July 21, 2006

Teen Taxonomy

(The following was written primarily by the Vampire, with a few pointers from Schooled friends and editing by his proud mum. It is intended to reflect the local teen species only, and as both local and exotic species may evolve and/or mutate spontaneously, this should not be taken as the penultimate study on the subject.)

Teens In the Wild

(A Social Study of Teen Social Groupings and Associated Behavior)


Geeks are considered social outcasts by most non-geeks. Geeks themselves, however, find this concept laughable. Far from being alone and friendless, geeks organize themselves in close-knit friends. These groups are often found sitting around tables, sharing food and participating in complex rituals involving role-playing, trading card games, and arguing out the merits of the philosophies espoused in Firefly vs. those in Star Trek. When alone, geeks often play video/computer games with skill unmatched by any other group.

Markers: Long hair, T-shirts bearing lengthy prose, ‘Gamer’s Slouch’
Favorite Quote: Geeks can quote from anything, and frequently do. At great length.
Jobs: Game Stores, Video Stores, Book Stores, Convention Hucksters
Heroes: Wil Wheaton, Joss Whedon, J.R.R. Tolkien
Music: Anything except Rap
Stores: GameStop, Borders, Wizards of the Coast


First Rule of Nerds: Never confuse them with Geeks. Call a nerd a geek, and you will wake up with your credit rating slashed.

The quickest way to tell if someone is a nerd or a geek is to confront them with an attractive person of the opposite sex. A nerd will turn into a stammering pile of Jell-O. A geek will mysteriously end up with a date for the weekend.

Nerds are basically walking brains with no fashion or social understanding. These kids are brilliant hackers, captains of their math and science teams, and holders of vast stores of memorized fact lists.

Markers: Hygiene issues, solitary habits, lack of matching socks
Favorite Quote: “Define Your Terms”
Jobs: Hacking… eventually, hiring other hackers
Heroes: Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Marshall from ‘Alias’
Music: Anything with complex patterns
Stores: Radio Shack, Ax Man, Circuit City


With dyed black hair (or in some cases, bald heads) and faces that look like they would crack if they smiled, emos could make a basset hound look cheerful. Any attempt at communication will be met with a withering glare that could curdle milk. Don’t even try to cheer them up, as they will find this act highly insulting. Emo fashion primarily consists of ‘two sizes too small’. The emo color palette is varied – it includes gunmetal gray, silver gray, slate gray, charcoal gray, lead gray, iron gray, blackish gray and (when they get really crazy) taupe. Emos think that terminal illness is Romantic.

Approach with caution.

Markers: Pale, quiet, frequently near tears… or possible psychosis.
Favorite Quote: “You’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” “I didn’t ask to be born”
Jobs: Dead End, particularly retail
Heroes: Edgar Allan Poe, Romeo & Juliet
Music: Evanescence, Rites of Spring (anything emotional, especially Punk)
Stores: Hot Topic, Goodwill, theatrical makeup outlets


Don’t let the monochromatic color scheme and heavy makeup fool you… Goths are nothing like Emos. While Emos would like to disappear, Goths force you to look at them by wearing flamboyant (black) clothing, dramatic makeup and hair, and enough metal ornamentation to set off detectors in the next county. While somewhat frightening at first glance, Goths are surprisingly innocuous and friendly once you get to know them. Preps and Goths are natural enemies.

Markers: Black clothing and hair, white skin, a tendency to lurk dramatically, jingle when they walk
Favorite Quote: “Leave me alone”
Jobs: Night Clubs, coffee bars, cafes
Heroes: the Vampire Lestat, Lenore/Roman Dirge, Tim Burton
Music: Bauhaus, Love & Rockets
Stores: Hot Topic, Claire’s, Theatrical costume and set auctions


Punks and their iPods are inseparable, and at times the iPods are more noticeable. Punks move in time to the music, slamming their heads all the way. These kids are the real Rebels Without a Cause, dressing so outrageously that they make Goths look merely drab. At night punks are usually found in nightclubs, slam dancing… yet somehow they manage not to fatally impale each other with their 3-foot-long spiked hair. Any skin or body part not covered by hair or makeup will be heavily tattooed and/or pierced.

