“The word has no single meaning”, according to Wikipedia, because of its constantly changing connotations and adjectival uses. This is, simply, laziness. We can situate coolness. We just have to try.
Cool, as we said, is a matter of sequence. Actions are ordered in a way (whether intended or not) that a certain aesthetic is created. Cigarettes After Sex’s music may be heavily romantic reverb-filled nostalgia, but they gave their band a name that sums it up.
Effort is another confusing aspect. We said previously that, when it comes to sequence, the cigarette you smoke after effort (e.g. after putting a baby to sleep) is different to a cigarette after having just woken up. This is pretty clear.
In these lines, I want to talk about effort in the sense of intention – in the sense of New Balance’s 990v5. “Worn by supermodels in London and dads in Ohio”. Their slogan is persuasive and fun, but at second glance it’s not. Are they saying both of them are equally cool? Who wore it better? The unaware dad or the trendy supermodel?
There probably has to be an intention to be cool: in this case, giving a previously unloved item the light of coolness. Actively playing with it. Not passively grilling a burger. The dad is cool in his own ways, firstly because he cooks a mean burger, but he’s oblivious to the shoe.
If an object is not unloved or unappealing per se, the other criterion is relevance. Example: wearing workers’ dungarees. There’s a car repair garage next to me and their Dickies workwear made me question my choice of multi-pocket trousers. For a second. Turning left at the corner, I felt cool again.
Nothing compares to fitting your life in pockets. Nothing compares to empty hands and the cashier’s look when you reach a pocket below the knee for your debit. The mechanics’ utility clothing becomes a more widely accessible coolness, one that gives joy to many (to a manually unskilled 22-year old that calls their mum every other day).
Surprise is another element. “My pussy tastes like Pepsi Cola” is Lana Del Rey’s opening lyric for one of her songs. Your friend of six months shows you to their backyard, makeshift ‘studio’ for pottery. “You never told me you do pottery”. “Well, yeah” and an air of coolness blows sharply. “In your face” he means. Because their pottery is good. And their hobby is unanticipated.
It’s like when a gangster, hurrying down the road, stops at the sound of a choir practicing two floors above. And sheds a tear (in theory). Briefly stepping outside of his sphere, or rather going inside an unlikely, but rather familiar, sphere. The gangster is transported back to something he loved in his early years. What you find cool in the gangster, his hairstyle, his wickedness and non-conformity, he finds meaningless when reminded of a parallel identity. He forgets who they were ambushing. He starts singing. He’s a gangster. But he’s also a tenor.