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Thursday, 30 January 2014

I Don't Know How To Be Cool

As a kid, coolness was a measurable phenomena; there was a certain set of criteria and depending whether and to what degree one met that criteria, they would be awarded a coolness score. This criteria could vary from school to school, context to context, but the fundamentals remained the same. In my teenage years, being cool meant owning and being able to effectively use hair straighteners, wearing school trousers which were the perfect amount of flared and tight (it was the early naughties), being allowed to watch certificate-18 films at sleepovers and having at least one story (with only a loose sense of truthfulness) which involved you being drunk. Bonus points were awarded for having a boyfriend who was also considered 'cool' (to be part of a 'cool' power couple was always the dream, sadly I only ever managed to attain some questionable conquests at best), having a particularly profound MSN screen name and living within close proximity of a bus stop. I liked those days, one knew where one stood (for me that was slightly outside of the full-blown 'on Wednesdays, we wear pink.' power clique, but I was happy) and the rules were clearly laid out.

Nowadays, no one appears to have written any sort of guidelines on how to be a cool semi-adult and thus the lines are blurred on what is actually cool anymore. Obviously I'm not saying that we should all live our lives by the same elaborately-disguised bullying that most of us endured at some point growing up, I am merely interested in the concept of what is cool. Personally I don't buy the self-righteous proclamation by some that they don't care what people think of them, as I think that many people still do care about the image that they project. Afterall, what is Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr or even Tinder if not just another way for people to show others how cool they are?

Society and the media has traditionally told us that thick-rimmed glasses, bow ties, satchels, paperbacks and social awkwardness are wholly uncool; while perky personalities, manicured nails, designer clothes and trust funds are what we all should be striving for. This, however, is not the case in real grown-up life. Anyone who has ever been on the internet or been outside (and if you're reading this, I'm assuming there's a good chance you've done both) will know that somehow now a pug wearing Ray-Bans is the coolest thing out there. Correct grammar, making your own clothes, photography, brewing and drinking tea are all now somehow cool. In my (obviously the height of cool) flat, we have at least six varieties of tea on-hand at any time, and I sleep under a lovingly knitted (by my beautiful and also very cool friend) blanket which is the coolest item that I own. Look to the mainstream media, and we are told that this is the height of uncool. Look to the internet, and people will be double-tapping that shit all over the place.

So, what's happened? Do we have the internet to thank because we all now have a voice and a platform from which to project it and thus overthrow the ideals of the mainstream media? Do we have the likes of Zooey Deschanel and Lena Dunham to thank for changing the traditional ideals of cool within the mainstream media? Have times just changed and the quirky/cool index has shifted? Or, is it that we've just all grown up now and learnt that actually we were all just pretending as teenagers and now we're finally all free to be who we really are?

"If I wanted to be ironic, I'd grow a mustache."

Weigh in in the comments below. xoxo