What is the Cool?


This weekend, after a wet and windy saturday afternoon session in front of The Thomas Crown Affair (yes, a very blokey indulgence between rugby matches), we set to thinking that why, exactly, is Steve McQueen so ‘cool’ and what, exactly constitutes that most abstract of adjectives?

After a few hour of rumination, we’ve come up with a theory. Here goes.

Cool has nothing to do with what someone is wearing, or, even, how something looks. Surface appearances after all wax and wane in and out of popular fashion. What is on trend one season quickly turns out of favour, for example, the next.

When something like, say, the first generation Audi TT was launched, it seemed the essence of cutting edge design and so was instantly classed as ‘cool’ by almost every commentator out there. Look at the car now and it looks really dated; generations of designers have aped its nineties period curves and ethos and therefore we are (personally) tired of looking at it.

Some would argue that in these accelerated times the original TT is already spun through the cycle of trend and is cool again, therefore containing something of the elusive essence that makes something truly cool. A classic, in other words.

If you happen to be one of those far sighted individuals that have kept a first gen TT in storage and has never driven it, its value will be appreciating as we write. It might be regarded as a good investment but that doesn’t mean it’s cool.

Steve Mcqueen is constantly namechecked as being the quintessence of cool – but not (all the time at least) because of what he was wearing. Sure he could rock a pair of khakis, a windcheater and a pair of Persols like no other, but these items of garb have migrated from iconic moments on silver screen and Life archive photographs to the department stores and high streets of the world. They are no more essentially cool than the old pair of scuffed up Vans I am currently using as my cycling shoes. It was McQueen’s individuality and his commitment to living and breathing his passions that constitutes his coolness.

Essential cool is about people, ideas, products, music, art, etc. that defies and transcends categories and genres. When applied to cars and bikes, the coolest are the unique and the resonantly appealing, the hand-wrought, or at least the ones manufactured with the passionate dedication of the individual artisan or inspired design.

There are a lot of cool cars and out there, and these are the ones in which we are most interested. Apologies for the garbled philosophy. Sometimes we just need an excuse to run cool pics.