Category Archives: Uncategorized

Christopher’s Guide to Being Cool, Part Six: Eyewear

With the rise of “geek chic” (aka: “autism chic”) spectacles have become genuinely fashionable for the first time since the late 19th century. To keep up, you’ll need large-lensed glasses with thick black plastic frames: part Buddy Holly, part free-on-the-NHS circa 1983. These would have gotten you relentlessly beaten up in the school playground in the early ‘90s but who’s laughing now? That’s right: you are, speccy.

On the other hand, if Mother Nature has dealt you a cruel hand and cursed you with perfect vision, don’t despair: you can always get non-prescription glasses or, failing that, frames sans lenses. These can be obtained from any cutting-edge accessory boutique or from your local toy shop. It’s worth pointing out that the latter solution doesn’t defend against anyone trying to poke you in the eyes. Dev Hynes, for example, has eyesight so good he can see in complete darkness, like Vin Diesel in “Pitch Black,” and has no need for spectacles except to emphasise how cool he is.

Dev Hynes also has the natrual ability to see through walls.

Dev Hynes can also see through walls.

Sunglasses are also a must but they should be wayfarers (preferably Ray Bans) or mirrored aviators, unless of course you’re alright with being a complete fucking laughing stock. Ladies, you also have the option of large, Jackie O shades. Girls always have more options, meaning there’s even less excuse for being uncool if you’ve got a double-X chromosome. With great choice comes great responsibility.

Whichever style of sunglasses you choose, you’ll need to wear them all the time, whatever the weather, no matter whether you’re indoors, outdoors or underwater… Remember the infamous line from Blues Brothers “It’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses” and repeat it like a mantra because from now on you will know no sunlight. Most cool things happen at night; this way, it’s night-time all the time. The rest writes itself.

Christopher’s Guide to Being Cool, Part Five: Tattoos

Tattoos are one of the few things which are enduringly cool no matter whatever else is de rigueur, along with black & white photography, being in a band and dying young.

A few years back a cool tattoo would either be a Chinese symbol that supposedly meant “love” or “peace” (although probably actually meant “scrotum”) or some pseudo-Maori tangle of spikes on your upper arm if you’re a guy or in the small of your back if you’re a girl. If you’ve got one of those then you’re shit out of luck because those are just laughable now.

If you go to get a tattoo done in a parlour that still offers those kinds of designs or employs tattooists who aren’t paragons of rockabilly vogue or Frank Carter from Gallows then get out of there quick smart; that place isn’t cool enough for your patronage.

Nowadays, the coolest tattoos involve the timeless chic of good old-fashioned anchors and swallows and/or ‘40s-‘50s pin-up girls. Ok, so their “timeless chic” might be totally passé in a couple of months, leaving you as a walking anachronism, but Sailor Jerry’s bound to come back around. You’ll have to endure a few years in the wilderness but have patience grasshopper: eventually your tattoos will be cool again. And no, it doesn’t matter if you’ve never even set foot on a cross-Channel ferry; nautical-themed tattoos historically denoting thousands of miles of naval experience are fine for sailors and landlubbers alike.

Despite being published way back in 2006, many tattoo artists still consider this the definitive guide to modern tattooing.

Despite being published way back in 2006, many tattoo artists still consider this the definitive guide to modern tattooing.

Besides, if you’re thinking in the long-term (yes, “a couple of months” counts as long-term) then you’re really not that cool: given the frantically hedonistic life you lead, there’s every chance you’ll be dead in a couple of months, a martyr for youthful decadence. Now that IS cool.

Christopher’s Guide to Being Cool, Part Four: Friends

As a cool person, men, women and aspirational adolescents should adore and envy you in equal measures. Staring down at your feet (turned awkwardly in towards one another) and dressed like an autistic kid in the ‘80s whose outfit was chosen by his colour-blind mother, you mightn’t be the most obvious candidate for social whirlwind du jour but this is all a ruse.  If all goes according to plan you won’t recognise two-thirds of the numbers in your phone and you’ll have at least two social events of some description to choose between every night from now until Judgement Day.

friendphone 4b

If you’re really cool, you’ll blow those out plans at the last minute because you got invited to a secret gig in Stockholm. And if you’re cooler still – and this is a trump card to be played sparingly – you’ll blow out those plans at the last minute to stay home, take some time to relax, work on a new song or semi-ironically watch Gremlins.

