Defining "Cool"

Call up the middle school version of yourself: someone just defined the word “cool,” and it is no longer dependent on which type of Lunchables your mom packs. Thanks to a new paper published in The Journal of Consumer Research that managed to do what had previously been viewed as impossible, there is now a reasonable explanation for why you were not invited to sit at the popular kids’ table at lunch…sort of.

‘Coolness’ has long been difficult to define for several reasons, one being that ‘cool’ is a socially constructed label based entirely on people’s perceptions. The issue is that ‘cool’ is completely subjective and dynamic, and is often only revealed through actions and preferences. What is considered cool today may not be considered so tomorrow.

Cool has been defined as “an appropriate deviation from the norm”, or “the extent to which one shows or does not show autonomy.” When it comes down to it, ‘cool’ implies a rebellious nature that falls within reason. Championing individualism and non-conformity has long been an effective method to sell ‘cool’ products. This helps explain the success of commercials for Dos Equis, Harley Davidson and Apple, whose marketing techniques attempt to set their products apart from others in the same genre.

In defining ‘cool’, the extent of deviation while still remaining within the realm of appropriateness is just as important. Consider the following two scenarios: Pope Francis taking selfies? Cool. Taking selfies at funerals? Not cool. When considering that "cool means departing from norms that we consider unnecessary, illegitimate or repressive—but also doing so in ways that are bounded,” we see that there is a huge difference between an appropriate and an inappropriate deviation from the norm for the sake of ‘cool.’

The first case describes an unexpected occurrence that people see as ‘cool’ because it deviates from the expected norm, while still remaining within certain bounds. After all, it’s not every day the Pope takes a selfie with the commoners. The second scenario describes a deviation from the norm that most people would find insensitive and pointless. Thus, something is only ‘cool’ if it deviates from a norm that is considered repressive, unnecessary or illegitimate.

People like James Dean, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lawrence and Justin Bieber are just a handful of people who meet the standard of what it takes to be cool; they are unique individuals who defy the norm. Yet, it’s exactly their individuality and uniqueness—the stuff that makes them ‘cool’—that makes it so difficult to create a universal standard for what it means to possess the quality. Until then, keep striving to be Beyoncé. That’s the best anyone can do.

School, major and year: A&S, Economics, 2015
HometownRancho Cucamonga, California
What makes the Gavel so BANGin’? We keep it fresh. It’s drippin with swagger and is home to some of the coolest cats on campus. The Gavel is always fun and I’ve met nothing short of amazing people and writers here.
You have 24 hours to give prospective students a tour of BC and convince them to enroll. How do you spend the day? I’d start by getting some coffee and a personalized omelet at Mac. Then we’d go lose our voices at a football game and wear our super awesome Superfan shirts. We would then go see one of the amazing Acapella groups perform. We’d get some Mac N Cheese from the Rat for lunch. We would go see My Mother’s Fleabag for an awesome good time. Then we’d take a break and visit the dorms (i.e. sit in my room and watch Mean Girls…because Mean Girls.). We would then go to a hockey game, then to the Mods, and end the night at Late Night.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a pep talk the night before you moved into BC as a freshman, what is the most important piece of advice that you would give to your former self? Eat your vegetables and take a lot of pictures.
What is your favorite study spot on campus? The Rat
What is your go-to meal at Late Night? That delicious Simply Orange juice the dining halls always have stocked. This and a personal pizza topped with ketchup. Judge all you want, but ketchup on pizza is the best thing to happen since Game of Thrones.
What is the #1 most played song on your iTunes? “I Always Knew” by the Vaccines
What is the best Halloween costume that you have ever worn? I was Minnie Mouse as a kid. Not trying to brag, but I rocked the ears off that costume.
If you could only eat at one restaurant for the rest of your life, which would you choose? Del Taco
If you could befriend the main characters from any TV show or movie, who would you choose and why? Easy. Harry Potter. (I’m assuming) I’d get to go to Hogwarts, be a wizard AND be friends with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. It’s a win win, for me anyway. If I can’t be a wizard then i’d be friends with the main characters from This Is The End.

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