What defines the amorphous idea of ‘coolness’ in each age of life? If you are cool too early in life, can you recapture that golden era? What is the optimum age to be considered the apex of cool? We reveal all this and more.
There are only a few avenues to newborn coolness and they are of course largely dependent on your birth parents. Are they cool people themselves? Judge this based on whether or not they announced your entrance into the world with a gender reveal stunt. If they did, you’re fucked.
A Premier League footballer has an outlandish hairstyle and your mother has allowed you to copy that outlandish hairstyle, and thus you are cool. Or at least, this is how seven year olds would have become cool in the 90s and 00s. Now we presume it is somehow Roblox-related. There are some aspects of seven-year-old coolness that transcend generational boundaries; namely that your parents let you invite the whole class to your birthday party and then provided excellent goody bags. Perhaps there is some sort of elaborate bouncy castle.
One obvious source of coolness at 14 that stops being cool shortly after you’re 14, and long after you’re 14 starts to get kind of a little worrying: pretending you have lost your virginity (or actually losing your virginity). This reveal doesn’t have to be concrete, in fact it confers more cool points if it’s nebulous. See also: she goes to another school, it happened during the summer holidays, we broke up because she was too clingy. At around 14 you start to learn one of the most important facts of life which is that if you are a good enough liar you can convince other people to like you and think you’re cool – potentially until you die.
There are other, non-lying, non-sex related ways to be cool at 14 but realistically this is much more difficult to achieve. They include: having absent parents but in a fun way rather than an emotionally scarring way (i.e. they will facilitate you to host regular house parties), having a precociously bushy beard or precociously big norks; bringing poppers to school one time and letting people sniff them out your locker, procuring weed that ends up being coriander (nobody mentions this because they all pretended to be stoned with you, so collective amnesia is less uncool than confronting you for being stupid enough to spend 80 quid on kitchen herbs).
Drugs. Just drugs. Drugs are very cool when you’re this age.
At age 28 coolness becomes more of a minefield than it was at school or university. There are tripwires of social convention that while not making you cooler, if activated can send you spiralling into a vortex of uncoolness that you will be forced to spend years if not decades undoing. Have you bought a flat or house with a deposit cobbled together from hidden generational wealth and a career in management consultancy, and then posed in front of that house with your partner, clutching your keys with white knuckles (caption: ‘we did it!’)? Have you adopted a rescue dog with that partner? Is the rescue dog called something like Biscuit or Mittens or Oscar or Clive? Have you organised a wedding with that partner, and then hours after your marriage was made legally sound, changed your surname on all social media platforms with a speed that suggests HMRC themselves are on their close friends list? If you have done any of these things I have devastating news for you: you are not a cool 28-year-old.
Conversely, if you think you have escaped this vortex by embracing the opposite – living in some sort of warehouse collective, still being slightly too into 2C-B, telling people you are polyamorous – you are mistaken. In the great horseshoe theory of coolness, chasing the dragon of cool is just as bad if not worse than giving up on it entirely and retreating to the suburbs with Oscar (dog) or Oscar (fiancé).
We have come to the conclusion that it is perhaps impossible to be cool at 28 unless you are famous, or having sex with a famous person.
A difficult one: the age when Peter Pan syndrome really starts kicking in – you get lots of 35-year-olds who still crunch four festivals a summer, a habit which requires younger friends. Yes, this is the age at which people who were cool throughout their twenties often become ‘that guy’, the one who starts looking a bit furtive and gritty after midnight. Conversely, most 35-year-olds still feel like they’re 21 – even if they look 41. There’s nothing less cool than a bunch of swaying, braying, balding blokes trying to delude themselves that they’ve still got ‘it’. Hmmm. It’s a tricky one: we’re going to say that you just can’t be cool at 35, unless you are really into nature, or surfing or something holistic like that.
You are on your second marriage, which confers coolness, but only if it manifests in specific ways. Much younger second husband: cool. Much younger wife: deeply uncool, so deeply uncool that it doesn’t even boomerang back to being ironically cool again. Age appropriate wife/husband: like, fine. Neither cool nor uncool, just neutral.
Nobody is cool after 42. Not even Beyoncé. Or Bill Nighy.