How can I be cool?
October 22, 2004 7:28 AM   Subscribe

How can I become cool?
posted by Stynxno to Human Relations (72 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
wear black-framed glasses, work in design, drive a mini, and listen to tortoise
posted by leotrotsky at 7:31 AM on October 22, 2004

on your ipod
posted by leotrotsky at 7:32 AM on October 22, 2004

Find a cool person, defeat them in mortal combat, and eat their heart.
posted by Capn at 7:42 AM on October 22, 2004 [2 favorites]

Stop spending so much time in #mefi. Those people are all nerds.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:46 AM on October 22, 2004

it helps to smoke cigarettes. cool people always smoke cigarettes. if you can't find any cigarettes, i'm sure a blunt will do.
posted by chrisroberts at 7:46 AM on October 22, 2004

Start by finding a cooler place to ask. I kid, I kid...

The best thing you can do is stop worry about whether you're cool or not. Seriously. Nothing is cooler than blasé.
posted by mkultra at 7:49 AM on October 22, 2004

first rule of cool: don't try to be cool
posted by matteo at 7:50 AM on October 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

Some of the outfits worn by Superheroes are a bit of a worry. Have you thought of trying a Batman outfit?
posted by Tarrama at 7:51 AM on October 22, 2004

There are no cool people. Only dorks who decided to use their obsessive dork powers (those very same powers that are behind the open-source movement and role playing games) to become good at being cool.
posted by Eamon at 7:52 AM on October 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure, but I think it has something to do with cucumbers.
posted by bondcliff at 7:52 AM on October 22, 2004

posted by lotsofno at 7:55 AM on October 22, 2004

Try to get a MeFi number below 8054.
posted by RavinDave at 7:56 AM on October 22, 2004

Air conditioning.
posted by Remy at 7:56 AM on October 22, 2004

Don't care about anything, especially whether you're cool or not.
posted by Shane at 8:04 AM on October 22, 2004

Memorize a shitload of trivia about bands no one's ever heard of, buy a bunch of tight t-shirts featuring those bands, and then go to parties and argue with other cool dudes like yourself about the relative merits of those bands ad nauseum.

That's what I did, and it worked like a charm.
posted by saladin at 8:07 AM on October 22, 2004

The first rule of cool is, don't try to be cool.

Just live a life shaped by your own tastes and values, without reference to what other people think. Don't try to be in style or to impress or to model yourself after anyone - just be what you want to be. Don't look to others for admiration or validation of what you've done. Do what you want to do, and work to create the sort of life you're honestly happy with.

After all this, you may still not be cool, but you won't care, because you will be happy, you'll have integrity, and you'll attract some or many of the kind of people who really like you for who you are.

One caveat - don't be an asshole, and if you do get criticized for acting badly, think about whether you're really being the sort of person you want to be instead of responding with a knee-jerk, "I don't care what you think". George W. Bush does that, and is he cool? I rest my case.
posted by orange swan at 8:13 AM on October 22, 2004

My mother always told me to stop wasting my time on that damn Commodore 64.

I don't know if this applies to you.
posted by sleslie at 8:13 AM on October 22, 2004

Be yourself. Wear what you feel good in. Do things that interest you. Read. Speak well. Express yourself. Don't be superficial. Don't be elitist. Just be.
posted by Dreama at 8:16 AM on October 22, 2004

William Goldman once wrote a funny book that had a chapter on snobbery and wrote something along the lines of:

Familiarize yourself with the obscure novels of great writers so that when the subject of "Moby-Dick" comes up, you can sigh and say: "I guess it was okay in a pulpish sort of way ... but Melville's true genius was best demonstrated in 'Omoos'."
posted by RavinDave at 8:16 AM on October 22, 2004

Jump stuff on your motorcycle.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:16 AM on October 22, 2004

Just live a life shaped by your own tastes and values, without reference to what other people think. Don't try to be in style or to impress or to model yourself after anyone - just be what you want to be. Don't look to others for admiration or validation of what you've done. Do what you want to do, and work to create the sort of life you're honestly happy with.

