Posted by: Chris Sandel | January 19, 2009

My Theory of Coolness

So I’ve been doing some research.  Not so much scholarly.  More like random and pointless (then again, that still might qualify as scholarly).  I’ve been studying coolness.  It has always been fairly elusive to me, though I’ve never made it too much of a personal goal to attain it.  Rather, I’ve sort of embraced the uncool in favor of… we’ll in favor of whatever I felt like really.  That always seemed a lot simpler than caring about what anyone else thought.  Maybe that is why I wore socks with my sandals in high school a few times or why I had a rat tail several years after they went out of style in middle school (though I’m not sure they were ever technically in style in the first place).

As I’ve looked into this whole “cool” thing a little more I’ve come to realize that there is actually lots of research done on it.  And not just the kind that marketers do (which I hear about plenty in student ministry circles).  Just check out the wikipedia page for “Cool (asthetic).”  I had to read through it a little before I could even tell if they were talking about the same thing as me.  Then I ran into this fun timeline of cool and a classic quote on coolness from The Simpsons


 The Simpsons on being “cool”:

Homer: So, I realized that being with my family is more important than being cool.
Bart: Dad, what you just said was powerfully uncool.
Homer: You know what the song says: “It’s hip to be square”.
Lisa: That song is so lame.
Homer: So lame that it’s… cool?
Bart+Lisa: No.
Marge: Am I cool, kids?
Bart+Lisa: No.
Marge: Good. I’m glad. And that’s what makes me cool, not caring, right?
Bart+Lisa: No.
Marge: Well, how the h*** do you be cool? I feel like we’ve tried everything here.
Homer: Wait, Marge. Maybe if you’re truly cool, you don’t need to be told you’re cool.
Bart: Well, sure you do.
Lisa: How else would you know?

After all of my study, I’ve come up with a theory about my own coolness.  You see, coolness in American culture is very youth driven and because of that there will always be a downward trend in coolness once you pass a certain age.  I, however, am in a somewhat unique situation as a youth minister.  For most people, their coolness probably maxes out at around 25 (give or take 5 years) and then it is all down hill from there.  But because I work with students, I am much more connected to our young people and therefore have a slight advantage for attaining coolness at a later age.  Through that (and because I was so very uncool before), I believe I’ve made up some ground over the last few years.  I was a big dork in Jr. High and early high school.  In late high school, I was still far from cool but I gained a little ground and made it to around average by the end of college.  Now though, I believe I’m beginning to buck the trend.  While everyone else moves on and accepts being an old person, I will need to stay culturally relevant and that should keep my cool factor abnormally high for my age.  That means, in a few years I may actually be cool!  (Note: once I approach 40 I figure I just totally won’t care any more and no amount of cultural relevance will make up for my black socks with shorts and thick, old man glasses.)


Disclaimer: I think I may have just jinxed it.  I’m pretty sure writing about being cool eliminates you permanently from the cool list.  Oh well.  I’ll sacrifice it all in the name of furthering this important study.




  1. hilarious… how does becoming a parent fit into that? doesn’t the “parent factor” alter a coolness rating?

  2. Yeah, good point. I did think about that but at this point that is a big unknown. I may have to update a few months after the little guy gets here.

  3. Love it! How can I donate to this research?

  4. I was thinking the same thing as Kara, as I read through the article. I’m pretty sure that what you tolerate from junior highers as a youth minister will change significantly when it’s your own… But then again, you might be so cool by that point that your coolness will mold the way junior high people define cool and it won’t really matter.

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