Thursday, April 03, 2008

Cool Hunted

Cool, or worse 'kool' what an elusive indescribable term. When one tries to understand it no matter through what means it alludes one. Even with trusty white person analysis.
I was perusing and noticed a website for knog and was dissapointed to hear handsome boy modelling school - 'I've been thinking' a track I enjoy an a rainy moist autumns night riding under the sodium bulbs of the streetlights that perch around princes park. Also the Japanese model and risque lesbian kiss. Infact for a company that sells pretty ikea-esque bike accessories (I have a light in my backpack from them) its alltogether inappropriately risque. It is what you exactly wouldn't expect from North Face or Kathmandu and thats the sort of semantic space knog occupies in my mind aswell.
Then there was the book 'Pattern Recognition' by william gibson, I will say there are two books that if you have lost touch with everything and wondering where the 90's and also maybe 80's went this book and 'The World is Flat' together probably could bring you up to speed.
Pattern Recognition lost its steam towards the end, but the protagonist is a cool hunter who gets hired by a cutting edge marketing firm to pursue some user generated content and becomes a cross continental journey into paranoia and fashion and shit.
And it kind of made me sick, Neil Gaiman put an endorsement on the cover saying Gibson takes the present day world (now only two years or so out of date) and shows it to us in a way as if we are seeing it for the first time. And more than the World is Flat, I think this book does achieve that.
In all the sickening pointlessness of it all. The descriptions of brands are overwhelming, and once you become aware of brands its almost sickening to wander any pavement anywhere and look at people, because all you see is a grotesque multitude of brands.
But it goes deeper than that, because cool hunters are the seekers of opinion leaders, they facilitate basically making the cool into banality for the majority of the market to accept and mass producers to capitalise.
These are your professional readers of fruits magazine and wanderers of Soho district London, people who turn up to the big day out to take photos of kids in line to figure out what is cool, compose it into a list sell it to a big company and then they mass produce it and stamp a brand on it (like the billabong, quicksilver, rip curl thai fishermans pants a few years back) that makes it okay and safe for most people to put on.
Let's bring you up to speed on the core of the fashion foodchain, basically you have opinion leaders - the big fish, the sharks, the apex of the foodchain, no natural enemies (until cool hunters came along) these people go into an op shop, find a blue blazer with brass buttons and chuck it on, then when immediately ridiculed by their mass of friends at school on casual day say unto them 'fuck off, I like theme'
Now memetically what traditionally happened was that their opinion after some initial resistance spread organically to their close friends who adopted their latest stylings.
Their other friends are opinion seekers - the pilot fish, the bottom feeders, the weakest link on a very short foodchain of fashion, the kind of people that ask bikesnob 'I'm interested in getting a fixed gear, what are they exactly?' in that order as he aluded too. Chances are, and I'm just speaking of probabilities and also that if you are reading this lets face it, you must be seeking my opinion. Anyway in consumption terms, these people seek the opinion from their external reference, this used to organically speaking be the simple process of following the lead of the larger more charismatic shark.
But the waters are muddy! now there are sneakerheads, armies of otaku from japan and furthermore, the insidious marketing practice of cool hunting that can make an opinion seeker confuse themselves for being an opinion leader. yes now you can log onto the internet, find a special interest page, actually just follow the lead of a whole community that already exists and probably copied someone too cool and too unemployed to ever access the internet and suddenly in your local stratosphere you appear to be an expert, a leader, a pioneer. Whereas really you are a johnny come lately.
But that isn't even the worst thing, its that yes, you if you are cool are literally being hunted.
In a big indirect circle, your loser friend are paying premiums to big brands like Nike, Louis Vuitton and Rip Curl and FCUK and other mainstreamers to go and figure out how to immitate you (if you are cool) and then what makes you you makes everybody the same before you know it, forcing you to move on like, I don't know, the dinosaurs in Land Before Time or some shit.
Here's how it works, you are walking through your local shitty street market, and at some Vietnamese stall you see a $3 pair of sunglasses that crazily, match your chuck taylors, so you buy them and where them in September as the weather is turning nice, but because you hung out in the wrong bar, went to the wrong underground bands concert etc, somebody takes a photo of your new 'eccentric glasses' and then takes them to a company who looking through a pile of such photo thumbnails and with a report identifying 'trends' they figure out a way to stick 'DG' on virtually the same glasses and sell them for $120.
They look just as stupid, moreso because of the ungainly woggy brand on the frames but now that it is expensive and recognisable (and that's the key for people who rely on external reference) its okay for a mass of pilot fish bottom feeders to buy, and you not only have lost the relish for your glasses, but also possibly the chuck's they matched, and furthermore everytime you look at your friends wearing their glasses you are reminded that they at least financially speaking are idiots.
SO everybody loses,
but that isn't the part that bothers me, its the fact that its so aggressively predatery now, how appropriate 'cool hunter' is, and if dodo's and blue whales are any indication of what human hunting behaviour is like, it may not be long before there is no such thing as 'cool people anymore' if they still or ever exist/ed.
If you become cool, be cool in a reserve, or a bunker.
I thought I had my loop holes in only getting into stuff that was cool, but had already been dropped, but now I'm worried about them becoming retro cool and ruined again, and then I thought there was a way out by declaring 'cool is cheap' but chinese goods just don't have the design esthetic to A) make this true B) keep it necessarily exclusive.
And it isn't just a matter of having a limited supply of genuinely cool brands, because this escalates the price, and then only idiots who buy louis vuitton purses have their hands on them and they definitely isn't cool.
SO I don't know, but I am afraid. Fortunately the odds of me becoming cool are some of the longest in the world.

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