The triumph of the nerds: Geek chic!

They're hardly classic pin-up material, so why are women falling for them?

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The Independent Online

Blessed are the geeks, for they shall inherit the earth. Well, catch the eye of admirers, at least. Open many a magazine and newspaper and it is specs, rather than pecs, that are increasingly earning unsuspecting men the title of the nation's latest pin-up.

Step forward The Choir's Gareth Malone, whose prime-time antics on the BBC teaching Brits to sing – most recently military wives, who are now vying for the Christmas No 1 spot – have attracted plaudits and, apparently, raised a few heart rates in the process. Not having watched his on-screen exploits, I can't really see it myself but a brief, highly unscientific straw poll in the office proves me wrong. Nice guy and mums' favourite Malone is, it seems, the crush du jour.

And he is not the only geek to claim that crown this year. You only had to glance at Twitter during the seventh series of The Apprentice this summer to realise that there was a lot of love in the ether for the eventual winner, bespectacled inventor Tom Pellereau. The result was claimed as a kind of victory for nerds everywhere. Then, of course, there is TV's particle physicist – and former D:Ream keyboard player – Professor Brian Cox, who has done wonders in boosting interest among women in the stars (those in the sky that is; not D:Ream).

There is even some, er, evidence to back up our collective geek love-in. Celebrity magazine Heat's annual Weird Crush list – compiled from readers' admissions of unlikely lust – is topped this year by Richard Osman. He is the bloke off the BBC teatime general-knowledge quiz show Pointless, co-presented by Alexander Armstrong; the one with all the answers. Other nerds gracing the top 20 include "new entry" Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne at number 15 (really?!), and shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, who has moved up one place since last year to 16 (again, really?! No offence, Yvette). Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg are 14th and 13th, respectively. I think the readers of Heat and I will just have to agree to disagree.

Of course, the rise of the geeks doesn't mean women are suddenly steering clear of men with muscles and good looks galore. The heart-throb statuses of Hollywood A-listers Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and George Clooney are pretty safe for now. But, thanks perhaps to our propensity to share just about everything through social networking sites, our so-called "weird" or guilty crushes seem to be less secret now. Rather than confiding in friends, people are sharing with the Twittersphere, and finding they are not alone in their fancies. And let us not forget that geekdom is not limited to the male of the species: there are plenty of female nerds out there too.

Naturally, liking geeks is nothing new. I'll admit that, back in the day, I had a youthful crush on the TV character Doogie Howser MD (the 16-year-old doctor prodigy). And, as a teenager, it was Dean Cain's TV portrayal of the character Clark Kent that piqued my interest far more than his performance as Kent's alter ego, Superman. (Admittedly, that may be because Superman used far too much hair gel for my liking. Sure, it probably made him more aerodynamic, but is there really any need for so much grease? I think not.) While Malone, Pellereau and co are often labelled as "unlikely" pin-ups, is it really that surprising that women are attracted to intelligent, articulate, nice, kind men, who are not unattractive?

You definitely don't need to be a nerd to work that one out. And who knows what lies beneath those geeky specs, bowties and suits?