins, but the nerd has become an icon.

Witness the recent success of Weezer, a group of self-confessed American dorks who wore anoraks and sold a million albums. The adulation of Blur makes an unlikely guitar hero of Graham Coxon who, despite wearing T-shirts emblazoned cheryl, is known as the God of Mod. This summer will also see the rise of Dennis Pennis. Pennis, the creation of actor Paul Kaye, has orange hair, an outrageous American accent, terrible neon shirts, and an interview technique that got him ejected from a party to celebrate the Elite model agency's Face of the Year - Pennis thought the winner's nose was on the large side and told her she looked as if she had been stabbed in the face with French bread. Since then he has been employed on his own TV series, Pennis Pops Out.

The last word must go to Bill Gates, Mr Super Nerd himself. "I am not sure what the word `nerd' means," he said recently. "I'm fascinated by science and computers so you can hand me a book on biotechnology and I'll go into a room for five hours and read it and I'll come out laughing. I haven't seen a lot of other people do that so I suppose that's unusual and there must be a label for it..."

The personal fortune of the chairman of Microsoft is said to total $9 billion. Look out the window. The weeds are taking over the garden

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
stoptober... when the patch, gum and cold turkey had all failed
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    LSA Level 3 required in Caerphilly

    £50 - £60 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job: O...

    Welsh Year 6 Teacher required in Barry

    £100 - £110 per day + Plus travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...

    Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Welsh Teacher Year 2 required in Caerphilly

    £100 - £105 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?