Markers: These people are loud, in both the auditory and the fashion sense
Favorite Quote: (random humming, occasional air drum/air guitar)
Jobs: Tattoo Artist, Body Piercing Specialist, Garage Band Member, Roadie
Heroes: Any garage band that is Big but not Too Big
Music: Green Day, Flogging Molly
Stores: Hot Topic, Great Clips. Saint Sabrina's Parlor In Purgatory


Preps are often rich, spoiled, arrogant - and very popular. Preps have highly sensitive social antennae, and are often the most influential forces in any school. Not only do they wear and embody the latest fashions, they often control them. Preps are attracted to positions of power in the student body: student council, yearbook committee, prom committee, etc. They are usually the nucleus in a surrounding cloud of hangers-on; cliques are the natural habitat of Preps, and they rule them with an iron… attitude. Prolonged exposure to Prep Society often leaves the sufferer with a debilitating inferiority complex.

Markers: Wears the latest fashion. Surrounded by cringing toadies.
Favorite Quote: “What are you wearing?” (inflection is everything)
Jobs: Trendy Retailers Everywhere
Heroes: Paris Hilton. That’s it.
Music: American Idols, the Top 20 pop songs
Stores: American Eagle, Forever 21, designer outlets, Mall of America


The only thing that can control a prep is a jock. Primarily male, the jocks are the big, strong, athletic masters of sports… and of their personal universe. While not always as dumb as the cliché would have it, their GPA will never be as high a priority as their ERA. Handsome and sometimes charming, their heightened testosterone levels can lead to trouble for Beta Males and the more suggestible sort of female. Physically and socially, these guys are all about pecking order – geeks and nerds need not apply, just simply get to the end of the line.

Markers: Sports/letter jackets in school colors with double-digit numbers, trendy-but-short haircuts, known by name at the local gym
Favorite Quote: “I won that”
Jobs: Flexible, so as to leave time for practice and competition
Heroes: Sports stars. Themselves.
Music: ‘Jock Rock’, anything that would sound good coming out of a stadium loudspeaker
Stores: Authentic Sports, The Twins Store (or other official sports team’s outlet)


Another primarily male group. Greasers might have made good jocks, if they had been coordinated and socially adept enough. Greasers spend all of their free time waxing, detailing, tinkering with, or showing off their cars. Girls are interested in cars as status symbols, and Greasers often have good ones… but it’s hard to pry their attention away from their One True Love.

Markers: Oily stains, obsession with engine parts, distracted expression
Favorite Quote: “Huh?”
Jobs: Garages, Auto Parts stores
Heroes: Nascar racers, stunt drivers
Music: the hum of a well-oiled machine
Stores: Auto dealers, junkyards, auto parts stores


Deliberately intimidating figures, gangstas travel in small sullen-looking packs and wear clothes that are loose enough to lead more timid types to suspect that they might be concealing weapons - such as a pistol, a knife, or a diamond-studded missile launcher. Gangstas wear jewelry that can be easily spotted by orbiting satellite systems (‘bling’), and are often prematurely deaf due to frequently indulging a generous impulse to share their favorite music with everyone within a ten-mile radius.

Markers: Scowls, hats worn backwards or low over eyes, toddler-like gait due to pants crotches hitting at knee-level
Favorite Quote: … (scowl) …
Jobs: We’re afraid to ask
Heroes: Tupac Shakur
Music: Rap
Stores: Wal-Mart, Sears

Systemite (see Prep)

These innocents make up a large part of the prep’s toadying mob. Conformists through and through, systemites usually come in two flavors: Prep Wannabe’s or Teacher’s Pet. Systemites just want to please, so they are happy to do whatever anyone wants them to do. They have the intestinal fortitude of Kleenex, and about as much individuality. Their expression is similar to that of a rabbit confronted by a snake, and their posture cries out, “I’m sorry I got in your way…”

Markers: Nervous twitch, tendency to become invisible when there’s something better to do (
See Prep)
Favorite Quote: “What do you think?” (See Prep)
Jobs: Whatever they’re told to do (
See Prep)
Heroes: Whoever is in Authority (See Prep)
Music: Top 20 Pop - how can that many people be wrong? (See Prep)
Stores: Wherever their Hero shops (see Prep)


Retro Hippies, their life cycles between two states: High, and Passed Out. Their expression is generally amiable, as is their speech – if you can figure out what they are meaning to say. Stoners like colorful clothing that is easy to find and identify if they happen to take it off and wander away for a little while. Generous to a fault, stoners are happy to give you anything they have, although they can’t quite identify exactly what that might be at any given moment, or where it came from.

