How To Be Cool: In Pursuit Of The ‘Cool’ Factor

Wondering How To Be Cool? We Break It Down…

By Laura Harvey

It was last summer at the American Portrait Gallery that I saw American Cool.

The exhibit was a collection of portraits of American figures that possessed an aura about them, a certain magnetism—a phenomenon that we have labeled ‘cool.’

This got me thinking about how to be cool.

How does one become cool?

What does that even mean?

The men and women whose portraits were featured spanned the realms of everything from music to politics. Like porn, apparently ‘cool’ is a ‘know it when you see it’ kind of thing.

But we all want to be cool. I might be so bold as to say this is a universal human yearning, even if I have to stake that claim solely on the pervasiveness of teen movies dedicated to breaking down that very notion. It is a sort of reverse psychology: we all want it so much that we end up denying its power. We denigrate the cool kids because many of us still feel like wannabes.

The truth is, some people are just ‘cool.’ It’s why so many of us are frustrated.

Moreover, you cannot label yourself ‘cool.’ Some of other magical soul has to deem you to be worthy of the designation. So how, I have oft wondered, do these members of the aristocracy of cool take their seats at the table?

Some people aggressively want to be cool. Take note: this is inherently not cool. While the act of trying may fool a few gullible souls, the calculated path to coolness is ill fated. Coolness requires an effortlessness and a lack of self-consciousness that render the pursuit moot.

Even as I am writing this article, I can hear my high school classmates scoffing. And indeed, it would be absurd to claim to be some kind of authority on how to be cool. I have spent most of my life as an absurdly self-conscious poser of one kind or another. It was not until I recently stopped trying to be cool that I came about a realization. Coolness, I have discovered, requires a circuitous route.

I have been silently studying this effect for years.

How To Be Cool

What I have learned is that there is no singular way to be cool. There is no pair of sunglasses you can buy or shade of lipstick that you can slather on. In fact, these gestures are often blatant and almost pathetic.

Coolness is the realization of self-acceptance.

Ironically, the coolest people are the ones most willing to look foolish and the ones least likely to give a rat’s ass if you think they’re cool.

I am reminded again of the exhibit. A little research has revealed to me that the Smithsonian has weighed in on the topic. One must possess four traits to be a part of their exhibit: 1) signature style, 2) rebelliousness of spirit, 3) iconic status, and 4) name recognition.

Okay, so these last two are hardly relevant to most of us. But I think the first two prove my point: being cool is about having the courage to be yourself.

Not only must you have discovered your truer nature, you must own it. Never apologize for who you are. Even the most ridiculous style or behavior becomes tantalizingly cool if it is done with un-self-conscious savoir-faire. Conversely, sheepishness renders even the most objectively wonderful thing less desirable.

So, my dearest readers, I urge you to think about who you really are and what you really like. Not what you think you are supposed to do or like or wear or say.

Forsake convention (see: rebelliousness of spirit)!

In the end, your journey cannot be about arriving at the mythical land of the cool. That is something none of us has the power to control. Instead, it is about self-actualization and the development of a confident spirit. Then, at the end of the road, maybe someone will tell you how cool you are, and with any luck, you’ll believe ’em.