LIDIA K. C. MANZO
University of Trento, Italy
In recent years the term “cool” has increasingly become a universal phenomenon, the ideal language of popular (and youth) culture, and a source of constant innovation. Arguably, it has had an important influence on many institutions, from media and education to the real estate market and the economy itself.
The word “cool” was apparently first used by the jazz saxophonist Lester Young (1909–59). This predominantly black jazz scene in the United States, and among expatriate musicians in Paris, helped popularize notions of cool in America in the 1940s, giving birth to Bohemian, or Beatnik, culture. Through the 1950s, “cool” was reified in American literature for example, in one of the most penetrating studies of the hipster, The White Negro (1957). In this essay, Norman Mailer asserted that the only way to resist conformity was by being a hipster, whose tastes for jazz, sex, drugs, and black slang and mores were distinctly cool. Interestingly, the 1960s and 1970s anti-establishment, hedonistic movements of the United States were symbolized by the adoption of hippy fashion, which also heralded the adoption of cool by the masses. Throughout the 1970s, in fact, the moral world of hippies and counterculturalists evolved into a form of revolution that was more personal, practical, and immediate, a revolution played out in the practice of everyday life, most notably Binkley's Getting Loose (2007). Here, ...