See what I mean? This is the very same sort of thinking that leads people to write a kernel and release it under the GPL.
posted by Eamon at 8:19 AM on October 22, 2004 [2 favorites]

Be me.
posted by Pericles at 8:22 AM on October 22, 2004

Dress cool. Wear a retro leather jacket a la Lenny Kravitz. Or, go for the emo look. Wear diesal jeans. Get a good haircut. Or better yet, get dreads.
posted by Juicylicious at 8:33 AM on October 22, 2004

cultivate yourself on your own terms--don't learn or do things because you think someone will find it interesting, learn and do things because YOU want to enrich your life for yourself.

in other words, like everyone else said, don't worry about trying to become cool or asking people how to. :)

i will agree though with some suggestions as umbrella cool moves: read. and become passionate about something, if you aren't already. i know, that's supposed to be really uncool, to give a shit, but actually being intense about something makes a person hott.

oops, hott, not cool...but you get the idea.
posted by ifjuly at 8:33 AM on October 22, 2004

Freon, or whatever the less eco-hostile substitute is, and lots of it. Of course if you really want to be cool and not a poseur you'd use liquid nitrogen.
posted by substrate at 8:37 AM on October 22, 2004

Accumulate social capital and spend it wisely.

Since you and I both have "superhero" listed under profession I feel that I can give you some advice in the cool superhero category. Coolness is relative. You can be cool in one arena and uncool in others. I feel that I'm doing okay at the cool librarian thing, but this really only qualifies me for "king of the dipshits" status in many other places where I think the cool people are. In fact, most "cool" people are only cool in some ways and not others. Most cool people also do not think they are one of the cool people, even if others do. There are always cooler people. There is always someone who thinks you are cool, even if you don't think so yourself.

Some options [from my list of what makes someone cool] include: being so blindingly good at something that people cannot help but appreciate your talents; right place right time luck of the draw ["oh hey Tim O'Reilly you just spilled coffee into your laptop? Here, take mine, I insist."]; being gracious about your achievements and your abilities; being an early adopter of something that catches on; caring deeply about something [and being able to talk/write about it to people since coolness doesn't live in a vacuum] and caring about yourself.
posted by jessamyn at 8:39 AM on October 22, 2004

- Read Camus, Yeats, and Emerson (not Salinger and Dave Eggers)
- Turn your collar up (try it, it works!)
- Listen to cool music, but don't make it your identity, and know something about classical music too
- Stop reading 'Slate' and 'Salon,' and read an actual newspaper
- Develop a sense of humor not based around constant irony and pop culture reference
- Be gracious and polite, and take an interest in others.

posted by josh at 8:42 AM on October 22, 2004

(a rather nerdy type of coolness is developing in this thread, isn't it?

alternately: get big muscles, shamelessly flirt with and bed attractive people of the opposite sex, demonstrate awesome athletic talent, beat people up, and make sure you own a sporrts car with in-dash microbrewery.)
posted by josh at 8:46 AM on October 22, 2004

If you want to be cool, learn to mellow out. Cool people recognise that life is too short to fret about small shit. And almost everything is small shit.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:50 AM on October 22, 2004

a la Lenny Kravitz

Remember once you achieve "cool" status that doing Target and Gap commercials will significantly lower your credibility.

Really all you need to do is roll your own cigarettes in public.
posted by oh posey at 8:59 AM on October 22, 2004

Have good taste and do interesting things; then, be a bit of an asshole and slightly inaccessible.
posted by dame at 9:00 AM on October 22, 2004

Those who speak, do not know.
Those who know, do not speak.
posted by rocketman at 9:17 AM on October 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

The first rule of fight club is....
posted by josh at 9:22 AM on October 22, 2004

cool is for losers.
posted by jonmc at 9:23 AM on October 22, 2004

set your caps lock key on fire
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:28 AM on October 22, 2004

Have good taste and do interesting things...

