Cool – By Barry Kirsch


By Barry Kirsch

I met an interesting young entrepreneur the other day, one of those rare moments of stimulus in an otherwise typical hectic day. We were discussing some of his intriguing ideas when a phrase he spun in the context of a discussion on millennial characteristics stuck in my mind. ‘If it’s not cool , they are not interested’.

Cool. It’s a word that I imagine has been used for generations, although when it first appeared as an all embracing descriptive for what is fashionable, trendy, relevant, worth knowing etc i am not quite sure.

I used it myself during my own baby  boomer tennage/young adulthood era. I remember it being in the vernacular before that during the early fifties, Elvis was cool, Cliff was not.

It’s a trite yet powerful word in that it reflects a generation’s attitude to society, to things, to brands, music to peers to pretty much everything in fact. But it’s a word that has subtly changed in tone and implication with the generational change in attitude.

Cool was what you did or wore or collected or how you spoke, what you listened to what bike or scooter  you rode or how you acted. But it seems to me that it wasn’t then completely exclusive. It was ok to accept some questionable interceptions in the genre. Family was ok even if they were a bit of a coronation Street addicted crowd. Maybe Coronation Street was cool who knows? You could smoke marlboro, Lucky Strike and could just get away with the man who founded New York, Peter Stuyvesant. Like the parents

As the 60s emerged and the class structure imploded, anything was cool.
Titled people could drive cabs and East End working class could become global fashion icons, photographers and fashion designers. But they could all hang out together. Cool was to mingle and break down the barriers.

Fast forward to millennials and suddenly it is absolutely unthinkable to somehow not be cool. Whatever that new designation actually proposes. Not being connected, not listening to absolutely the right music, streamed in the perfect DJ melt.

If it’s not cool it’s dead, not even a thing. Not even matter

Define cool.

Neither hot (passionate) nor cold (piercing). Somewhere in no man’s land really, just comfortable without a point of view. Just floating. Is that cynical or perhaps paradoxical. Maybe the word has just lost its edge.