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Connoisseurs: Dick Pountain

James Dean, photocredit unidentified

Cool Rules: Anatomy of an Attitude (2000) - Dick Pountain, David Robins [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK] [...]

What do Humphrey Bogart with a cigarette, Bertholt Brecht, Marlene Dietrich's cheekbones, Billie Holiday, James Dean, Lenny Bruce's irony, Eldridge Cleaver, Chrissie Hinde, 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. --Cool Rules: Anatomy of an Attitude (2000, page 12)

The Cool World (1964) - Shirley Clarke

Cool (aesthetic)

Cool is a complex aesthetic that has its roots in various West African cultures. The cool aesthetic permeates traditional West African cultures and African-American culture, as well — in black artistic and musical expression, in the hitch in the "pimp" strut of urban black men, in dress, demeanor and speech.

As in Standard English, in popular culture "cool" can indicate aloofness, composure and absence of excitement in a person, especially in times of stress. In African-American Vernacular English, "cool" has other associated meanings, as well. It can be used to communicate agreement or compliance, or an absence of conflict. It also can describe a state of calm or general well-being; something "hip", meaning current and desirable, or aesthetically appealing; or describe any intellectual, literary, material or musical expression of sublime or understated elegance.

The general spread of 'cool' with the meaning of “excellent, superlative” into the mainstream slang vernacular was first recorded in written English in the early 1930s. With the popularity of slang from the jazz culture of the 1940s and 1950s, 'cool' became an integral part of the vocabulary of mainstream youth eager to embrace the language of their jazz-musician idols. Over time, the word has been appropriated by American and world popular culture, generally, especially by youth.

"Coolness" often is associated with an element of arrogant self-awareness. In the context of a mutually reinforcing ethnic, cultural or social group, or clique, being perceived as "uncool," "lame," or "wack" can be a source of embarrassment or shame and engender ostracism by the "cool" group. Shared standards of what is "cool" or "uncool" can help establish group identity and belonging, as well as define outsiders and outcasts. In this sense, such standards act as mechanisms of control and conformity. Likewise, outsiders may often deride the "cool" group as merely self-centered or conceited.

In popular culture, "cool" also often describes someone or something which conforms to a set of social or moral values perceived as countercultural, i.e., which challenge the norms, mores, or values of a dominant group or prevailing regime.

While slang terms are usually comprised of short-lived coinages and figures of speech, 'cool' is one of the more ubiquitous slang words in Western countries. It continues to be a very popular response in conversations, especially among young people, and is ranked number one on the Top Ten Word Lists of California Youthspeak in 2003. Young people around the world use the term 'cool' to express peer-group related values and a connection to American pop culture. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cool_%28aesthetic%29 [May 2005]


Coolhunting is a word that appears to have been coined in the early 1990s. It refers to a new breed of 'coolhunters', often professionals, who make observations and predictions in their search for their personal interpretation of new cutting-edge cultural trends and fashions. In this they resemble the intuitive fashion magazine editors of the 1960s such as Nancy White (Harper's Bazaar 1958-1971). Coolhunters operate most notably in the world of street fashion and design, but their work also blurs into that of futurists such as Faith Popcorn. Many webloggers now serve as online coolhunters, in a variety of cultural and technological areas.

Pattern Recognition, a 2003 novel by William Gibson, features a coolhunter as its main character.

Related terms are trendscout and trend spotter. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coolhunting [Oct 2005]

See also: futurism - street fashion

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