Now that is the best comment in the entire thread.
posted by orange swan at 9:30 AM on October 22, 2004

das Tao, das vermittelt werden kann, ist nicht das richtige Tao.
posted by kenko at 9:38 AM on October 22, 2004

- Learn to fix broken 1950's style jukeboxes by slapping them.
- Try and use Jedi Mind tricks when pulled over for speeding.
- Stop laughing at things. Humour is so un-cool.
- Buy a big long black coat, then throw it away.
- Get a job taming sharks.
- Bribe the media to define you as the new cool.
- learn to skateboard like a dawg, and then get taken away by aliens.
posted by seanyboy at 9:40 AM on October 22, 2004

posted by seanyboy at 9:42 AM on October 22, 2004

Imagine you're doing everything to a soundtrack.
posted by casarkos at 9:48 AM on October 22, 2004

I set my thermostat to 65 degrees. Keeps me cool, but never chilled.
posted by briank at 9:53 AM on October 22, 2004

start posting to the ongoing story blog...
posted by kamylyon at 9:55 AM on October 22, 2004

...and when none of that works, open up a comic book store.
posted by spilon at 10:15 AM on October 22, 2004

I was discussing this very issue with my close personal friend, Wilford Brimley, and he said: "Drop names of famous celebrities."
posted by RavinDave at 10:19 AM on October 22, 2004

Get a retro-jacket that you would expect a 60s era car's salesman to wear which looks like it's that old. It worked for me!
posted by jmd82 at 10:25 AM on October 22, 2004

My dad said that cool doesn't last past 25 or something. I'm 29 and I still think I'm cool. I'm living on borrowed time apparently.
posted by trbrts at 10:38 AM on October 22, 2004

Do drugs. Be an asshole. Spend a ton of money on clothes. Be really aggressive towards good looking women. Everything else is up to you!
posted by geoff. at 10:42 AM on October 22, 2004

You are a man, so I am talking to you like a man, because an interest in cool is generally inspired by one thing, and that is to be catnip to the members of the sex that gives you those catnip-related feelings. I am also going to respond as though you wanted an answer instead of a hilarious zinger. If I am wrong about these things, my apologies.

Young cool guys are a dime a dozen. Cool doesn't age well, either -- at least snarky, pop culture reference-heavy, detached, one upsmanship-type cool. I associate real cool with self-knowledge and lack of fear.

An older man who is cool this way is rarer and far more exciting, because he's earned it by living well -- his mind, body, and spirit having grown more sophisticated but unjaded by experience. He's effortless, because he's spent a life exploring in the world, cultivating his tastes, and learning how to engage people without overwhelming them with all his toys of coolness. In his presence, you know you will eat, drink, and talk well, and that you will not be insulted or unappreciated, because he wouldn't bother with you at all if he didn't think well of you. He knows himself, so he is no longer obsessed by himself, and his comfort in his own skin means his interests and relationships are sincere.

But you don't get to be this man if you try to be cool. Be adventuresome instead, be sweet, be brave -- be all the things that are so much rarer. Once the question ceases to matter to you, it will have happened. And if really is the point of interest, the ladies will love you, and not in that neurotic way inspired by insecure men thinly shellacked with the right clothes and phrases. They will relax, they will be bright and happy, they will kiss you with abandon, because they won’t be thinking “I wonder if my breath is winterfresh enough for Mr. Cool here”-- they will be too busy abandoning themselves to you for that. It’ll work on men too, if that would be better. It’ll work on anyone. Best of luck.
posted by melissa may at 11:28 AM on October 22, 2004 [10 favorites]

Dreama and jonmc have it going on.

Dive into what you like. If people don't get it, fuck 'em.

It doesn't hurt to be hot.

Though, asking this bunch of crazies is like asking a fish how to live out of water.

And hey, if you can snag user number 123..
posted by rich at 11:45 AM on October 22, 2004

”Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black.”
– Bruce Mau, designer
posted by Termite at 11:57 AM on October 22, 2004

Cool is easy:
1. Don't give a shit about coolness.
2. Do whatever it is you do without self-consciousness.
3. For god's sake, man, get yourself some self-esteem.
posted by majick at 12:02 PM on October 22, 2004

Be gracious and polite, and take an interest in others.

The above gets my vote.
posted by mecran01 at 12:21 PM on October 22, 2004

- Read Camus, Yeats, and Emerson (not Salinger and Dave Eggers)

That is so true.

