It’s that guy, the one sitting at the bar with a pen in his ear, talking animatedly to the bartender about the history of Rock N’ Roll. And the girl who pulls up to the cafe every morning on her motorcycle, the one whose tattoos tell a story of the many lives she lived in Thailand. It’s even the crazy old man with the deep, raspy voice who’s always the most passionate drummer at Tuesday’s drum circle, and the Mom who leads the PTA meetings, who sometimes says the word shit. Cool is Marlon Brando, Angelina Jolie, James Dean and Don Draper, but it’s also the girl you went to high school with and the boy you always admired from a far. Because to be cool, one must have the cool factor, and all these people have it. Question is, what the fuck is it?
How do you define cool? Is it a fashion style? Expertise in a specific field? An inexplicable air to one’s ways?
I polled my Facebook friends, the way I often do before an article, and asked what their definition of cool was. I got so many responses that their collective answer was clear: cool is a subjective term. And while on a very fundamental level I agree, I’m here to smash that theory to the ground and offer an actual formula for what comprises cool.
The Basic Formula
There are two set variables that make up the equation. Without either one, the formula crumbles. Both variables are coveted not only because are they appealing to have, but because they’re also hard to attain, especially simultaneously, which is why not everyone can be cool.
Variable 1: Confidence
To be cool, you must be confident. Whether you’re the extrovert, center of attention, high fiving everyone at a party or the mysterious guitar player who never speaks to anyone other than himself, confidence is always present in the face of cool.
On that Facebook poll, someone mentioned cool being the ability to walk to the beat of ones own drum – and no matter what beat that is, the act itself requires confidence. For those who relate the term cool to a fashionable statement – again, it being subjective – personal style has a lot more to do with how you wear something than it does what you wear.
It’s not so much that cool people don’t care what others think of them – cause like the rest of us, many often do. It’s more like they are able to hide that vulnerability and show the opposite to all who perceive their existence.
Variable 2: The Most Important Variable
.. is prestige.
A friend of mine told me I was cool the other day. I disagreed and he went on to reassure me that I was and that I had the ‘cool’ factor. When I said, “It just seems that way,” he responded, “Exactly.”
pres·tige presˈtēZH-ˈtēj noun – widespread respect and admiration felt for someone or something on the basis of a perception of their achievements or quality.
And this brings up the fundamental aspect of the term, because to be considered cool, you must be admired. Cool is a label that can only be placed on you by someone else. You can call yourself cool in the bathroom mirror all you want, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t actually make you cool.
This admiration, as per the definition, is based on perception. It’s about how others perceive you and when someone sees someone else think you’re cool, much like social proof, they do too. It’s about they derive from their assumptions of you as an individual.
It’s about what you show them and what you make them believe.
Because without someone thinking you’re cool, cool does not exist.
The Cool Factor Condiments
This is where subjectivity comes in. What do you put on your salad?
Though confidence and prestige are at the base of every opinion of cool, there is still something to be said about that Facebook poll. What you admire may be different than what I admire.
For example, I happen to think mystery is cool. I like confidence tiptoeing on the line of arrogance. I also like tattoos, expertise and life experience.
But what’s your definition of cool? Add it to the comments below and let’s get a discussion going.
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