Nerd or maverick?

A while back, in the Admiral’s Club at Laguardia airport, a youngster caught my attention. He was a regular looking kid, a bit disheveled in his ill-fitting blue sweatshirt and no-name blue jeans. But something else marked him apart: he was wearing a striped cap with a propeller on top!


I remember thinking to myself: he’s safe here but that goofy cap would be a death sentence in the schoolyard. At least, in the public schools I attended. I mean, what symbolizes dork more than a beanie with a propeller on top? It’s a nerd icon from when nerds were at their nerdiest. Spanky wore one on the ancient TV show, The Little Rascals.

Spanky and his pals…

Anyway, the lad sat down in front of a house computer and began doing his thing. Again, like any other kid. But I still couldn’t get over his crazy chapeau. Remarkable, in this day and age, an adolescent boy wearing something so silly… in public! He might as well have had a “Kick Me!” sign affixed to his back. I decided to sneak a picture. I didn’t want to mock him as a person (I’m not a total ass) but I did want to document his most anti of fashion statements. I uploaded the anonymous photo on Facebook, adding my line about the schoolyard.

The comments came quickly. While some were snide (like mine) most were deeply supportive of the Beanie Boy. Here’s a perfect example from a Facebook friend, Brian Collins:

I think the kid is astounding. He is wearing it with some pride. And it looks like it’s motorized. Even better. If this makes the kid happy that’s perfect. And he looks deeply engaged on the web, too. Great.

What we don’t need are any more cookie cutter kids dressed in oversized nylon football jerseys, cocked baseball caps and ratty jeans with their lifeless eyes glued to ESPN.

Go, beanie boy, go!

Upon further consideration, Brian is right. My knee-jerk reaction was shortsighted, even ignorant. The Beanie Boy is not a dork. Frankly, he’s anything but. He’s a maverick and a rogue, a lad who’s not afraid to defy convention.

Last blog post, I compared the typical ad agency creative department to Romper Room. I wrote: “the older I get the more I realize how important it is to stay connected with my “inner child.” The best creative people do not grow out of it when they grow up. We remain inquisitive. Lovers of fun. You see it in our bicycles in the hallway. Our dubious wardrobes. Our playlists. Our silly snapshots on Facebook.”

photo copy 8
My inner child’s orange shoes and vintage 10-speed!

Indeed, defying convention is what makes us creative. I don’t want to lose that. Ever. And so, young admiral from the Admiral’s Club, I echo the words of my wise friend, Mr. Collins and the champions of creativity everywhere: “Go, beanie boy, Go!”

Author’s note: I discovered and wrote about the Beanie Boy over a year ago. For me, he never gets old.