Alexander Fury: Cool is a tricky, tricksy game. So why bother trying to play it?
Wear, what, why, when? ‘I don’t want to be cool, I want to be fashion!’
Alexander Fury is a fashion journalist, author and critic. He is fashion editor of the Independent, i and the Independent on Sunday newspapers and was awarded the inaugural Editorial Intelligence Award for Fashion Commentator of the Year 2014-15. He was named one of InStyle magazine's 20 most powerful people in fashion in 2015.
Sunday 18 August 2013
“Cool” is a weird concept.
It’s supposed to be what we’re all hankering after – how many times can style-guides churn out “10 Ways to Stay Cool” for summer? Or for any season, for that matter. But one can’t help but wonder if that’s really what fashion should be all about?
On the one hand, cool is an indefinable quality. You either have it, or you don’t. Look at James Dean and Marlon Brando in shades and leather perfecto jackets. Now look at Cliff Richard in the “Wired for Sound” video. Minus the roller skates, the fashion formula is the same.
So why do the former look so right and the latter so very, very wrong?
Perhaps because, contrary to fashion’s assertions, cool has very little to do with the clothes you put on your back. Of course, they can help: it’s easier to look cool in a leather jacket than a taffeta prom dress. But if everyone’s wearing a leather jacket and trying to look cool, does that negate its cachet completely? Possibly. That’s why east London hipsters began wearing items dragged from the charity shop pound-bin, such as gem-encrusted Christmas sweaters. If you can look cool in garments that are the nadir of naffness, it emphasises that the quality is with you. It’s the opposite of clothes making the man.
But then, of course, cool is cyclical. The naff sweater itself became cool. People began buying them to try to look cool. Which became uncool. Cool is a tricky, tricksy game.
Personally, I’m not willing to play it. That’s because I hate fashion that tries too hard. Look at those Givenchy sweatshirts, splashed with oh-so-serious, crypto-religious iconography. They’re cool, right? Probably. But, frankly, they’re not much fun.
Which is the main issue: it’s difficult to look cool and have a good time. Anna Dello Russo, a woman who always looks like she’s having a party in her bejewelled pants, once stated “I don’t want to be cool, I want to be fashion!” There’s a lesson to live your life by.
What Anna means, of course, is that she wants to have a good time in gold lamé rather than hang out in black trying to look nihilistic. Besides which, all the best fashion, I reckon, isn’t cool at all. No-one ever looked cool in Christian Lacroix couture.
But God, they all had a great time.
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