“Coolness” – on the one hand today a fashion word devoid of content, on the other a self-confidently lived, late-modern individual attitude and behavioral strategy with rebellious roots against a twisted and unjust world.
But what does the word “cool” actually mean and what does it mean “to be cool”? How does “coolness” become tangible? What makes coolness so appealing? Where do the terms come from? How has the matter evolved?
Which facets do we encounter when we take a closer look?
Michael Köckritz gets to the bottom of these questions with a holistic view, researches and collages history and stories, talks to interdisciplinary experts about backgrounds and developments, characteristics and criteria, identifies with you the icons and personalities that so strikingly shape our modern image of coolness. The result is an entertainingly stimulating as well as creative journey of discovery approaching the facets of a timelessly fascinating phenomenon of longing.
This reflected, precise look at the concepts of cool and coolness becomes an impressive plea for coolness as a timelessly modern, emotional experience and self-confident “attitude” that lives attractively from a refusal of bourgeois norms and not fitting in, and at the same time fascinates with a distinctly aesthetic dimension.
As a creative media maker, Michael Köckritz always manages to create attention-grabbing and lastingly stimulating impulses in the context of current and future topics as well as lifestyle and luxury worlds with good-natured ease. His internationally published magazines ramp and rampstyle have received numerous awards and are regarded as style-defining. His current project on the subject of “coolness” and “being cool” once again encourages people to think and think further.
Once immigrated through the rebellious language of young people, “cool” is now widespread – and describes everything that is somehow casual, hip, trendy or in. Everything should be cool, everyone wants to be cool. Cool is admirable and coveted. But what does the word actually mean? And what does it mean to “be cool”? How does coolness become tangible? Especially for brands that like to position themselves as “cool”. What facets do we encounter when we take a closer look?
In search of answers, Michael Köckritz has managed to come up with a surprisingly different book on the subject of coolness. “Coolness – the casual elegance of freedom” is an original documentation and art project, characterized by creative energy and a visually outstanding implementation. The richly illustrated, amusing and entertaining coffee table book inspires with a fresh interdisciplinary view as an impressive plea for coolness as a timeless modern experience that shapes cultural technology and a self-confident “attitude”, as a wonderful attitude and aesthetics.
The launch of the project was celebrated in the heart of Porsche, which is open to the public – in the Porsche Brand Store Stuttgart. Linked to the actual book launch: A first multimedia pop-up exhibition event on the subject of coolness, curated by Köckritz and his editorial team. In return, ramp was then able to completely take over the newly opened Porsche Brand Store for five weeks in a takeover.
Of course, that’s what made us curious about a conversation with Michael Köckritz.
A book and pop-up exhibition about coolness. Why actually? How do you come up with such an idea?
Everything has once again developed wonderfully unplanned. Strictly speaking, the prehistory has three storylines. The first is shaped by the idea behind the ramp world publications. When we started ramp 15 years ago, Christian Gläsel and I were not just concerned with thinking about the topic of car culture magazine in a fresher and wilder, braver way and with a higher demand for creative implementation and modern visuals. Above all, we always wanted to give relaxed values and attitude a lively space. The joy in an open, holistic view and in creative experiments are then typical of the world of ramp magazines anyway. It’s particularly nice when special projects also have a stimulating effect with and alongside the actual core publications. Everything according to our guiding principle: “That what we and our friends live for”. Such a “coolness project” here is just the most current.
And what was then still decisive?
In a series of my conversations and interviews, everything revolved around the oversensitive patterns of excitement and indignation, the astonishment at small-minded, exaggerated wokeness discussions and a widespread, strained to narcissistic boasting and know-it-all attitude. Something like a relaxed distance to yourself and the less important things is far away. Humor? Rather non-existent. At some point the remark “a little more coolness would do us all good”. Suddenly the eyes were open, the interest sensitized.
