Wednesday, May 28, 2014

what is cool?

What is cool? What makes something cool? Despite the fact that I was never a part of the cool crowd at school, they're questions I've never felt compelled to answer. Or at least try to answer. But then I landed on this piece on The Atlantic, purporting a universal theory of cool and now I want to know: what makes something cool?

According to The Atlantic, the definition of cool outside that which describes the temperature and ones indifference, has consistently evaded any real pinning down. The Atlantic also points out that cool is a subjective term in itself and what is cool changes often, as often as we might change our clothes - more often for some.

I, of course, related this attempt at pinning down a definition, at describing a theory of what is cool, to my wardrobe. Because that is what I do.

What is it about a shoe, a coat, a colour, a style of trouser that so quickly enters the zeitgeist and becomes cool? Is it the designer label that makes something cool? Is Chanel is cooler than Zara? Or is Zara, with its inspired by fast fashion, cooler than Karl?

Do sartorial wares become cool only after those that reside at the centre of the fashion bubble say so? Is it cool only if Vogue and Elle say so? Is an items coolness directly linked to its presence on streetstyle feeds and well known bloggers? If Susie Bubble, Man Repeller or Rumi Neely wear something, does it become infinitely cooler?

Interestingly, The Atlantic, which used a study from the Journal of Consumer Research as the basis for its theory of cool, described cool as being something that 'departs from norms we consider unnecessary, illegitimate, or repressive.'

So is the coolness of Birkenstocks due to their departure from sky high heels, close toed boots and any other manner of restrictive norm associated with footwear? Are Birks cool because they are flat, open toed sandals whose main focus is comfort?

When Carven sent that pink coat down the runway, did it become cool because it stood apart from the  decidedly monotone colour palette we are so often accustomed to when considering winter coats?

Any attempt to define cool, however, is perhaps the antitheses to the idea itself. By trying to understand cool, by trying to construct a theory to describe cool, do we miss the point of cool?

I can't help but wonder if what makes something cool is our decision to make it so.

But then, what would I know. I'm writing this while wearing an oversized chunky cream knit that I picked up at an op-shop a few weeks ago. I think it's cool, my sister - who expressed real jealousy when I found it before her - also thinks it's cool. You might think it's just an old knitted jumper, you might think it's not cool.

Maybe the real definition of cool is permeated with so much subjectivity it'll never be clear. And maybe that's ok. Maybe that's cool.

kb xx