Sunday, August 28, 2005

Cool vs. Trendy

I had a weird discussion with some construction workers the other day - about the meaning of "coolness" versus "trendy."

These guys and I discussed the return of the worn-out looking jeans as a fad, and how what they and I naturally create through wear-and-tear now retails for in the hundreds of dollars at trendy outlets and boutiques - people drop good money to buy Diesel, Aeropostal, and Calvin Klein for the labels rather than get a comfortable pair of Levis or Wranglers and wear them down the old fashioned way.

The conversation's been haunting me, both for its comical irony (construction workers discussing fashion is anything but stereotypical behavior) and because its not normally something I think about. I wanted to at least come up with an answer that satisfied my own curiosity.

None of the guys I talked with had an answer. But everyone seemed to nod in agreement when this younger Electrician's apprentice said "Yup, there's a difference, all right."

I was up at ACE Hardware this afternoon, buying some plywood and coated wire (I've been painting a lot lately, using lightweight wood for canvas), and I noticed something very odd that reminded me of that conversation.

Several customers in the store were Miami students, all dolled up, shopping for who knows what. The funny thing is, their designer jeans looked just like the worn-out department store jeans several of the working class folks were wearing -- holes in the legs, frayed cuffs, and faded coloring.

The whole scenario finally put the whole "coolness-versus-trendy" thing into perspective for me. Being cool or exhibiting "coolness" is about learning to add one's own personality into something that is time-tested. Like beat-to-death jeans worn by your average cowboy, carpenter, electrician, rancher, plumber, or other everyday-joe, coolness comes from taking something ordinary - like denim - and making it unique, putting one's own personal touches into something to make it extraordinary.

Being "trendy" means basically the opposite - taking something unique and molding one's personality to fit a product line, popular belief, stereotype, etc. Like designer jeans, trends change often. Therefore, accepting trendiness requires adapting constantly to maintain some level of social status, group acceptance, etc. There is no time - like with the Miamian's designer duds - to make something unique or to add any tangible personal investment to trendy things.

Basically, being "cool" means not worrying about being "trendy" and simply doing one's own thing. Being "trendy" means, however, worrying constantly about looking, acting, and sounding "cool."

Another example...Your average truck driver who buys a hat at a truck stop isn't doing so because some celebrity or ad agency said it's "cool" to own a trucker hat - he buys it because he needs a hat. I've had several folks around town - trend-followers, I guess - ask me where I bought my "Studebaker's, Farmville, Virginia" hat, assuming that it must've come from a designer store. Truth is, the hat is about as old as I am; I borrowed it from my Dad probably 10 years ago and never returned it. It's actually a freebie and quite comfortable after years of sitting on dashboards, behind driver's seats, and being crammed into moving boxes.


I guess it all boils down to the simple fact that simply being who one wants to be, without concerns about trends, popularity, or any of that superficial stuff, simply living a normal life, makes the average, everyday human being cooler than anything bought in a store.

I've got to quit having deep discussions with construction workers...


Anonymous said...

Hmmmm...that got me thinking...having dated a miami guy who was caught up in the whole trendy thing (stupid scenesters LOL) i think you make a valid point about coolness being sorta part of everyday things made special by the idividual.
There was this guy at the Bellagio tonight who was like soooo hot. no designer clothes just some guy in a cowboy hat and reguluar jeans and a dressshirt. He wasn't like emo kid cute - this was a real honest to god man doing his own thing. Cowboy boots and a Sun Volt t shirt and a buzz cut. this guy was just doing his own thing with (sigh) his girlfriend or wife.

i think coolness also includes durability too -- something rugged enough to stand being so damned cool. i've owned deisel jeans and they're overpriced garbage in my opinion. not made for active people. Look a steve mcqueen - now that kinda coolness is vertually indestructable!

The ZenFo Pro said...

There is something rugged and tough about coolness. I agree totally. Steve McQueen? He's cool. Ben Affleck? He's just an actor...

Same holds true for guys like Leonard Cohen. He's classic cool. He does his own thing. Read Zeydeco Fish's post on Cohen from last week.

Smurf said...

Very well said, cool is an essence, trendy is a phase! Nice post!

Smurf said...

One more thing, my dad is a retired construction worker and well... he has some of the best and most well thought out concepts and ideas of anyone I met... be wary of labeling someone based on job title by stereotype... ;)