Lately, I’ve been pondering coolness. Noting how outfits that are unbearably chic on women in magazines look like misguided games of dress-up on me. Acknowledging that certain of my blogging peers can don outlandish clothing, shoes, and accessories and make them appear artfully amazing. Seeing how some garments that exude coolness on their own suddenly become awkward and strange when worn by a person with a less-than-cool personality. Such a strange and elusive beastie, this coolness.
I’ve never been cool. Never felt cool, anyway. And I remember being 13 and feeling CONVINCED that cool was all about object and image. So I decided that if I could just get the same trendy, expensive clothes that all the cool kids were wearing, I’d immediately be cool, too. I was surprised and crushed to find that hypothesis false.
On the flip side, I remember when I first started working for the public radio station in town, I was given a tour of the studios by a coworker. I was incredibly intimidated, to say the least. But she introduced me to many of the DJs and staffers, all of whom were friendly and funny and undeniably dorky. She said, “See? They’re all geeks, just like you. Their preferred topic of geekery just happens to be music.” Here was a group of people who were asked to push the appearance of aloof, knowledgeable coolness for the sake of marketing but, underneath it all, they were just as awkward and funny and delightfully normal as … well, me.
That experience made me realize, once and for all, that the bulk of coolness is posturing. If you can look cool and act cool, you are cool. But looking cool isn’t just about clothes, it’s about demeanor and the appearance of effortlessness. Acting cool isn’t just about scowling, it’s about attitude and projecting self-confidence. Coolness can’t be contained by a single formula for behavior or dress. So much of it is instinct. And it’s for that very reason that I believe some people can access their inner coolness easier than others.
And I’m not one of them. I smile in all my photos because I look bizarre when I try to do pouty-face. I would rather make a stranger laugh by playing the clown than stay distant and appear cooly removed. Although I feel the occasional pang when looking over street style photos of impeccable women with smoldering gazes, wishing for even a smidgen of their untouchable coolness, in the end I’d rather be myself than pretend to be cool.
I guess you could say I’d rather be warm than be cool.
Image is of Audrey Hepburn, who is as cool as they come, in my opinion. My preferred Hepburn is Kate, who has always struck me as more passionate and less aloof.