And then Porsches. A discussion among friends revolved around the Porsche brand. That would be a damn cool brand, they said. Everyone agreed. Somehow. Well, and then the good question arose as to how exactly that could be determined. What actually constitutes such coolness and “being cool”? In general and of course also in relation to the desirability of products and brands. People like to spend money on cool brands. What exactly are the criteria here? Why could Porsche, for example, actually inspire as a “cool brand”. I was also curious as to whether and to what extent the longing phenomenon of coolness could interact with premium and luxury in an exciting way. With that, the start button for this coolness expedition was pressed to the left and finally. The circle to Porsche and the current launch in the Porsche Brand Store also comes full circle.
Is it possible to sum up the result of this research excursion in a nutshell? What is cool?
First of all, it can be stated that coolness prefers to elude the generally applicable assessment standards. Coolness isn’t a fixed term, category, or size. In effect, a very special expression of aloofness. We experience coolness as approachable unapproachable. This phenomenon then also significantly enlivens the attractiveness and magic of coolness.
And how does coolness then become tangible?
One is only cool in comparison. Cool is never normal, and normal is never cool. To put it simply, being cool consists above all in not being uncool. Cool are those who live their own ideas with their own value system and do their thing fearlessly. The core of coolness lies in an authentically lived autonomy and freedom. Distance and self-distance correspond here ideally with the rebellious note of coolness. This is one of the reasons why cool tends to develop in subcultures and in the aesthetic underground.
The experienced quality of Cool?
When you are cool, you tend to face things calmly and with a clear focus, courageously and elegantly. You take certain things seriously – but not yourself. Anyone who can laugh heartily about themselves and their weaknesses, quirks and mistakes has an advantage. Or you are, as the Anglo-Saxons say, the inventors of coolness: “Cool as a cucumber”. Understatement and a dry imperturbability are the essence of coolness. Such a cheerful attitude then also helps in dealing with coolness in principle. Because coolness is not likely to be brought about arbitrarily.
Why isn’t this working?
Coolness is lived and claimed, but not as the main phenomenon. If you absolutely have to be cool, that’s why it’s not. The effortless is a fundamental aspect of the cool state. Either cool – or really embarrassing. And anyway: You can’t be cool at all. You can only be rated as cool by others. The impression manifests itself in relevant contexts. Coolness is a very personal phenomenon of perception. Authenticity is key here too. Life as a stage in a theater, where we appropriate equipment and live behaviors that judge our fellow human beings like an audience.
And is Porsche now a “cool brand”?
Although coolness is a vaguely defined term, it is possible to identify coolness characteristics and parameters and to grasp them scientifically. In such a superordinate structural model of brand coolness, Porsche actually scores in terms of a whole range of distinctive coolness factors.
Do you have any examples?
Being cool is a choice like being free. Porsche stands for a promise of freedom. The car strengthens our ability to be in the world, gives autonomy, is a “freedom tool”. A Porsche promises that to a great extent. A symbolic character with a high degree of freedom. Then coolness means scratching the limit, a bit above, not below. Throughout history, Porsche has always got the maximum out of what were often minimal circumstances. Right from the start, Porsche always moves intelligently and ingeniously at and above the limit. A thoroughly positive, rebellious component that is experienced as cool. In general, we know Porsche as the car of rebels. The left in California were the first to get enthusiastic about a Porsche. Avant-gardists, creative people and trained doers and heroes loved and still love the car. Steve McQueen, James Dean, Janis Joplin. Ferdinand Porsche himself can be seen as a rebel who has done his thing. One can also assign Porsche here central adjectives such as iconic, extraordinary, energetic, high-ranking, subcultural, aesthetically pleasing and popular. Well, and then the origin of Porsche is Swabian down-to-earth. This also serves a calm mentality wonderfully as evidence.
Perhaps the most important attribute of a cool brand?
Being content-driven, focused and inspired. Autonomy and freedom to live convincingly. This only succeeds if you have internalized such a spirit as a brand in the brand culture in a way that is both natural and authentic and effortless and relaxed. With “Driven by Dreams”, Porsche is already doing quite well here.