When I turned on my computer today and logged onto the internet I saw the Yahoo! News feature – ‘‘Coolest’ brands in UK named’. As I read on, I had an underwhelming feeling of – ‘What the fuck is this shit?’ I find I get this feeling quite a lot when I read stuff in the media. For example ‘XXXX is now ‘trending’ on Twitter’ is one of the 21st century’s most utterly, ridiculous, social media statements. It’s a bit like announcing on Red Porn that ‘XXXX is still wanking in his bedroom’ – surely people are more interested in the product rather than its self-yanking bi-product – or maybe not – I don’t know. What I do know is anything/anybody who is cool would not like to be on a list of the coolest things. The existence of such a list and the subsequent inclusion in said list is the antithesis of ‘cool’. Groucho Marx put it best when he said “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member”, the point being, genuine ‘cool’ is a self-defining state of being that can be earned or learnt. It cannot be bought.
Remember when Gucci bags, Armani jeans and goatee beard’s were cool? Prada shoes too, and long hair. Then it was short hair and facial stubble. Now, I think for men it’s wearing long pointy shoes, really tight pants and tight, retro looking shirts with a full beard and no muscle definition, whilst in possession of an i-Phone and a laptop and a job in the creative industry. I don’t really know what the latest cool thing is for women because I can’t keep up, but I see a lot of vintage clothing, pale skin, garish makeup and peculiar hairdo fusions of 50’s, 60’s and 70’s styles. False nails, hair extensions, plastic surgery and doing Yoga is cool too, I think.
The Sony Vaio used to be cool, until everybody was schooled by purchasing an iPod and realised whatever PC you had it was shit compared to an Apple Mac. Now Apple is cool. Hip-hop used to be cool, and Brit Pop. You would think that musical taste is a pure, emotionally subjective choice, but I do believe that music too can wane in and out of coolness like an audio fashion accessory. Unless it’s just the scene the music is associated with, I’m not too sure but that’s probably the link. But then that doesn’t explain restaurants, food and drink. The British have historically been a nation of tea drinkers, but then we suddenly found coffee cool; but only if it is a something-o-chino, with chocolate, lavender and ginger Sicilian goats milk, and served in a big cup from a proper Barista called Raymond from Belfast with Hula Hoop things in what’s left of his earlobe that he had pierced with a javelin because it was cool. Getting 15 pence change from a fiver isn’t so cool though. Actually, I don’t think paying for things with a fiver is cool anymore. Is referring to £5 as a fiver cool?
‘Enigmatic’ and ‘charismatic’ are two words rightly associated with anything cool, but it’s difficult to attribute either of these adjectives to something that is generically, populist. Cool can be an enduring quality of an individual or event, but when dealing with a product, it is usually defined by its transience. A product will be cool for a time, then it will get on a list of cool things and it will immediately become shit.
One of the biggest victims of the transient nature of cool is the poor, new Mini. Well it’s not so new anymore, but when it was re-launched in 2001 it had all the hallmarks of a style icon – which was probably a forewarning. It was quirky and retro and it featured in a cool 60’s film with a cool Michael Caine who does a cool robbery in Rome using these cool little Mini’s. Yes it was originally a British made car, which meant it was probably shit, but now it was being made by BMW, which is cool and reliable.
The Mini was so cool when it first came out. It was the car of attractive young things who had gadgets and attractive friends and went to great nightclubs and bars and were just dead cool and dead, dead, individual and quirky and everything and stuff. Now it’s a little rich girl / guys 21st birthday present. It’s what aspiring, young, office workers buy rather than go all-out on the expense of a fully grown BMW, which would cost them a lot more in insurance and be more difficult to park. It’s the car of choice for middle-management aspiring women who are unhealthy, overweight and unattractive because they’ve spent most of their youth aspiring and competing with BMW driving, male counterparts. They fill the car out like they do that executive, pencil skirt they bought just before Christmas, and when they’re sat in their Mini Cooper S looking bitter and tired, it just doesn’t look cool. The Mini is still a cool car when there’s a cool person in it, but would a really cool person drive a Mini?
Cool people can make things cool, like Samuel Jackson’s afro in Pulp Fiction for instance. Samuel Jackson could wear a pink hairnet and plait his beard with ginger squirrel tails and he would still be cool. Jessie J has a haircut like someone off a 70’s sci-fi movie, she eats pussy and likes cock, and she’s still cool. Helen Mirren is as old as the Queen and she’s still cool. Muhammad Ali can barely even walk or talk and he’s still cool. Vivienne Westwood is old, ugly and makes crazy clothes, yet somehow she is still cool. Steve McQueen is dead and even he’s still cool. The one thing you’ll notice about really, really, cool people is that they’re usually really fucking good at something. Miles Davis, Pam Grier, Paul Newman, James Dean, Angelina Jolie, James Bond, Eric Cantona – even Noel Gallagher – these people could step out of a Skoda at a Hollywood Movie premier and soil themselves and they’d still manage to be cool. That’s just how it is. That is the enigma, and that enigma is cool.
Off-the-shelf coolness is a bit like the loyalty of a Premier League footballer – it’s a fleeting thing that can be secured for a period of time by spending money. One minute its sleeve tattoos, MMA training, fake tan and BMW ownership, the next minute it’s the unwashed, pasty, heroin-addict look, doing Tai-Chi, drinking ‘real ale’ that costs the price of an elaborate cocktail, being vegetarian, and driving a ‘classic’ car that does about 7 miles to the gallon and pollutes the earth like only a 70’s vehicle can, even though you only drive it two weeks of the year because the rest of the time it’s broke, and because you don’t know anything about maintaining a classic car you have to wait until you’ve saved up enough money from your job as a Barista to get the thing repaired. Why have you got a car anyway? You live in the city centre because it’s cool. You should have a retro bike with no gears or breaks but a really cool shaped frame and high handlebars that make it almost dangerous to ride. Don’t you know that people who own cars and live in the city centre aren’t cool?
The truth is, you can’t buy cool. If you could buy cool then all those things that were once cool but are now shit would still be cool and so would you. The problem with buying cool is that anyone with money, a good shoplifter or access to thieves, can also get off-the-shelf cool too. Once every Tom, Dickhead and Half Ton Mum start adorning themselves with the accoutrements of cool and it reaches a saturation point of mass public imitation, it’s no longer cool. Don’t get me wrong, having an Aston Martin would be pretty cool, but it wouldn’t make you cool. James Bond and the car complement each other because they’re both cool. I saw Michael Gambon sat at traffic lights, nonchalantly smoking a cigarette in his Bentley Continental outside the BBC at White City in London once, and he looked very cool. If I saw Rio Ferdinand in that car, he would just look like a twat. Cool is not a purchase, and as an association, by definition, you don’t possess it. Cool is a natural swagger, verve, attitude, wit or charm – although the charm is optional. There’s a self-assuredness about cool that screams, understatement. And the thing is, if you’re not cool, then that’s cool too. Because I think the main thing about being cool, is that you have to be cool about how cool you are. Which is why Cristiano Ronaldo is such a cock.
Please feel free to share your views on what is cool and what is not and why. If I agree we’ll be like ‘Yaaay’, and if we disagree, I’ll try to be witty and make fun of your suggestions and it’ll be fun; for me. This will be a cool thing to do.