Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Time Capsule of Cool

As you might all be aware, I have a strong aversion to trendiness and cliquishness. I have discovered a particular disdain for the latest trendoid group: so-called 'hipsters'. I think it stems mainly from the importance placed by these guys on being clever and cool rather than kind and compassionate, as well as the insistence of pointing out how lame the things they don't like are (and they're working from a MASSIVE list). I gotta admit: I hate haters.

Except Player Haters of course, because they're freaking awesome. Especially Buc Nasty.

Point is: I'd rather be thought of as 'cool' because I'm Nick rather than because I'm a hipster, punk, hippie, headbanger, gino, preppie and so on... And I really don't understand why I'm in the minority with this perspective.

Aren't we supposed to be snowflakes rather than sheep? Why would any one of you beautiful, original, creative people EVER identify more with being part a group than being yourself? I leave you to ponder that question.

My examinations have led to me to ask something else, though, because I want to speak to universal truths on here as best as possible. So, with that in mind, I have decided to write about things which are unequivocally cool, timelessly so.

June 12 2010

What is cool? If we took the 'coolest' things that are around right now (I dunno, like a pair of those ridiculous Osiris shoes all the kids seem to wear, or Pabst Blue Ribbon), put it in a time capsule and opened it in 50 years, what would we think of the 'coolness' within? So, let's see what's in my version of the Time Capsule of Cool, but in this case, it's a 'timeless' time capsule. These are things that I believe are cool to everyone, regardless of age or style, and would certainly like to see arguments to the contrary.

1 - Johnny Cash

Yeah, it's Johnny Cash. Whoever you are, whatever 'group' you identify with, the Man in Black is God. He's like Lemmy, but for everyone.

2 - black suits

No matter what decade you're in, what your background is, or your penchant for neon clothing, there's no denying a black suit makes you look cool and feel cool. Reservoir Dogs, Blues Brothers, the Mafia, the Rat Pack. 'nuff said.

3 - questioning authority

Rebels are cool, but in a very specific context. I'm sorry, but self-professed anarchists who try to get organized are somewhat laughable (or at least oxymoronic), as are the Black Bloc jerks who throw garbage cans through store windows as a form of protest.

But not being obedient to the whims of the powers-that-be will always be cool. Even when you don't explain (or even know) why you're rebelling. Watch Cool Hand Luke some day, you'll see what I mean. Chuck D, Robin Hood, Jesus, Madonna - cool, and rebels all.

4 - sunglasses

Sunglasses are cool because they're so functional and fashionable at the same time. They add an air of nonchalance and they keep you from being blinded on bright summer days.

Picture this: Some rock star tumbles out of a limo shades akimbo with two unidentified peices of arm candy, his bloodshot eyes hidden from the world, his thoughts a delicious mystery. Yeah, don't tell me part of you doesn't want to be him.

Sunglasses are one of those rare fashion accessories that have songs sung about them. Heck, they even make careers; just ask Corey Hart. Honorable mentions to wayfarers and aviators as extra-cool.

5 - Keith Richards

I was going to say the Stones as a band, but that's a hard argument to make, especially when looking at Ron Wood's hair.


But Keith Richards has that untouchable mystique of cool for one main reason: he can't be killed. Keith will be getting high with the cockroaches long after the bombs fall. And, as an added bonus, if there was no Keith Richards, there would be no Captain Jack Sparrow, who is pretty much the coolest pirate in movie history. Mind you I haven't seen those old Errol Flynn movies.

6 - Leather jackets (pleather for you Vegans out there)

I mean really, who amongst us, when first trying on a leather jacket, didn't automatically feel cool (and yet warmer, I'd imagine)? The weight, the smell, the feel, all evoke the spirit of badassedness if only a little.

7 - Batman/Wonder Woman

This is something of a coolness-by-gender dealie. Superman might be the most famous and powerful super-hero, but anyone think he was cool?


