International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Comment
Can we pin
point what it is to be cool? What is it that makes something in
and another, which may be quite similar, out? Do idols work at
their image or were they born humming the tune of Sympathy for
the Devil and sporting a tonic suit?
It could be said that cool depends solely on relevance.
Who would care to
take the slightest bit of notice of something that does not strike a
chord with the general thinking of its followers? Post-World War Two
western society longed for liberation from the depression that the war
had provide and left behind. Then in the early 1950s came "cultural
phenomenas" such as The Beatles, Elvis and Monroe, along with a
young actor that specialised in rebellious-youth roles, James Dean.
All bore some relevance and symbolized liberation from their fore-fathers
way of living. All were representatives of their fans; voicing their
opinions to the adult world through their chosen art, whilst living
a completely new lifestyle.
Of course, soon enough everything associated with their world became
cool too. Teenage boys had quiffs and wore tight trousers, whilst young
ladies went peroxide blonde and skirts got shorter. Rock n
Roll. Jack Daniels. Fast cars. The Movies. And most tragically, the
now famous maxim of "living fast, dying young".
However, as with most things cool they are only temporary, flavours
of the decade. A sense of exclusiveness is essential and once something
becomes too popular it is in danger of losing its charm and moving into
the realm of the uncool, though the cool tag can still be associated
with some elements. Coolness is forever-changing and fresh, thus someone
who aims to stay cool needs to constantly have one hawk eye cast upon
the social landscape, and be ready to change with the times at the drop
of a trilby hat. This may explain the success of Madonna and her multiple
personalities, who in her long career has shown she has the undeniable
ability to change with the times with credibility intact (though this
credibility has floundered somewhat since turning 50).
An icon, it could be argued, that many of the points above bare significant
relevance to, is Paul Weller. Though he has been a successful musician
for over three and a half decades, his popularity has been limited to
The United Kingdom.; thus giving him a sense of exclusiveness. Along
with this, his earlier lyrics were extremely politically driven and
were somewhat a summary of what many British working-class men were
thinking in the late 1970s. Weller has also shown, with a foray of different
bands, he can remain relevant and modern. Furthermore being heavily
associated with cool musical and cultural movements, Mod and Britpop,
has not hindered his reputation as a cool man.
Although all these points contribute hugely to his cool tag, what makes
Weller truly cool is that he is tangible. Fanatics like to think that
one day their idol may just wander into the local, where they could
buy them a pint and chit-chat about nonsense. Wellers gruff tones
and deep pride in his home town of Woking, allow his followers to believe
Times have changed. Once upon a time, cool icons were put on a pedestal
and worshipped in a god like manner; there was an essence of elitism
that meant the Average Joe could never match his idol, no matter how
thoroughly he practiced their look and mannerisms. However, due to the
influx of blogging and social networking sites, there is much more interaction
between the modern fan and the hero. Nowadays, the idol is no longer
an idealistic creation sent down to reign supreme from The Lord Almighty
himself, but a beautifully flawed human being with an obtainable coolness.
Take for instance, celebrities such as Noel Fielding or Lily Allen;
both are neither threateningly good-looking, nor do they have a personality
as flamboyant as, say, Elton John. They are real people with interesting
opinions on the world which they share with their Twitter followers
more often, than they do with national newspapers. A relationship is
established, where the worshipper feels valued by the worshipped.
Alas, there is another side to the coin that is modern coolness. These
cool people walk a much trodden and well-weathered tightrope of cool,
forever weary of falling into the pit of the uncool; where lays the
crackling bones of many a 1990s pop star. The idol must stay relevant
and keep a close relationship with their fans, but they must also keep
an aura of mystery. Just like a good quality novel writer, they must
keep their audience interested by revealing intricate details about
their character, but not bombard them with every single piece of information,
so that there is no need to delve deeper. It is, therefore, a necessity
for the cool to create an interesting and well layered character. George
Clooney plays the lothario, whilst Johnny Depp; the laid-back artistic
type. A fan of one, I doubt, would not be a fan of the other.
What someone finds cool is entirely subjective; and there lays the impossible
obstacle in my quest to sourcing out what is cool. With all its complexities
and contradictions, cool is a tag that cannot be obtained through a
set of rules. Coolness depends on many different variables; timing is
essential, how you resonate with the fan is too and an absurd ability
to move with trends is crucial. However, it all comes down to one imperative
and uncontrollable element; preference. Thus my aim to find the true
meaning is rendered useless and beyond the bounds of possibility. Simply
because, one could not judge whether another finds Brand cooler than
Brando, of course...
© Aaron Falloon Nov 5th 2009
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.