skin-carved dragons, or what is cool

As we guest post for Brandflakes, we'll give you naked people covered in ink. But first we have to understand cool.

That's a bit complex, you see. "Cool," as a concept, has been around since at least the 1500s. Italians called it sprezzatura, the disdain and detachment seen in the painting of Mona Lisa, the idea that your social standing allows you to rise above morals, have hot illicit sex like in one of those Merchant Ivory films, and ignore the views of others. Africans had a similar concept at the same time, the "mystic coolness" that meant gentleness and grace, the ability to ward off fights, known by the Yaruba and Igbo cultures of West Africa. European edge and African grace combined in the United States, and fueled by the jazz of the 1930s and 40s, the word "cool" itself was popularized by saxophonist Lester Young. The Fonz locked down cool in the 1970s before he jumped the shark.

Today, in the marketing universe, cool is something to be packaged -- a proxy for newness and pleasure, a cutting-edge tone from the fringes of society that, if you catch it quick enough, can imbue you with status, build your confidence, and cocoon you in material goods that signal your elevation to others. It's why hip, small agencies get acquired, because they see something on the edge that marketers hope can be leveraged to lure the consumer masses in the middle. It's why you lust for Apple products; no, you don't really need the iPhone 4G for better calls or apps, but if you grab one fast and hold it carefully to maintain signal, the aluminum icon will make you hip (for about two more months).

Consumers and advertisers are drawn to the edge because both live in hope that something bigger, better, more lovely or lustful or satisfying may emerge from that far horizon. You may never get a full body tattoo from Horiyoshi III in Japan -- but just knowing that colorful dragons on pecs are out there gives a frisson of fashion. Watch the video. Don't you now feel cool?

Via Nowness and Cool Hunting.

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