“I’m 34 years old,” Chad C. from North Carolina tells me. “I made it through the ‘Hanging Chad’ years, and even the college years where ‘Chad’ was seen as an obnoxious frat-y guy like ‘Brodie’ or ‘Everett’ who played lacrosse and listened to Dave Matthews.” Neither of those things bothered him, because they never came up in his social circles of “nerds, gamers, metalheads and stoners.” Chad C. was never in a frat and never got into sports; he majored in English and played Magic: The Gathering and D&D.
Now, though, his name has taken on a connotation he cannot ignore. According to the involuntary celibate (or incel) community, a “Chad” is everything that’s wrong with the world (and men specifically).
As my colleague Miles Klee previously explained, “Like most incel jargon, the ‘Chad’ label is both wildly ambiguous and viscerally understood. There’s a sort of ‘I know one when I see one’ ethos to Chad identification. Nonetheless, assumption holds that Chad is conventionally attractive, enough so that his female counterpart, the ‘Stacy,’ will freely pleasure him … You or I, then, might imagine Chad as a muscle-y but unenlightened fellow — aka the popular jock.”
And so, Chad C. can no longer envision himself when he thinks of his name. Instead, his mind conjures up a “college-football-loving guy from a comfortable country-club background who studied business in school and cruised on to some internship at his father’s company.” Moreover, he adds, “I feel like I’m more likely to be judged by my name now that it’s been elevated to meme status in the social consciousness.”
In fact, with his entire sense of self shaken, he says he’s considering going by his middle name, Nathan. “Honestly, I don’t know how to feel,” he explains. “I’m just a normal dude. I’m not a ‘Chad’… But I am a Chad?”
Like Chad C., Chad P. from Canada also finds himself in a moment of self-reflection. “I’m not at all a douche,” he tells me. “If anything, I’m a really personable, approachable guy. I mean I definitely lean more masculine: I have tattoos and a short haircut, and I like sports and work in finance.” Still, he hardly thinks this makes him the bane of other men’s existence.
And while he, too, wonders whether people are judging him by his name, he tries to brush it off as an online-only phenomenon. “It’s just a group of losers reaffirming each other’s beliefs in an echo chamber,” he says. Admittedly, though, he adds, “The echo is very strong in that community.”
Chad L., who grew up just below Chad C. in South Carolina, says until recently the only reference he got with regards to his name was Tom Green’s character in Charlie’s Angels, “The Chad.” “That was the extent of unusual name recognition until the ‘Virgin vs. Chad’ meme came out,” he explains. “Shortly after that meme, people started referring to typical alpha males as Chads, [but] I’ve never really imagined myself to be a jock alpha male.”
Yes, he exercises and takes care of his appearance, but “in contrast to the incels’ Chad, I’m relatively shy, work in computer security, play video games, read comic books and watch geeky TV and movies.” He even loves to dress up in cosplay and go to comic book conventions. Which is the real reason he keeps in shape — he wants to appear as “heroic as possible,” something “the ‘m’lady’ fedora-wearing types” there go wild for.
“The incel community seems to gatekeep geek culture,” he continues. “But I’ll gladly school them with my esoteric knowledge of DC comics or deep Star Trek lore. The incel community is so determined to not take agency in the ‘involuntary’ aspect of their lives.”
Not that the name doesn’t rear its super-manly, super-alpha head from time to time. “The funniest time I remember someone in real life making a comment was at a Starbucks,” he says. “When the barista asked for my name and I told her, she said, ‘Of course you are.’”
The one thing he does have control over, though, is being the best Chad he can be, and playing completely against type. “My best friends think it’s hilarious that Chad is now seen as an alpha male,” he explains. “Every time there’s a Reddit comment about a ‘Chad,’ they screenshot it and send it to me. So people might judge me, but I don’t care. I’m happily married and don’t need to steal anyone’s girl.”