But melissa may wins.
posted by rushmc at 1:03 PM on October 22, 2004

Hold open the door when others are walking behind you. Not only is it super nice and awesome, but then they can smell your calculated cool cologne (oh yeah, you should pick some up before enacting said plan.) (And not that stuff Hummer made.)
posted by Lizc at 1:33 PM on October 22, 2004

The problem with this question is that "cool" is a fuzzy term. We all THING we're talking about the same thing, but my "cool" may be very different than your "cool."

For instance, "Be gracious and polite, and take an interest in others." These are great qualities (much more important qualities than coolness in my opinion), but I wouldn't necessarily call a gracious person "cool." I suspect some people label anyone they like -- or anyone they think of as nice or interesting -- as cool.

To me, coolness has to do with CONFIDENCE. Confident people are cool. Sometimes this confidence leads to a more literal take on the word "cool." Some folks are (or seem) so confindent that nothing rattles them. They are cool as in "icey". These are the type of people who sit reading the paper while the building collapses around them.

They go to parties and are instantly at ease. They are so confident about themselves that it doesn't matter if anyone else likes them or not. If you obviously care whether or not you are liked, then you're obviously volnerable. If you're volnerable, then you're 100% confident. You're not cool.

Some people who aren't really this confident (is anyone?) want to seem this way, so they adopt certain attitudes and dress which symbolize confidence (or aloofness, which SEEMS like confidence). To a large extend, this trick works. In other words, it will fool many people. But not all people.

The older I get, the more cynical I am about cigarettes. dark sunglasses and the like. They don't seem cool to me. They seem like props used by people who aren't cool but desperately want to seem cool.

I think many "cool" people are good showmen. The seem cool, because they don't make mistakes. They always dress well, they don't stammer, etc. They are showmen because -- I suspect -- they do a lot of prep work behind the scenes. Many of us show our prep in public. We don't think before we speak. We blurt stuff out, retract it, make a second attempt, etc. Cool people rehearse in private and then get it right in public. One can learn to do this if one wishes.

But, though I think this is a fascinating topic, I must add that I HATE coolness. I hate people who never show fear or sadness or rage. I hate people who look at the hours you spent on some silly little passion -- building the Empire State Building out of Lego -- and say, "looks like someone had too much time on their hands." I like overt passion. I like sloppiness. I like to be reminded that people are animals. I advise against coolness. If people make you feel bad because you're not cool, find some better people to hang out with.
posted by grumblebee at 2:01 PM on October 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

be more like me.
posted by mcsweetie at 2:09 PM on October 22, 2004

don't try so hard
posted by psmealey at 2:26 PM on October 22, 2004

Make a record with Ben Folds.
posted by kindall at 2:41 PM on October 22, 2004

it's all motherfucking marketing.

try to curse more too.

i love cursing.


watch "can't buy me love" fifteen times.

then give up.

posted by fishfucker at 2:46 PM on October 22, 2004

if you start rolling you own cigarettes and other "cool" stuff it might work on strangers but your friend's will think that you're an asshole (and they'd probably be right).
I sometimes find myself dressed as a dork, driving at half the speed limit, listening to swing or whatever un-cool music and feeling great, and I think to myself "Now, isn't that cool?"
And what grumblebee and melissa said.
posted by golo at 3:41 PM on October 22, 2004

yup, be more like mcsweet. ; >

nobody's really cool, especially not people who think they are (they're the least cool), and under every seemingly cool person is a big dork hiding their dorkness (or, alternatively, using selected parts of their dorkness as a factor to make them cool in certain situations and with certain other people, which is a really popular strategy, so maybe try that?)
posted by amberglow at 3:56 PM on October 22, 2004

does totally depend whether 'cool' means more 'liked' or 'aloof and respected'.

I'd say someone who's cool is funny, adventurous, doesn't take themselves too seriously, kind of doesn't take anything too seriously, although they are not superficial or uninterested - they just stand back a little from the hustley-bustley part of the world.

Good taste is part of it, too, though not fake good taste (memorizing 'cool' bands or obscure authors or wearing the 'hip' clothes.) If you are honestly interested in music or art and want to engage, not show off, or have an interesting style of your own, that is cool.

