06/09/2015 8:43 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

What Is Your 'Cool' Quotient?

dog leaning out the car window making a cool gesture wearing red sunglasses
damedeeso via Getty Images
dog leaning out the car window making a cool gesture wearing red sunglasses

Being as cool as I am, I'm going to go out and risk sharing my hypothesis of what defines ultimate coolness. Then you can go right ahead to judge your own cool quotient.

Let me reiterate again, though, that coolness cannot be slotted into an easily definable formula. If that were possible every one of us would be trying to harness and replicate that formula and the world would be a cool place. Also, as soon as you think you've nailed the whole thing, it just isn't cool anymore.

Coolness is an ever-shifting perception. Its meaning goes beyond words, despite my attempts here.

You can tell when a song is cool or not. One glance at a guy/gal in a party is enough to tell you whether you find him/her cool enough. You can look at a pair of shoes, your neighbour's car, your son's new phone and tell if they are happening for you or not. Over the years you can only hope to develop a sense of cool such that you know it when you see it. But one word of caution: what's cool for you might be the exact opposite for someone else. And that's what makes it so cool!

Cool is elusive

Attempting to capture cool is a trap. It means everything and nothing at once. Cool is elusive, mysterious and indefinable, it's meaning perpetually shifting to accommodate individual perceptions.

"Knick-knacks and hand-me-downs sold in trendy, junky shops have managed to become cool by liberating themselves from the stigma of consumerism and the tyranny of brand new."

A throwaway word that was once used to merely describe an individual's cultural status (he or she is cool) or an object's worth (this phone is cool) has acquired new dimensions.

It has evolved from the fringes of the society to the mainstream.

A grandson finds his grandfather's cane cool, a teenager finds the packaging of her multivitamin bottle cool, a man buys stocks in a company because his granddaughter says it's cool.

A term securely nestled among the larger categories like cool SUVs, cool babes, and cool gadgets has now shifted to dominate our daily lives in ways we have yet to thoughtfully consider.

Cool is remote

Cool is exclusive, the opposite of mass. It thrives on the attitude that if your neighbours are in on it, it can't be cool. It's morphed into gadgets, technology, cars, people, music or parties accessible to few but coveted by many.

This is where the new trends of individual designs, customisation and personalisation are getting a foothold. The minute everyone has the same gadget, you have to admit that you're just not as cool any longer.

Cool is anti-conventional

Cool is like pretty much telling the world that you have decided to excuse yourself from the predictable and the traditional. But herein surfaces the contradictory nature of cool.

Coolness actually follows the conventional consumer cycle of new becoming quickly obsolete, and retro the most valuable commodity.

Here is why the knick-knacks and hand-me-downs sold in trendy, junky shops are oh -so -cool. They have managed to become cool by liberating themselves from the stigma of consumerism and the tyranny of brand new.

Cool is dynamic

The colloquial usage of the word cool is believed to have been popularised by jazz musicians in the 1940s, and quickly gained in traction. The post World War II era captured James Dean's rebellious image in Rebel Without A Cause, and that quality for a while became the epitome of cool. The flamboyant charade of toughness and authority, the brooding virility, the studied hipness and the don't-mess-with-me expression stayed for long as the ultimate symbol of cool.

And since then every decade has had its versions of cool. But what is relevant is that even though coolness varies between generations, there are constants upon which varying compositions are based. Like "hip" is constant whereas variables would be evolving fads and slang. Similarly the last version of cool does not affect the previous version -- each version has a life of its own. No style will make another style wrong and that's what makes it dynamic and brings me back to my first point - cool is elusive. So how do you begin to nail it down?