There's a fine line between "nerd culture" and "people and products you're ashamed to be associated with." For every legitimately awesome geeky product there's some hack writing "The cake is a lie" on a coffee mug, because a marketing executive figured out that idiots will buy anything with references to nerdy pastimes slapped on them. "I've discovered a way to make people pay 20 dollars to be reminded of a thing they like," the exec said, and then business students began worshipping him as a dark god.
That's how we ended up with the following gifts, which are sold by shameless culture war profiteers and bought by people who claim to watch My Little Pony ironically even after they're caught masturbating to it. Whenever we geeks gain too much mainstream credibility these products appear to put us in our place, and buying one as a Christmas gift is the adult equivalent of telling a child that Santa doesn't exist.
8. Geeky Shirts
When it comes to geeky shirts the "actually looks cool and stylish" to "screams 'I am socially awkward'" ratio is about one to a dozen. But I'm not here to give you fashion advice, and not just because that would make me vanish in a puff of irony. I'm here to plead with you to not gift a shirt featuring a nerdy reference that will be obsolete by the time you're done recycling the paper it was wrapped in. I'm looking at you, people who bought Digg HD-DVD code shirts.
2013's worst offender for shirts with pop culture references that expire faster than leftover Chinese food is arguably Grumpy Cat. If you buy someone a Grumpy Cat shirt you're either buying them a rag or a bunch of questions from their confused relatives at the next family reunion.
Other forgettable Internet memes turned fashion disasters include Doge shirts, so you can immortalise the dark time when the Internet thought Shiba Inus talking like racist caricatures of Asian immigrants was funny, Sharknado shirts, in memory of the entertainment industry discovering that the Internet will get excited about anything if you purposely make it stupid enough, and anything involving twerking or the Harlem fucking Shake. Getting your friend a shirt that says "I Twerk with Miley Cyrus" or "#twerk-o-licous" is a either a roundabout way of saying you hate them or an admission that you learned everything you know about the Internet from local news television and are in desperate need of education.
You're going to make people hate adorable dogs. Is that what you want?!
7. Zombie Jerky
I've already discussed why the zombie fad needs to die, but even I didn't realize the true depths of the problem. But now I have seen the enemy, and it is zombie jerky.
Zombie jerky is "the world's first artificial green colored beef jerky," a claim that is somehow made with pride rather than the shame that it damn well should be. The jerky itself looks like someone blasted gummy worms with the same radiation that gave the Hulk his superpowers.
I don't mean to shock anyone, but nerds are perfectly capable of digesting ordinary food. We don't have to be tricked into eating with pop culture references. That's why we haven't dropped dead despite the absence of official Settlers of Catan wholewheat bread and Castlevania holy water. No demographic of the human population would be happy to get regular food turned the color of vomit in their stocking, and I'm not sure why anyone would think nerds would be an exception to that. We enjoy the traditional stocking stuffers of chocolate and booze as much as the rest of humanity, so please give us that instead of beef that could be mistaken for a fungus.
6. Bacon Tree Ornament
Speaking of overhyped nerd obsessions: bacon. Fucking bacon, you guys. We've elevated an average food to the status of a deity, and now we're paying for our sin of worshipping a false idol.
Bacon tastes good. I get that. But you're not clever for pointing out something the rest of the world already knows. Montreal smoked meat tastes good too, and you don't see anyone building a culture around it. Nobody's selling salami soap or ginger beef shaving cream, but apparently all the rules get thrown out whenever oversalted pig belly enters the scene.
The end result of this cultural downward spiral is a tree ornament that tells your friends and family that you're perfectly willing to ruin a holiday with your slavish dedication to a dumb Internet fad. If you gift this to someone they're going to spend the next year celebrating Kwanzaa.
5. Chicken Burger USB Hub
"As healthy as a PC gamer" is not a phrase you'll ever hear, at least not in a positive context. Nerds love junk food - this very site has a feature dedicated to reviewing it. Yes, I'm sure some of you subsist on tofu and kale chips, and I'm happy for you. The rest of us will be over here enjoying our delicious processed crap.
But even the most ardent McChicken fan doesn't need to be reminded of their favorite food with a USB hub. The vast majority of novelty USB hubs are ugly, oversized, and utterly pointless. The same site that sells the chicken burger also sells a potato that looks like a shriveled pigmy brain. Try to think of someone who would want that on their desk. Now try to think of someone who isn't a serial killer.
Get your nerd friend a USB hub that's functional and aesthetically pleasing, not one that reminds them of their bad eating habits. And for God's sake, do not get a novelty USB toy to plug into it. The USB pet rock, for example, is a joke that stops being funny by the time you finish reading the name. Even the seemingly cool stuff, like a USB nerf turret, tends to either break or become boring after a few days. You want to get a USB enabled gift? How about a nerdy flash drive, which can look cool but is actually functional and useful. Just make sure they aren't accidently creepy, like this one that makes you decapitate Mario every time you want to look at your files.