Meanwhile, all darkness and angst and really cool gadgets, Batman is James Bond, a prototypical "Goth", a mad scientist and (somewhat) the most realistic comic character in existence all wrapped up in one pointy-cowled package. No wonder the Superman film reboot went pfffffft, while Dark Knight kicked a whole lotta rear end. We will ignore any Robin references. All this to say is that young boys often preferred to play Batman more than Superman, although pretending to fly while wearing towel-capes was a lot of fun...

On the other end, you have Wonder Woman. Now, I'm sure there's possibly some flak going to come from some camps that she's so grossly overcharacterized in her... assets and that she wears, essentially, a red blue and gold corset to fight the bad guys. Alright, point conceded. But her coolness stems from this: She was the only DC super-hero who, if it came down to it, could give Supes a run for his money. Basically, even in the male-dominated 40s when she was created, she was the second most powerful hero in DC. And she's human (or demi-god, or whatever; point is that she at least comes from this planet!). And then, in addition to all that, Lynda Carter's portrayal in the late 70s/early 80s. I think that says it all. I vaguely remember discussions of Wonder Woman vs. the Hulk as the two shows were back to back on Friday nights. I had no doubts Lynda would OWN Lou Ferrigno's behind. And in recent years, I've discovered that, just as I was skulking through Gotham in my dreams as a lad, many of my female peers were dreaming of deflecting bullets with their magic bracelets and generally taking names. Who knew?

8 - Converse

Ubiquitous and imitated everywhere (including my feet), Cons are the baseline casual shoe for pretty much everyone. I don't even know why that makes them cool, it just does.

9 - Rosie the Riveter

World War II produced some pretty iconic and cool figures in culture and propaganda. But none seems to have had as much influence in the past 60 years as Rosie the Riveter. She represented the women who worked in the factories to help fuel the war effort while the men were overseas fighting. And while a generation lose touch with the impact of the War on the male psyche as the "Greatest Generation" passes into history, the image of Rosie keeps on as an original icon of feminism and 'girl power'. Not to mention the hairstyle is not too shabby looking!

10 - The Breakfast Club

I've only seen this film twice and I'm not the biggest John Hughes fan. But what makes this film unquestioningly cool to me is the fact that it shows all the different 'cliques' we were herded into in high school and turns them on their ear and shows something I firmly believe: we're all ourselves under the categorization and our commonality is far greater than our differences.

High school cliques still exist today which makes me wonder if mandatory showings of this movie might not be a good orientation technique for new students.

11 - Darth Vader

Original trilogy version, David Prowse in the suit, James Earl Jones on vocals. Baddest mofo in the galaxy. Still wish he'd thrown Luke down the same hole as the Emperor...

12 - Calvin and Hobbes

Maybe this is a "child of the 80s" thing. Well, I'd believe that if it wasn't for the fact that everyone, from 8 to 80, thinks Bill Watterson's magical comic strip about a 6-year old and his stuffed tiger that may or may not come to life is probably the greatest comic strip of all time. And I want a transmogrifier...

13 - Ella Fitzgerald/Miles Davis

I almost put Jazz in general as timelessly cool, but there are variations of it that one can barely listen to, so better to include two of the genre's most recognizable and cool icons. I mean how can you not include the First Lady of Song and the guy who basically made 'cool' part of the lingo, not to mentioning blowing a trumpet like no one else? If unfamilar with these two, listen to Lady Ella's version of 'Mack the Knife', and the song 'So What?' by Miles Davis (and not Ministry, they're different).

That's about all I can think of right now. I'd love to see what suggestions you might have for additions or removals.


  1. Here are some of my favorite things: sweater capes, calypso music, Rhode Island salt-water taffy, paisley shirts, and high-heeled flip-flops.

  2. I was going to add Hunter S. Thompson, but I can't really condone suicide... Hence why Kurt Cobain, Hemingway and Sylvia Plath also failed to make the cut.