Whatever the reason, being a nerd, a geek, a dork — whatever you want to call the tragically unhip — is becoming a source of pride.
Case in point: Steffi Weiss, a 15-year-old in the Chicago suburb of Lake Zurich, who plays violin in the school's orchestra.
This spring, she and a friend bought black mesh sports jerseys — something like the football team's — and added "ORCH DORKS" in white letters on the front, their last names on the back and their instrument on the sleeves (VLN I, for first violin, in Weiss' case).
"We used to not be able to stand the fact that we were in orchestra," says Weiss, who's been playing the violin since fourth grade and proudly wore the shirt to her high school this year. "Finally, we realized that's where all our friends are and that's where we have the most fun.
"So why not just say we're dorks?"
There was a time when teens who tried something like that would have been asking for some serious goofing. But today being smart and sensitive, even a little socially awkward, is often considered cool — and the signs are everywhere.