Your aforementioned mass appeal should manifest itself in having numerous, disparate groups of friends which can be categorised as follows:

a)      Old, uncool friends

b)      More recent, cool friends

c)       Edgy celebrity friends

Your old, uncool friends are your rock: you’ve been together through thick and thin over the years, good times and bad and they’re the ones you turn to when there’s nobody else. The most important thing with this group is to establish yourself as the perennially cool friend. You don’t need to be the centre of attention but you’re always the one on the cutting edge; when they need to know what the next big thing is, they ask you. That warm feeling you get after enlightening them is perfectly normal. Savour it though, because you can’t foist your wisdom upon them; they have to ask you, but stay cool and ask you they shall. You’re practically a guru.

Longevity isn’t really a concern with your cool friends. You might’ve only known one another for a fortnight but in cool years you’re practically life-long comrades-in-arms. Remember that trends change fast and so your cool friends won’t stay cool forever; give it another six weeks and they’ll be just another unfamiliar number in your phonebook. Let’s say you befriend a burgeoning musician: the strength of your friendship is indirectly proportionate to their success. You’re as close as siblings through their struggle to make it, as they play impromptu gigs behind East End chippies and you’re still good friends when they start to get some mainstream press attention and their fan-base expands beyond a handful of cutting edge fashionistas and rabid groupies but once they get daytime airplay on Radio One, it’s time to move on.

The final group of friends is edgy celebrities: well-known enough to be either established or upcoming indie royalty but still fringe enough to have kept some integrity. There isn’t much point in being friends with edgy celebrities if other people (particularly your uncool friends) don’t know you’re friends with edgy celebrities but you need to inform them in as blasé, round-about way as possible, which can be a balancing act. The revelatory conversation should go as follows:

You: “So I was out with Florence last night…”

Uncool Friend: “Florence…?”

Y: “Florence Welch.”

UF: *Silence*

Y: “From Florence and the Machine.”

UF: “Oh, right!”

Y: “Yeah so anyway, I was out with Florence…”

Your delivery must be unshakeably nonchalant until the point you have to clarify that your friend Florence is Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine, which you deliver with mild annoyance: this way you’ve established that you hob-nob with modern music’s best & brightest (reinforcing your position as cool friend) but you don’t go on about it because this shit’s just everyday for someone as cool as you. It’s of paramount importance that you’re not eager to tell people: that doesn’t make you cool, it makes you a desperate hanger-on, which was acceptable if you were trailing the Libertines when they were starting out but that was nearly a decade ago and nowadays you’ll be impressing no-one. Except maybe Foals.

And so that, boys and girls, is how your social life should be divvied up. Just remember: make new friends but keep the old and make some friends in rock & roll.

The first official Christopher’s Guide to Being Cool award for Services to Being Cool goes to…

…an anonymous cyclist.

The Unknown Cyclist was undoubtedly one of the many people basking in the sun around Brick Lane and Commercial Street on Sunday, and had pad-locked their old, single-speed bike to a lamp-post. Counting the ” Remember to ride it about town but only to cool places and never when the weather’s looking dodgy” stipulation, they’ve covered four of the points already. Add to that the fact they’ve got a basket and a bell and what we have there is a paragon of bicycling cool.

photo-0123ab

So congratulations. You may be unkown, but your services to being cool will not go unnoticed.

Christopher’s Guide to Being Cool, Part Three: Computers

This modern world is awash with technology and as a cool person it’s your duty to be as completely disengaged with as much of it as possible. You mustn’t whine, like some clichéd “observational” comedian, exasperated because they can’t use their VCR properly; that doesn’t make you cool, it makes you a retard. You should be above technology, not outwitted by it.

There are two exceptions; the first is creative equipment: guitar pedals, synthesisers, samplers, drum machines, decks, PAs, EQs, cameras, graphic design and music/video editing software are all socially acceptable, just so long as you don’t talk about them too much.

The second exception is anything by Apple: anything Apple makes is cool and owning said wares makes you cool too.

