As a geek, the ultimate fashion accessory – perhaps item – is the laptop. If you don’t even have a laptop, whao-boy, it’s time to figure out how the door-man let you in.
Let’s start from the beginning: laptop selection.
Sorry, Old Faithful Don’t Fly with the geekinistas
The first trap here is to use whatever PoS your place of employment has assigned you. More than likely, something along the lines of a Dell Crapititude 3000:
While there’s a certain utilitarian, Sam Walton business efficiency (why get your own room when you could share one with Harry from accounting?!) feel to Dells for the purpose at hand, brining a Dell is like declaring to the world: “I don’t give a crap about my primary tool, I shop off the rack. Quit lookin’ at me, I gotta go write some Excel macros.”
Lessons from My Sister
Now, we all know your company is going to be too cheap to buy you a better machine. You’re gonna have to lay out your own cash. I know, it just doesn’t make sense. But, it’s like my older sister told me once when I watched her wincing at cutting away her cuticles and asked why she did it if it hurt, “well, Mikey, being beautiful is painful.”
Indeed, get ready to pull out your credit card. Let’s hope the mag-strip still works.
Above the Crapititude 3000, there’s a fork in the road: you go Thinkpad or your go Apple.
If you’re lucky, your work will supply you with Thinkpads. The question here will be if you get the standard issue, 15″ Thinkpad, or you can customize it down to a tiny one. The tinier your Thinkpad, the better. Again, the point of the laptop as accessory is to say, “I put a lot of thought and effort into this.” A tiny Thinkpad will always draw lots of ooo’s and ahh’s from the geekinistas. The best result however, is that insider winking nod from a fellow tiny Thinkpad-ite.
Also, be sure to talk about the trackpoint all the time:
Say things like, “oh, Nadia and Larry, you know I’d use an Mac if only they’d have a trackpoint! I needs my trackpoint. I just can’t figure out that nasty trackpad.”
Which brings us to option two: Apple.
First let me say that there is only one option if you’re going to go Apple: get the full-blown silver ones, the MacBook Pro. I mean, sure, you can get the plastic, black case. But that just says, “Waaa! I didn’t want to needlessly spend more money for something that looks better! Waaa! (Where’s my FileMaker 2003 Developer Conference shirt?!)”
Now, there’s the chance to go retro here with 12″ PowerBooks. They don’t make tiny MacBook Pro‘s, so you if you’re the kind of person who likes to talk about Joust and how awesome Atari was – ugh – you can complete your whole “pop-culture stopped for me in 1987” thing with a 12-incher. This is respectable until Apple comes out with a similar offering in the Pro line. Milk it while you can if you need something edit your Gobots en Legos reenactments with.
One final note: soon, I’m sure we’ll se the OLPC showing up:
My advice: save the pioneering to the Tommy Bahama, mid-life crisis geek-set. See how they manage to work it in instead of taking the early risk yourself. This DFoF advisor rates it as a neutral for now.
Showing up with a naked laptop is like showing up, well, naked. What am I talking about here? Stickers. That’s right. It’s not just for people who carve their own glasses frames anymore.
As a practitioner, I’m a rank amateur here. The field is wide open, and, except from people like Andy Rooney in training Zed Shaw — kisses! — stickered laptops will get you geek-fashion points no matter how crappy you are at it.
That is, there’s a fabulous fashion arbitrage window open at the moment: you need no skill to look good with laptop stickers! That window is probably fast closing, so get in while you can.
With that said, let’s consider the thinking-process for selecting stickers. In general, you can divide it up into 3 methods of stickering:
The Jackson Pollack, aka, The Cubical Punk, aka, The Sticker Harlot
This is the style where-in you just keep layering anything with adhesive on one side and something (preferable) outrageous on the other side (a sticker). There’s no need to worry about alignment, or even covering up stickers – you’ll be getting so many stickers that there’ll always be something new on the top layer.
So called “creatives” should look into this style. Also, consultants who are supposed to bring “a fresh look” or know what “The Kids” are up to are strongly advised to Harlot it up.
The connoisseur’s question here is: do you cover up the laptop’s logo? The Apple has the glowing, well, Apple in the center. The Thinkpad throws its brand-sign on the corner. In general, my advice is don’t cover it. With few exceptions, your fashion-foo cannot defeat the those two brand titans. If you have a Crapititude 3000, cover that junk up like you’d cover a distended liver.
Pro-tip for Apple-ites: get one of these.
The Christo, aka, Full-Body Mod, aka, Old Laser Hide
When plastering your laptop with stickers just won’t do, there are other options: full encasements and laster etching.
More popular and available in Apple stores world-wide are the plastic encasements. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the plastic-wrapped-couch look when it comes to hardware. That crap is gonna get scratched, live with it.
Others love the “skins” for iPods, iPhones, and laptops. I begrudge them nothing.
First, you have the plastic exoskeletons, e.g., the Speck SeeThur. These comes in various colors – red, blue, purple – and give you laptop a sort of weird, but (I guess) cool look:
Then, you have the full-out stickers that cover the whole laptop:
Finally, there’s the “I subscribe to Make and laser etched my laptop look”:
This look has varying degrees of success, but mostly good because it’s so novel.
The Bukowski, aka, The Genius-Bum, aka, Leanin’ on a Lamppost
If you sort of don’t give a crap – you know, the whole “if you think I looked bad during the keynote, you should see me when I’m at home” set (big hugs!)- this is the Peacock Tail for you. I first encountered this when checking into my room for a consult up in Redmond when Danny Ayers came up to me and started enacting that old Oscar Wilde quote.
Once we sat down – Danny having pulled a bottle of wine off the wall and attempted to carve out its cork with some keys, finally just corking it so we could get a damn drink (the lobby wasn’t open in mid-afternoon on a Sunday for some crazy reason!) – I checked out his splendid Bukowski: it was splattered with an ubuntu sticker, a handful of airline bag check stickers (!), and what could best be described as “some other random crap.” It was style-genius!
While a good picture isn’t available, and I didn’t think to take one at the time, you can see a sort of tidier incarnation here.
However, we do have a great picture of Bruce Sterling‘s Bukowski:
As Sterling might say, “oh yeah…baby.”
The Mondrian, aka, The Anal, aka, The Middle-Ground
If you’re not for the “oops! I just spilled all these stickers on my laptop, golly!” look, you can go for the more well arranged look. It’s sort a mix of all of the above for the geekinistas wannabes – you know, like me:
Overlapping is allowed as needed, but definitely not encouraged. More importantly, there is only one layer of stickers. You must think before you stick a sticker, namely, “what does each sticker say about me? What story will I tell for each one?”
More than likely, the stickers will be tech related. Deviation into non-tech subjects is allowed, but you open yourself to being discovered as a poseur in that topic. If you find yourself trapped there, you can whip out, “oh! yeah! I just liked the way it looks. Gosh! Look at the time! I need to change my pants!”
The Most Important Accessory
While keeping your trousers cut right, or your jacket well seasoned with retro-hipster-Kiwi-itous is of great importance, the actual basis of your geekdome is, without question, one of the most important aspects of your look.
So be wise: get yourself a Thinkpad or an Apple, and stick something on it.
Whatever you do, though, avoid the death-stroke of the Peacock Tail: the solo business card. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen them at the airport security line. They tape their business card, and only their business card to their laptops.