A couple of weeks ago, I had an epiphany. I was in the kitchen making a cappuccino when a theory started to form in my brain. A Theory of Cool, to be exact. The part of the theory that was most unclear was its name, because while it is a theory, it might be best formulated as a law instead. The Law of Cool.
But in short, this is my epiphany:
“The things you think are cool by the time you turn 17 will always be cool to you.”
It doesn’t mean that you want to wear the same clothes and listen to the same music or try to walk just like your favorite Phys Ed teacher – who does that? – your entire life, it just means that deep down, your definition of cool doesn’t change that much after you turn 18.
It means that your sense of cool is defined and refined in your teens, and while you can try to keep up with the latest trends and learn to enjoy new styles of music, in your core, if you encounter some of the thing you considered cool in your teens, you’ll have to concede that they’re still cool.
I’ve used myself as a human guinea pig to test my Theory (or Law) and it’s my pleasure to present the results here now.
I started my research by making a list of things I thought were cool by the time I turned 18 (and not a day after that) to test the hypothesis. No item was too small, and I didn’t censor myself and leave out things that I think you might be consider uncool, you know, to keep up your perception of me as a cool person. With some of the items, there’s one particular reason that I think made them cool, and with some, I project something else onto them, which means that they may not have been mainstream cool even back then.
For full disclosure, I have written a short note about the background of each item and the reason it’s on the list, my latest encounter of the cool phenomenon, and finally, whether I still thought it was cool.
Rolled-up rubber boots
Reason: Ordinary black rubber boots turned into adventurous boots when the inside of the shaft was showing.
Latest sighting: Wore my old boots two weeks ago, and felt very cool.
Scarf around the head
Reason: Pat Cash, Wimbledon 1987.
Latest sighting: Pat Cash, Wimbledon 1987.
Reason: 50s revival made us all roll up our jeans.
Latest sighting: I still do this regularly. (Also, googled it writing this and watched several instructional videos on how to roll up the jeans).
Reason: America. My friend visited St. Louis with his hockey team and came back to school with a Blues cap.
Latest sighting: If I could see my head … right now.
Verdict. No question. Cool.
Wearing a baseball cap backwards
Latest sighting: three hours ago at the gym, a man in his 50s wore his hat backwards … and…
Verdict: … looked cool.
Reason: Rock’n’roll heroes.
Latest sighting: Every day on the commuter train or subway.
Verdict: On principle, cool, but taken to the extreme, just ridiculous.
Reason: Jim Morrison. Björn Borg.
Latest sighting: Every day.
Latest sighting: I own a brown leather jacker I bought in a Helsinki second-hand store in 1997 for 2000 Finnish markka, a huge amount at the time.
Verdict: Cool for sure.
Latest sighting: Listened to a Henry Winkler podcast two weeks ago.
Verdict: Cooler than ever.
Reason: The 80s happened.
Latest sighting: Five minutes ago, when I hung mine up.
(Note:Denim shirts have never been cool).
Latest sighting: A second-hand store in downtown Stockholm, December 2014, October 2014, May 2014, November 2013.
Rolled up sleeves on a jacket
Reason: Miami Vice.
Latest sighting: May 1990.
Reason: Miami Vice.
Latest sighting: Now.
Reason: Marty McFly in “Back to the Future”.
Latest sighting: Yesterday.
Reason: Dr. Peter Venkman
Latest sighting: Summer 2012, as an introduction to Next Gen.
Reason: Back to the Future.
Latest sighting: 2017.
Reason: Back to the Future, and my personal musical guru.
Latest sighting: A retweet from Huey last year.
Reason: Huey Lewis. Also, my uncle gave me at least two as presents, I still have one of them left.
Latest sighting: A father of a friend of Daughter’s played the harmonica at his daughter’s birthday party two weeks ago. I rushed home to look for mine.
Riding a bike without hands
Latest sighting: This morning, I met a man riding his bike and texting.
Verdict: Cool. (Except, don’t text and ride, it’s stupid. Not cool).
Reason: When I was ten years old, all the cool kids wore boots, but my parents wouldn’t let me get a pair because it wasn’t “good for my feet”. Instead, I got a pair of regular brown winter boots … which is why I spent two weeks in Mexico, dragging Wife to every single boot store in sight. Bought a pair.
Latest sighting: Last fall.
Reason: The men’s hockey team in my hometown had their custom-made clogs with roses painted on top.
Latest sighting: Last week, a girl on Daughter’s soccer team wore a pair.
Subcategory: jeans vests, down vests
Reason: Back to the Future. Bruce Springsteen. Bryan Adams.
Latest sighting: Back to the Future. Bruce Springsteen. Bryan Adams.
Superheroes without superpowers
Reason: International men of mystery.
Latest sighting: Son and I watched the Tim Burton Batman trilogy two weeks ago.
Reason: Tex Willer, Lucky Luke, John Wayne.
Latest sighting: Haven’t seen cowboys anywhere in a while. Huh. But I wish I did.
Brown leather gloves in the back pocket of jeans
Reason: Jirsi Hämäläinen, a hockey players on the men’s team in my hometown, used to do it.
Latest sighting: Mid-80s.
Reason: Blues Brothers. Bruce Willis in “Moonlighting”.
Latest sighting: They never went away.
Conclusion: Of the 26 items on the list, all were deemed (by me) to still be cool. The degree of cool does vary, as does the probability of me being the one who will bring that particular item back to the public consciousness. But most importantly, none of the items were un-cool.
So, there you have it: Risto’s Law of Cool.
Test it on yourself.