When I was a little kid, nobody was cooler than Snoopy’s “Joe Cool” character. Yeah, I’m dating myself, I guess, but the image of Joe/Snoopy standing by the water fountain, shades on, trying to pick up chicks, has always stayed with me.
The thing is, watching this clip today as an adult, and I find something I never picked up on way back in the 1970s: Joe Cool is a failure! Despite his attempts to get the ladies to come drink at the fountain, they stick their noses up in the air as they walk by (as that smooth singer cries out “Joe Cool, playin’ the fool…”). Back in class, he’s getting his paw caught between the sharp jaws of his D-ring binder and lookin’ the fool, and then, the ultimate humiliation, he’s sent flying out the front door of the school to land on his furry butt.
That’s the thing: if you try too hard to be cool, you’re gonna fail, big time.
While the old definition of cool—and I’m talking about how it was used in the 1940s and 50s—might have meant to be detached or disinterested, I think by the 1970s it was starting to mean something else entirely, and Peanuts creator Charles Schultz picked up on that.
Cool is about being engaged. Being so engaged in what you believe in, as a matter of fact, that whatever it is that moves you becomes contagious. People see how interested you are in comic books or coffee or gadgets or cocktails or cars or whatever, and they want to be around you, they want to know more.
At least, that’s what I think. And coming from a guy who used to worry a lot about what other people thought (like are my sunglasses cool enough for Joe Cool?) that’s saying a lot. So I hope you’ll join me as I go in search of Where Cool Came From. While I’m going to try really hard to find the answers, I won’t try too hard to be cool while I’m doing it
Yours in coolness,