But I use the word 'cool' to describe all kinds of people - anyone I find interesting and authentic. A lot of them do include the above qualities though.
posted by mdn at 5:29 PM on October 22, 2004

melissa may and grumblebee nail it. Be yourself, only moreso.

As a youth I gave myself complete personality makeover, transforming from nerd to hipster rock pioneer over a summer, and during the fallout from that I engaged in this exact discussion time and again.

The key, it was agreed, is imagining a bigger-scale version of yourself, and stepping into those shoes. Act on your desires and believe you can do so with grace and wit and social acuity, and while you won't always succeed, you'll get better at it.

Melissa May's admirable description of what may result for a mature man follows from these principles, I think.
posted by mwhybark at 6:30 PM on October 22, 2004

Cool is making a dollar out of fifteen cents.
I can't remember where I read that, but it struck me as correct at the time.
posted by willpie at 9:59 PM on October 22, 2004

by Langston Hughes

I play it cool
And dig all jive.
That’s the reason
I stay alive.

My motto,
As I live and learn,
Dig And Be Dug
In Return.
posted by funkbrain at 3:09 AM on October 23, 2004

the macarena in diapers
posted by shoos at 3:45 AM on October 23, 2004

You can come out of the fridge now, Stynx.
posted by ginz at 5:59 AM on October 23, 2004

Familiarize yourself with the obscure novels of great writers so that when the subject of "Moby-Dick" comes up, you can sigh and say: "I guess it was okay in a pulpish sort of way ... but Melville's true genius was best demonstrated in 'Omoos'."

It's Omoo, philistine, and everyone knows the real key to Melville's writing is Typee. Or perhaps "The Lightning-Rod Man."

Yes, I'm just drowning in a pool of my own coolness over here.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:00 AM on October 23, 2004

What's really interesting about Melville is the way he anticipates Zizek in The Confidence Man.

But the likes of you wouldn't understand ...
posted by kenko at 9:24 AM on October 23, 2004

if cool is a relative term (something "in the eye of the beholder") then maybe you should start by listing people that you think are cool and then, for each, listing reasons why they are cool. from that you might be able to find some kind of common aspect that you could then try to reprodce yourself.

i just tried this myself, but it's difficult to think of someone who is cool. i can think of various people who are cool in certain ways, but then i think some more and they're not cool in others.

maybe that means that you also need to identify the particular way in which you want to be cool first. if it's looking cool, for example, then you can be much more specific.

but, if you drop the word "cool" isn't this what anyone who's reasonably self-reflective does anyway? there are things about myself that i'd like - in some vague way - to change, but they're generally not things that i will change because i've already thought about doing so and realised that the cost would be too high in some other part of my life. i'm already at some kind of local "optimum" that reflects my own desires and priorities.

so if "cool" just means "being what you want to be" then presuably many of us already are. the exceptions would be people that don't think about these things, or feel out of control in their life - i suppose such people exist, they might even be a majority.

taking that a little further, it seems like wealth comes into the equation. it's much easier to control your own life if you are wealthy - generally wealth gives you more options (see the work of amartya sen, for example). so you could argue that making money is one path to cool.

yet that seems to miss the point. those without options can be cool too. think of bogart in casablanca, for example. maybe the previous argument should be reversed - being really cool is staying in control/being yourself/finding equilibrium even when you have nothing.

so it's easy to be relaxed and friendly on the beach. it's less so when you're stressed out at the end of a bad day at work. only the cool can manage that.

if you buy that, then to be cool you need to remain aware of your options even when external pressures threaten to overwhelm you. which is, i think, quite a good definition. and, recently, i have been decidedly un-cool. so thank-you for asking this and making me think.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:18 PM on October 23, 2004

grumblebee hit it. The biggest part of being cool is confidence. The other part is competence. Find something you like to do or would like to do and get really good at it. Mastering something will also improve your confidence. But you have to pick the right things.

Learn a musical instrument, preferably a guitar. Get a motorcycle, preferably a cruiser. Get involved in some kind of athletic activity, preferably surfing. But there are lots of other good examples of these things. It's important to find ones you enjoy enough to dedicate yourself to.
posted by euphorb at 8:08 PM on October 23, 2004

ps "grace under pressure" is what i was looking for.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:56 PM on October 23, 2004

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