Taste, status and coolness – PowerPoint Presentation

ICS 392: Consumer Culture

Taste, status and coolness

Created: July 2, 2019

Taste, status and coolness

Three things happenedSocial class evolved: Inconspicuous consumption; NoBrow; One downmanship; Selective extravagance; Trading up/trading down.We see the emergence of alternate status systems: Coolness (Rebel Cool, DotCool), Authenticity, Normcore, etc.

Taste, status and coolness

Formerly, tripartite ranking for cultural goodsHigh browMiddle browLow brow

Taste, status and coolness

Hard to define A conceptual issueChanges rapidly What people/ideas/things are considered cool at any particular moment changes frequentlyMarket responses can be unpredictable Cool began as a protest to the rigidity of social class as a status system but ended up creating a new status system.

Taste, status and coolness

Hard to define/quantifyCoolness is a many varied thing

Cool is a knowledge, a way of life.Lewis Macadams, Birth of The Cool

Taste, status and coolness

Cool is an age-specific phenomenon, defined as the central behavioral trait of teenagerhood.Coolness entails a set of specific behavioral characteristics that vary in detail from generation to generation, from clique to clique, but which retain a common essence.Marcel Danesi, Cool: the Signs and Meanings of Adolescence

An oppositional attitude adopted to express defiance to authority. Kids want to be acceptable to their peers and scandalous to their parentsAlex Wipperfurth, Brand Hijack

Taste, status and coolness

In complete control of one’s emotions; hip, but having a quiet, objective, aloof attitude; indifferent to those things considered non-essential to one’s beliefs, likes and desires”Dictionary of American Slang

Taste, status and coolness

Coolness is an aesthetic of the streets, a style of deportment specifically designed to alert potential predators that one is impregnable to assault, to prevent skirmishes with lurking thugs, ready to waylay nervous cowards who let down their guard and betray their faint-heartedness while scurrying through bombed-out barrios.

Suburban coolness… has become part of the imposture of privileged youth desperate to rid themselves of what they perceive as the taint of inauthenticityDaniel Harris, Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic

Taste, status and coolness

These definitions are largely abstract essentialist in natureSimple, undefinable, non-natural propertySome common themesIndifference/nonchalance Devoid of emotional expressionUniquenessRebellion

Taste, status and coolness

The central status hierarchy in contemporary urban society. Just as not everyone can be upper class and not everyone can have good taste, so not everyone can be cool. This isn’t because some people are essentially cooler than others, it’s because cool is, ultimately, a form of distinctionHeath and Potter, Nation of Rebels

Only a small fraction of the population lives in full commitment to hip; for most of us, work, school, family, rehab or the alarm clock gets in the way. Yet we all participate in its romance. …hip permeates mainstream daily life at the level of language, music, literature, sex, fashion, ego and commerce. John Leland, Hip: The History

Taste, status and coolness

Distinction via coolness; distinction via of rebellionEmploy the Critique of Mass SocietyDistinction via rebellion against the mainstream

Taste, status and coolness

Marketing of anti-consumption/anti-mainstreamAlternative musicThe “alterna” prefixIndependent movies; Mainstream moviesAmerican BeautyFight ClubAnti-ads

Taste, status and coolness

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Taste, status and coolness

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Taste, status and coolness

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Taste, status and coolness

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Taste, status and coolness

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Taste, status and coolness

How do you make something cool?Answer: You make it rebellious.You evoke the critique of mass society and you commoditize rebellion Thus is consumption politicizedEssentially: consumption of anti-consumptionCoolness drives consumer society

Taste, status and coolness

Cool is based on distinctionCool/Not CoolRocks/SucksHot/NotWired/TiredHip/SquareBohemian/Bourgeois

Bourgeois valuesHard workSocietyRestraint Their pecking order = social classBohemian valuesHedonisticIndividual Sensual

Taste, status and coolness

Bohemian values triumphantYet capitalism as strong as everThe two sides merged

Lots of names for the merged phenomenonBobos (Bourgeois Bohemians)David BrooksThe Creative ClassRichard FloridaX-classPaul FussellGrupsSternbergh

Taste, status and coolness

How did capitalism survive?Answer: the restless, individualistic, free-spirited ways of the Bohemians are more in tune with the spirit of capitalism

Bourgeois valuesMaterialism OrderRegularityRational thinkingSelf-disciplineBohemian valuesCreativityRebellionNoveltySelf-expressionVivid experience

Taste, status and coolness

Coolness also requires validation by othersSo, that which is seen as cool tends to spreadBut there is much that is unpredictable about how this process plays out

Taste, status and coolness

VW’s (new) Bug & Chrysler’s P.T. CruiserChrysler wanted something similar to the New VW BugDidn’t work out that way

Pabst Blue RibbonFrom nearly dead brandTo sudden, unplanned resurgence in popularityAll with minimal marketer effort

Taste, status and coolness

Cool began as a protest to the rigidity of social class as a status system but ended up creating a new status system.Rather than abolishing class, cool essentially replaced class as the central determinant of social prestigeBut, it too faces challenges Cool has a short shelf life

Taste, status and coolness

Two bold assertions:The middle class is the most class insecureYou are doomed to your class of origins.Does this logic also hold in coolness?

Taste, status and coolness

Critique of mass societyIn order for capitalism to function, we must have:1) Conformity in workers, 2) in education3) in consumption 4) sexual repression

Critique of civilization1) authority is oppressive2) status seeking is humiliating, 3) work is alienating, 4) conformity a form of death.