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  • Is there a secret to being cool?
  • Is there a secret to being cool?
    Krists Luhaers, Creative Commons (2017) ©
Subculture

What makes youth culture cool?

That effortless sense of style and just-so way of carrying oneself – some people have it and some don’t. But how exactly do we determine what is and isn’t cool? Joel Dinerstein, author of The Origins of Cool in Postwar America, explains the origin of ‘cool’ and its evolution over the decades.

Location United States

Scope
The concept of ‘cool’ is disconcertingly hard to put your finger on, but tracking its history is a good place to start. “Starting in the late 1930s among African Americans, and late 1950s among Euro-Americans, the word ‘cool’ came to be sort of a password for individual rebellion and defiance,” explains Joel Dinerstein, a cultural historian and author of The Origins of Cool in Postwar America. [1]

The first generation of people to use the word used it for cultural, not political, rebellion. “It’s not clear what the path would be to political protest, so ...

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