The Birth of Cool... And The Meaning Now June 05 2016, 0 Comments

The Birth of Cool, And The Meaning Now

Coul, coole, koole: How We Got From Cool Temperatures To Cool Cats.

Being cool is hard. Staying cool is harder. It’s an elusive quality, in part because it’s an elusive word with layers of nuanced meaning that peel off as we travel back through the centuries.

Exactly when, and where, cool aspired to more than mere composure—to an alluring mix of style, hipness, poise, and who knows what else—is impossible to determine, but there’s a tantalizing piece of evidence from the 19th century. In 1884, a professor at Washington and Lee University named James A. Harrison published an article titled “Negro English” in Anglia, a German journal about the English language. In it, he discusses African-American dialect with the panting excitement, and racist condescension, of a man who has discovered an alien culture in his own backyard. The Negro, he asserts:

… deals in hyperbole, in rhythm, in picture-words, like the poet; the slang which is an ingrained part of his being, as deep-dyed as his skin, is, with him, not mere word distortion; it is his verbal breath of life.

In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus tells his Amazonian bride-to-be, Hippolyta:

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.

Hamlet, disheveled and ranting at the ghost of his dead father, frightens his mother, Gertrude, who cries out:

O gentle son,
Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper
Sprinkle cool patience.

By the 1920s, though, cool is firmly fixed as an unambiguous term of approval and even reverence. In 1924, the singer Anna Lee Chisholm recorded “Cool Kind Daddy Blues.” In the early 1930s, Zora Neale Hurston, in her short story “The Gilded Six-Bits,” wrote of a male character:

         "And whut make it so cool, he got money 'cumulated. And womens give it all to 'im."

By the 1940s, “cool cat” clawed its way into the jazz scene, and the word has had currency ever since.

Getting at the nature of cool is further complicated by the fact that it’s become fashionable in recent years to boast about not being cool. Perhaps the word is being pushed into its next stage of evolution by the freaks and the nerds, whose childhood unpopularity is a badge of honor and whose brave new world of geekery is vindication. No matter what you think of it, coolness cannot be claimed for yourself, say, in a job interview, like diligence or punctuality. If you call yourself cool, you most certainly are not. Only other people can render that judgment, and who’s to say their notion of cool is one that you subscribe to?

Coolness is a fleeting shadow, a flickering light. You may have it today but you won’t tomorrow, and, despite their protestations to the contrary, your parents never did.

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..... And The Meaning Now


Cool for me started at a very young age. My Uncle was a big towering man, who introduced me to the infinite sounds and genres of music.

Starting when I was about five or six, I started spending my summer vacations at his house in Queens. He had a room built with a quadraphonic stereo system ( very hi-tech for back then), and he would randomly call me into the room "to check this out". And I would sit and listen to the likes of Phoebe Snow, Al Green, 10CC, Iron Butterfly, Led Zeppelin, ELO, and the list went on and on. And to me he was definitely the first "Cool Cat" in my world.

As I grew older, cool began to expand from music to fashion. One of my first jobs in the city I worked in a boutique on the upper east side of Manhattan. The manager of my shop was by far the coolest chic I had ever saw. (Next to Madonna). I mean she wore baggy overalls with fluorescent paint splattered high tops. That was cool!

I just knew that one day I'd dress and be just as 'cool' as she was. 

As my career developed deeper into the fashion industry, , cool became everyone's ultimate destination. Your perception of cool determined  your successes and failures. It gave you rank. It was your boss, your co worker, and your lover you took to bed every night.

Cool was edgy, deconstructed, and every picture taken of  Kate Moss. 

But, ultimately since cool is always based solely on ones own opinion how does it then become the same opinion of many? 

Personally, I 'm convinced that cool is a gene that we are born with. 

You can't learn cool .

Unfortunately there are way too many people /personalities in this world, that despite the mass attention they receive daily, haven't got one cool natural gene in there body. Their reckless attempts at being 'cool' can be a painful experience to watch. 

So how will cool continue to evolve? Will the word ever be replaced?, or will it continue to be the everlasting slang that best describes the people, the music,  the art, and the fashion that moves us all to our deeper core?

I hope so. Cause Id like to pass down that gene one day. - suzette