Markers: Long hair, tie-dyed clothing, total lack of focus or direction, random fits of giggling, uneven appetite, extreme gullibility
Favorite Quote: “Really?”
Jobs: you’re kidding, right?
Heroes: The Bobs: Bob Marley, Silent Bob
Music: Reggae, World Music, Pink Floyd
Stores: Twisted Groove, Electric Fetus, Ellis Drum Shop


Stoners without the charm, generosity, or Connection to the Universe. Burnouts are the early or soon-to-be Homeless, and unlike stoners they also have no spiritual home. Their attitude tends to be one of ‘offence is the best defense,’ seemingly wanting to reject the world before it can officially reject them. Burnouts sometimes hang out in groups, but don’t seem to like each other much, often seeming to use each other for Rejection Practice. Where stoners use drugs to become one with the Universe, burnouts use drugs in order to avoid it.

Markers: Head hunched into shoulders, clothes and hair ragged, grunts when spoken to
Favorite Quote: (too rude to transcribe)
Jobs: Kitchen work, janitorial, manual labor
Heroes: None, on principle
Music: Rock, Heavy Metal
Stores: Army Surplus, Goodwill, dumpsters


The Don’s full title is short for ‘Don Juan de Marco’, also known as ‘Casanova’. Dons dress well, smell good, have at least a passing acquaintance with the arts, are either smooth or smoldering in style, and see the world as an ocean of romantic/sexual possibilities. These guys have social antennae that are as sensitive as those of the preps, but the focus for Dons is primarily on pleasing (at least for a short time) the latest Conquest. They have the Hunt and the Capture (and the Release) down to a fine art, so although on the surface they get along well enough with other guys, eventually they end up ‘poaching’ on too many territories and earn fairly universal resentment from the rest of the male population. Which explains why Dons rarely stay in one environment for very long.

Markers: Good looking, well groomed (even if ‘bad boy’ style don), fashionable, great eye contact, alert to surroundings. Cool.
Favorite Quote: “I’m not totally over her… yet”
Jobs: Actor, Model, Lead Singer in Band
Heroes: Himself, of course
Music: Whatever works
Stores: Whatever is In this week


The loner is just as he or she sounds. Loners stay in the background, they don’t mix with others, and when approached tend to put potential friends off by being either prickly and surly or silent and dull. Their reasons for being loners varies… sometimes it’s a matter of preference, and sometimes it’s a matter of being ostracized, but by the time they are teens it’s become habitual. Loners by nature are not conformists, and so they don’t fall into any target marketing group.

Markers: Avoid human contact
Favorite Quote: “Hrmph”
Jobs: Graveyard shift, no customer service or teamwork
Heroes: “Hrmph”
Music: N/A (varies)
Stores: N/A (varies)


Blogger Tink said...

Wow. Very well written and accurate! At least to my knowledge.

It's only been 5 years since I got out of high school :).

Although I was never really in any of those groups. I was a social butterfly.

11:04 AM  
Blogger The Pirate said...

Kudo's for an outstanding work of prose - from a totally unbiased reader

3:28 PM  
Blogger mrspao said...

I love it - thankfully I never managed to fall into any of these categories when I was a teen! Well done, Vampire!

12:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent! Astute, well-written taxonomy of Two Cities area teens.
But if these are teens in the wild...
what are CAGED ones like!?
auntie e, suitably edified and sobered


12:20 AM  
Blogger aija said...

Hiya! You've won the Interlacements Merino Worsted in my little contest :) Drop me a line w/ your mailing particulars & I'll get it in the post to you :)


6:02 PM  
Blogger Snooze said...

Congrats on the win and thanks so very much for eloquently explaining the world according to my 18yo son. I now almost understand. He thinks I could never understand. But if the roles were reversed, would he have a clue?

I think not.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

Maybe it's just been too long since I was in HS, but much of what is attributed to geeks here was attributed to nerds when I was a kid. Particularly the scifi philosophy debates and the role playing. And the hacking you attribute to nerds was attributed to geeks.

Also, we would have laughed at any "punk" privileged enough to have an iPod, let alone dumb enough to be seen wearing one.

8:48 AM  

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