A MacBook is the best option when buying a computer: not only is it an Apple product (instant cool points) it’s far more portable than a desktop, so you can sit in bars and cafes all over East London, using their Wi-Fi and parading your new toy in front of other cool people, forming instant, unspoken bonds of brand affiliation.

Your experience with computing should be restricted solely to Apple products if at all possible: if you work in an office, hopefully it’s a cool office with bare brick walls, expensive vodka in the staff kitchen and Macs as standard. If it’s an uncool office, with cream walls and Tesco value orange squash, bring your MacBook to work so you won’t have to use one of their PCs. Surround yourself with PC equipment and you’ll get exiled from Shoreditch so damn fast it’ll make your head spin.

As we already mentioned, you can get away with being a dab hand with music, video or image editing software like Photoshop and Illustrator without being chased out of Coolsville but only so long as you swear blind that they work best on Macs. If someone suggests there’s actually no real difference between the Mac and PC versions, give them an askance look halfway between disbelief and pity; there’s no use reasoning with people like that so don’t waste your breath.

cs4pc12

When forced to use PCs and Microsoft software you should lament how unintuitive it all is and, if there’s a God in the sky, it’ll freeze up and you can sigh about how Apple products never fuck up like this. If your Mac freezes up, it’s probably because you installed some Microsoft product like Office; you can bet your original pressing of “Ziggy Stardust…” that if Steve Jobs made a word processor you wouldn’t have to put up with this kind of bullshit, but then Steve Jobs is too cool for word processors and spreadsheets. He’s like Bill Gates for people who take ecstasy.

Whilst we’re on Apple, let’s move on to iPods: from old women to chav teenagers, the world and his wife have iPods. Surely you can’t be seen to have the same product allegiances as the tedious masses? Well if Korg or Gibson made mp3 players then maybe things could be different, but they don’t so they aren’t; stop dreaming and face reality.

For now, this is but a dream...

For now, this is but a dream...

“iPod” and “mp3 player” are basically synonymous, so wanting another brand involves researching gadgetry and it should go without saying that that’s not cool. The only things worth researching are new (preferably unsigned) bands, independent cinema (even theatre, if you’re that way inclined) and edgy (read: “resurrected”) fashion trends. There are two considerations when buying an iPod and there’s no right or wrong answer. If style is your paramount concern, get an iPod Shuffle to clip onto the lapel of your vintage denim jacket or a Nano, to slip unobtrusively into the pockets of your skinny jeans. If you’re more concerned about the music then get one with an excessively large hard-drive to store your huge and varied edgy, iconic and self-aware music collection. It’s important to remember that however much space you’ve got, it’ll never be enough. You’ll need to complain about having to delete old songs to make way for new ones: your tastes don’t stagnate and to prove it you’ll have to sacrifice yesterday’s favourites on the blood-stained altar of progress.

Or you could go the complete opposite way and only listen to a Walkman (cassettes having a lo-fi retro charm trumped only by antique vinyls and wax cylinders) but only as long as it’s older than you are, giving you an upper limit of 30 years. After you’re 30 you should stop using Walkmen and start lamenting the fact you didn’t join the 27 Club.

A similar rule applies to headphones: you can stick with the small white buds that come with your iPod but to be über-cool, it’s better to get headphones that at least look older than you are. Large, flat, black plastic, foam-ringed, ear-covering circles with thick wires and a flimsy-looking stainless steel headband; these things would’ve been the dog’s bollocks in 1982. Of course if they actually are from 1982 they’ll sound like shit and even the ever-important duty of looking cool can become a chore if Glasvegas sound like they’re playing in a distant cave full of snakes so it’s probably best to go with good, modern headphones that just look like they’re old.

In a perfectly cool world, one could be completely disengaged with computers but sadly that’s impractical, verging on impossible – how else are you going to hear the newest bands before anyone else? Radio?! This isn’t the ‘60s anymore. The simplest (and therefore coolest) answer to the computing conundrum in this imperfect world of ours is to just get Apple stuff. Look at it this way: PCs are for people who get sexually frustrated because they haven’t had any kind of sexual contact in the last 15 years; Macs are for people who get sexually frustrated because they haven’t had any kind of sexual contact in the last hour-and-a-half. That Mac advertising campaign with Mitchell & Webb was pretty much right on the money except for the fashion, which was all wrong: ever-so-slightly-scruffy old, muted suits are far cooler than pastel-coloured shirts and beige khakis. It’s Beyond Retro vs. Gap, which is a no-brainer.

