Friday, October 16, 2009
Cool Rules: Anatomy Of An Attitude
The chart above is from a book called Cool Rules: Anatomy of An Attitude by David Robbins and Dick Pountain. To read the above chart Cool, click on the image.
What do Humphrey Bogart with a cigarette, Bertholt Brecht, Marlene Dietrich's cheekbones, Billie Holiday, James Dean, Lenny Bruce's irony, Eldridge Cleaver, Chrissie Hynde, heroin and gangsta rap all have in common? They are, for lack of a more precise word, cool.
Cool is by no means solely an American phenomenon, although its modern manifestation was incubated among black American jazz musicians during the 1930s and 1940s and finally injected into white youth culture during the 1950s by Elvis Presley and rock 'n' roll.
Whichever way you spell it, it's as well to remember that the word cool is not merely another way of saying 'good'. It comes with baggage - an alternative set of values which are often profoundly in conflict with official values. For example it is not very smart for a political party to carelessly promote Cool Britannia when it is also committed to a policy of reducing drug abuse. Creative directors in advertising have by now an almost perfect understanding of the power of Cool to sell products to young people, profound enough that they seldom need to brandish the raw word itself (which could be construed as rather Uncool). Indeed they have become so expert at suggesting the attitude through surrealistic imagery and veiled drug references that many television advertisements are now all but incomprehensible to anyone over 30. The agencies understand that to be perceived as Cool demands precisely such a conspiratorial pact with their target viewers, and it is highly significant that Levi Strauss has regained its lost ground with the cryptic but hugely popular 'Flat Eric' advertising campaign, featuring a battered old car (take that Jeremy Clarkson), no words and a stuffed toy with attitude. From What is Cool? NYTs
1) Cool Aesthetic, Wiki page
2) Obituary for one of the authors,David Robbins of Anatomy of Cool
3) Read Cool Rules online
4) Italian Sprezzatura