Who says something’s cool? Users, not the brand-owners

The definition of cool that I would really like to understand is that used by Cool Brands (What is cool? www.designweek.co.uk, 19 October) How does it measure coolness? Is its cool the same as my cool – or anyone else’s cool.

I don’t think cool is always as ephemeral as Sholto Lindsay-Smith implies, but sometimes it is. Keith Richards has always been cool, but Mick Jagger, in my opinion, is not.

I can’t remember a time when wearing a pair of Levi’s was ever not cool – unless they were elasticated and stonewashed. For me, Aston Martins have always been cool, even though early DB7s were cobbled together from a Ford parts bin. My daughter thinks Hello Kitty and Build-A-Bear Workshop are the coolest things around.

Cool is fickle and it’s not controlled by the individual, brand or organisation in question. Other people determine whether you are cool or not. If you try to be cool, or declare yourself to be cool, you patently are not.

For me, cool brands are those that understand what they are about and stick to their guns. They may go in and out of fashion, be more – or less – popular, they may make mistakes, but hopefully they’ll always be cool to someone.

Shamus McGurk, by e-mail

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