Semiotics of Cool" an introduction.
are scenes nothing to do with "cool". What is Cool
therefore? What indeed one of the most misunderstood concepts
of the modern ages for starters.
Are you cool? Am I cool? Who is cool? Cool dont sweat
it. Its only a word after all
Have you really wondered? Or did you think that Cool looks after itself,
that it just IS, simply a happenstance of fashion? For starters, fashion
has nothing to do with Cool. As if its as easy as that? Did you
think it was?
A matter of opinion? Again, WRONG! Do you even know where it comes from?
Its existed since the dawn of (yeah) man. Technically speaking
though, from those jazz cats of the 50s and 60s who brought
about the rebirth of cool no less. They were too cool to
even invent Cool. It was understood that Cool is a matter of approach,
as it always has been. It just hasnt always been articulated that
Im being deliberately lucid, but thats the thing with Cool.
Let me explain.
The 50s brought upon us a glorious age of non-denominational physical
expressionism. (Probably the result of all those strapping lads marching
off to war). The narcissus was no longer the property of the upper class
dandy. Suddenly everybody wanted a piece of the action. It was the time
of Little Richard and Rockabilly. Basically the inception of what was
soon to be termed Rock and Roll. Simultaneously the Jazz scene developed
as its own master, upholding its tradition for sharp dressing,
drinking a lot and even taking drugs. By the 60s Cool was in full
flow. Examine early shots of Jagger and his gingham shirts are not so
different from those of the perennially cool Miles Davis. This is evidence
in itself, that Jagger, a white middle class boy from rural England
could end up sharing his threads with those dapper gents of the jazz
fraternity. You get the picture.
these are still not the true concerns of Cool. Cool goes deeper
than that. Cool people normally look that way because they were
cool in first place. Their cool enabled them to make the right choices.
This is the fundamental of Cool it is not a commodity. It
cannot be bought off the peg. Levi 501s are cool, but wearing
a pair does not make you a doyen of the hip. Shades are cool but,
again, donning a pair of aviators isnt going to make you look
like Keith Richards long lost cousin circa "Exile on Main Street".
( DANG! What a brother!) If you need further proof then look how
functional items have been used as accessories to Cool. The VW badge
worn around Beastie Boy Mike Ds neck. The revolver that Michael
Frachete studies as he contemplates his protest in Antonionis
rather languid "Zebraskei Point". Deborah Harrys
army fatigues. Everything Clint Eastwood ever smoked in his Spaghetti
westerns. ( I think I even caught him smoking menthols in High Plains
Drifter but I could be wrong) .
could wax lyrical for approximately 6000 years on the subject but why
bother, that wouldnt be cool right? (TOUCHE!). But if there is
anything one can glean from the study of such a concept is that there
is an undeniable compulsion within people to collude their lives with
a participatory notion of aesthetics. Not just to the extent of decorating
oneself, but of playing oneself. The evolutionary purpose of display
becomes firmly secondary and an immersion in manner prevails to project
something simply implied. Its not bombastic enough to be motivated
by some sort of primordial sense of competition. Instead it seems to
rely on suggestion, that one might compete if one could be bothered.
Cool is inarticulate and it likes it that way. Its the glorious
triumph of apathy over ambition. Hoorah! But its also fragile
and so easily misconstrued. So hey, next time you find yourself eyeing
up those expensive pair of shades.
© James Evans October 2003
( The Semiotics of Cool first appeared in issue two of "The Whistler"
published Autumn/Winter 2002 under the moniker of Derek Monk. )
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