Fashionable and attractive at the time; often skilled or socially adept

He’s so cool. Look at his cool clothes, cool girlfriend, and his cool car.

He talks about cool things, he does cool things, he’s the coolest man I ever met.

He drinks in cool places, smokes cool cigarettes – he even does drugs, that’s so cool.

I wanna be cool like him, dress like him, talk like him. I wanna be cool too.

It’s a fact that some kids are cooler than others. From teenagers through to people in their thirties and beyond, some people just have that air of “coolness” about them.

But what is it? Is it about dressing in the latest clothes, being an early adopter of new technology, knowing things other people want to know, or doing things other people envy, or want to imitate? Is it a certain aloofness that says “You can look but you can’t touch?” It could be many things, but one thing we know, is that other people want to be around cool people. They create the in-group or clique (an exclusive circle of people with a common purpose). Their purpose is that they all want to be cool.

Let’s look into this shall we? We know that “coolness” is something that can’t be readily defined – there is no scientific formula for it. One day you can be cool, and the next day you’re not; but one thing’s for sure, “cool” can’t exist on it’s own. If no one’s watching, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, what designer drug you’re taking, or what works of philosophy you happen to quote from; you need an audience to be cool.

We’ve all seen him, strutting down the corridor at school. Look at his shoes, look at his jacket; he’s everything you’re not. His calm, unruffled self-assurance; he’s so confident, nothing can harm him. Everyone’s looking at him; you want to be just like him. He pretends he doesn’t know people are watching him, but you know he feels powerful inside, given all that attention. In order to be cool, you don’t have to be a high achiever at school; in many ways, it’s an asset to actively rebel. To not do your homework, to smoke at break time, to disobey the teachers, to not wear your school uniform.

People like a non-conformist, especially at school… But children grow up. And as they grow up, fashions change, and the cool guy isn’t so cool anymore, especially when he leaves school early. You see him standing at the gates, smoking after school, still trying to be cool, trying to impress the younger kids, but now you start to pity him. Then there’s the guy in his twenties who dresses in fashionable clothes, does drugs, goes out partying to the coolest bars, but has the great job in advertising; he drives a flashy sports car, is above average intelligence, and likes the finer things in life. He went to a good school, is well educated, and can talk about art and poetry.

Yeah, he’s cool; everyone wants to be like him. He’s got the latest music in his car, he knows the coolest places to go on holiday, but he’s so wrapped up in his own importance, people soon start to lose interest. Life is all about him, the things he has, knows and does; he doesn’t really care about you, but he’s happy to have you a long for the ride as long as you keep admiring him.

Then there’s the physicist. He doesn’t follow fashions, he doesn’t drive a flashy car, he always did well at school, never rebelled. He enjoys talking about quantum theory and particle accelerators.

Want to be like him? Want to be cool? No, unfortunately, physics is not on the cool list. Unless you’re another physicist, that is.

Far from being super-confident, the cool guy is, in fact, rather superficial. He needs to impress you with his clothes, his knowledge, and his possessions. There is a certain shallowness about him – a lack of substance. A feeling that all he is, is on show. He has developed social skills that allow him to be liked, whether it’s charm or aloofness. He will change according to the tastes of the audience. If the audience don’t think he’s cool anymore, he’ll go somewhere else where he is.

Coolness is all about impressing people, whether you like it or not. A person with real self-esteem, real self-confidence in themselves, does not need to impress other people with shallow bolt-ons such as clothes, music, or stories of places he’s been.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t know we’re doing it. We don’t realise that we are developing a false image to show to people. You may say “but I just like wearing the latest clothes, going to the latest bars, listening to the latest music, going to the newest holiday destination – I’m not trying to impress people.” But trying to be cool is not about one thing in isolation; it’s about creating a package that people will like. You are constructing an external image that does not reflect the internal one; the longer you keep up the facade, the more you lose touch with the real you.

I can’t really remember too well, but I think I was well liked at school; a bit of a joker, and someone who couldn’t concentrate well. I kept everyone amused with my antics, but didn’t earn the respect of my teachers.

I remember hanging out with the cool kids, the ones with the latest fashions and latest music. I really wanted to be like them, so I bought the same music, and got my mum to buy me the same clothes. When I left school, I found myself on the outside of a rebellious group in the town who were always drinking, doing drugs, and being generally anti-social.

I knew I wasn’t like that, but everyone used to think they were cool, so I tried to get in with them. I hung around the same pubs, dressed like them and hoped to be accepted.

One day I was accepted, and I found myself in the in-group, getting drunk, not going to work, taking drugs, and being anti-social towards my parents.

Fortunately, this only lasted a year or so, and I left the group. All my life I wanted to be in music. I wanted to be cool like the rock stars, but I didn’t play any instruments (I played flute, but that’s not really cool). I bought synthesisers I couldn’t play, drum machines I couldn’t program, recording equipment I didn’t know how to use, and recorded songs that weren’t any good; just to tell people I was “doing music.” I was never really committed to being in a band; in fact I never joined one. I just wanted to be famous so people would think I was cool; but I did love karaoke!

I was a fairly good singer, and it was nice to have an audience.

Many years have passed since that time, but I still like to wear nice clothes and listen to new music – I’m not ashamed to admit it. I like when people look at my clothes, or comment on how good my music choices are, but I am older now; with age, comes a certain realisation that caring about what people think of how I look, the music I listen to, the job I do, or where I’ve been on holiday, really doesn’t represent my internal image.

I have learned to admit to myself that the external image I had been projecting, didn’t reflect the tensions and anxieties I was feeling inside.

In the past, the insecurities I was feeling in a relationship, or the problems I was experiencing with panic attacks, were masked by the cool exterior image. That is, until I was no longer able to keep the external image together due to the pressure, and it crumbled; exposing my inner weaknesses and true personality.

At this point people stopped thinking I was so “cool.” They couldn’t understand what had happened to me. How could such a cool guy now be this weak, pathetic, emotional wreck?

I stopped caring about trying to impress other people and decided to start living my life more genuinely, and since that time, my inner-confidence has grown stronger. I feel whole now. I don’t feel as if I am shielding my inner-self, for the fifteen minutes of fame that being “cool” gives you.

In the constant battle to keep up with what is cool, we lose sight of ourselves; who we really are, and not who we would like to be. We drink alcohol to be cool; we take party drugs to be cool. Imagine if it was cool to not be addicted to things. Imagine how cool that would be!

How cool is it not to drink!

How cool is it not to smoke!

How cool is it not to take drugs!

How cool is it not to drive a car!

How cool is it not to worry about what people think anymore!

How cool is it to be nice to people!

How cool is it to think about someone other than yourself!

How cool is it to go for a walk in the country!

How cool is it to just relax…

So, being cool may have a positive part to play after all; especially for young people who can be so easily influenced by others. We have to start doing what we want to do, without worrying what other people will think.

So play an old song you really like that was never fashionable, in front of your peers, or wear an old hat to a party; anything you like to do for you, not to impress someone else.

You never know, they may think you’re cool, but on the other hand, who cares? If people only like you for the clothes you wear, the music you listen to, or the volume of alcohol you can consume, they are not true friends.

You may think you’re cool, but you’re only cool if someone else thinks you are.


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