What is American Cool?
One of the highlights from our family trip to Washington, D.C. this weekend was taking in the “American Cool” exhibition of 100 People Who Define Cool in Arresting Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s a collection of 100 photos that go deep into the soul of those who posess that certain edge.
In this selfie world of “duck lips” and “signature poses” we often lose the spontainaity that comes with honestly capturing oneself as these photos of icons Laureen Bacall, Patti Smith, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Depp, Michael Jordan, Deborah Harry, Susan Sarandon and the spontenaity of those images work to showcase each subject’s individual style.
Honestly, cool is probably the most overused word in my personal vocabulary. As is my penchant for wearing black, an aesthetic akin to being a downtown New Yorker who spent plenty of time on the “cool” scene.
But, what is cool, exactly?
Is cool throwing some hard light and fancy filters, like the photo of me above (okay, that is a selfie), to create the raw & real mystery of that certain provocative something?
Is cool really THAT uniquely removed from the mainstream?
After looking around at the contrast between the exhibition the attendees and the provoking photos on exhibit, it got me thinking of a way to define the style of what is cool at face value, even when the charisma of its veneer is the certain something that appears undefinable.
What’s key from a style perspective there is a certain continuing sense of modernity even from the older images on display that remain relevant today.
It’s based on eschewing trends that date, garish colors, and extraneous details that distract from you. It’s staying loyal to clean lined classics with the addition of the ease and undoneness that says I’m it, I don’t follow, and screw you for telling me so!
Cool is looking self-assured, even a little cocky, but remains easy and organic without pretense. Never like a sheepish follower, but always like your own person.
So, think about that the next time you consider overloading on the newest trendy fad or trying too hard to look fashionable, it’s just not cool.
Cool, chic, or maybe a little of both (I hope so)… discover YOUR iconic style moments with me. So, tell me in the comments below, what is cool to you?
The exhibition will be open at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery Feb. 7 through Sept.