Do you know when something officially becomes cool? And do you know what determines if something is cool and how long it will remain cool? I don’t think you do. In fact, I don’t think anyone does.
After all, at one time leisure suits and shag carpeting were considered cool. And let’s face it, if they can be considered cool, then anything can.
However, let’s take a moment to make sure we know what we mean by cool. Of course, we’re not talking about temperatures. We’re talking about cool in terms of being fashionably attractive or impressive.
Some things are cool for a long time. For example, the American cowboy is cool. Why is that? Because cowboys represent a freedom to do what they want to do, traditional American values, a handshake is as good as a contract, courage, sacrifice, and they’re known to have a high pain threshold. That’s all stuff that is cool and stands the test of time.
But this is what is particularly interesting about something that is considered cool: No matter what, a fad will inevitably seem outdated and almost stupid in a fairly short time.
For example, disco music and disco dancing were cool in the late ’70s then quickly became controversial, hated, and they were replaced by a new style of urban cowboy music and line dancing. Oddly enough, actor John Travolta was instrumental in making both of those fads cool. Another example is the tight shorts worn by professional basketball players in the ’80s that now look like Speedos today. They were just another passing fad.
Traditionally, what has been considered cool has been initiated by the movie industry in Hollywood, better known more recently as Hollyweird. But now it appears that Hollyweird has pushed the boundaries so far that what once might have been considered cool is now considered bizarre. Much of the country is instead longing for traditional — something solid rather than fleeting.
In some ways the apostle Paul even touched on this in the Bible in his letter to Christians in Corinth, a book better known as 1 Corinthians.
He said: “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”
In some ways, he is touching on the disappearance of fads. And there are so many of those that have gone by the wayside in our lifetime alone. For example, big domestic gas guzzling cars have been replaced with economic, high mileage, foreign models. Big malls and cheap foreign made products are being replaced by revitalized downtowns and quality products made by tradespeople.
Even in the health industry, the quick-fix, pill-popping medical approach is being replaced by individually initiated, health promoting, preventive exercise and diet.
Are we getting smarter? In some ways, we are. And maybe that’s it. As we get older we care less about and are swayed less by fads. In other words, we are less apt to blow in the wind.
American short story author, poet, teacher and political activist Grace Paley once said she believed in a kind of fidelity to her early ideas.
“It's a kind of antagonism in me to prevailing fads,” she said.
Former country music star Conway Twitty might have summed it up best when he said: “Fads are the kiss of death. When the fad goes away, you go with it.”
Whatever the case, I think that a better word for “cool” and “fad” might actually be “mirage.”