Christopher’s Guide to Being Cool, part two: Exercise

Don’t be ridiculous.

Okay, so I suppose a certain amount of exercise is permissible. You need to be waif thin which should be no problem if you stick to the prescribed Whiskey & Cigarettes diet. If however you do put on weight somehow you’ll need to shed it ASAP: they’re called “skinny” jeans for a reason.

Eating disorders haven’t been cool for like nine years so if you’re going to lose weight you should “go to the gym” and you ought to let people know that you’re going to “go to the gym” or that you’ve just “been to the gym.” Running (which you should never under any circumstances do outside “the gym”), swimming, saunas… What you actually do there isn’t that important, so long as you get rid of your excess fat and don’t gain any extra weight. Can you lift a guitar? You can? Then you’re already strong enough and don’t need to build up your muscles.

Playing football’s fine too although you need to play it semi-ironically and ideally you should’ve been playing since you were much younger; that way football’s an intrinsic part of who you are, like your collection of rare ‘70s vinyls. If people look surprised when you tell them you play football, then you’ve done it right. Faris Badwan from the Horrors really likes football but then he hasn’t been in the NME Cool List since 2006 so he’s not a great role model. Take Peter Crouch as your inspiration instead: world class footballer, yet skinny as fuck AND danced The Robot as a goal celebration. The man’s a genius.

Martial arts are fine too. Okay so you should already have a mean right hook from your days as a gutter-snipe ruffian, growing up on a dodgy housing estate, but that needn’t stop you developing that into something more refined and controlled. As with “going to the gym” and football, you mustn’t let martial arts result in muscle development.

Other sports aren’t cool, end of story. Cricket, baseball, etc. involve too much standing around and standing around’s pointless unless you’ve got a cigarette in one hand and a whiskey in the other; rugby, American football, Aussie rules, ice hockey etc. are all just organised fights and if you’re cool you don’t organise anything, especially not your fights.

Yoga is also an avenue to be explored, albeit with caution. Your life ought to be a giddy rollercoaster of substance-fuelled anonymous sex and live music and a bit of relaxation that doesn’t involve a tourniquet now and then is no bad thing. Plus, it’ll get you flexible enough to experiment with sexual positions unavailable to the less-limber. Here’s the danger: don’t turn into one of those sanctimonious, new-age, Madonna-type cunts that bang on about how wonderful their wholesome Pilates-filled, colonically-irrigated lives are. Truly cool people lead by example they don’t harp on about how great they are. Anyway, why would you want to be wholesome in the first place?

Unless you’re dancing, playing a gig or having sex, then breaking a sweat is to be avoided at all costs but when it comes down to it, sweating from a session on a running machine is infinitely preferable to sweating from the exertion of trying to squeeze into a pair of Cheap Mondays…

Christopher’s Guide to Being Cool, part one: Bicycles

It used to be that bicycles were only popular with environmentalists, chavs and the Dutch, but no more! If you want to be cool, you’re going to need a bicycle.

First thing’s first, it can’t be flashy. Choppers are acceptable and if you’re happy settling for second best then well done you. Don’t get one with gears or suspension and definitely don’t get a fold-up bike. If someone tries to sell you one with gears and/or suspension, sigh despairingly and loftily say “Look, I just need something to get me from A to B” the same way you told the clerk in the mobile phone shop “Look, I just need something that can make calls and send texts.” This shows that you lead a life above and uncluttered by modern machinery’s geeky complexities. If you want to be cool, you can’t be too knowledgeable about anything vaguely mechanical unless it’s creative gadgetry (there’ll be more information on this in the up-coming section on technology).

Secondly, and this is very important: don’t get a new one. The older the bike someone has, the cooler they are. Seriously; Alice Glass rides a Penny Farthing.

alice-penny12

You don’t buy new clothes, so why would you buy a new bike? Also, seeing as you’re cool, you’re probably an artist or a musician or some other bohemian type which in turn means you’re broke, so unless you dip into that trust fund that you never talk about there’s no way you can afford a new bike.

You could get a bike from eBay or Loot but if you want to be really cool and proper edgy you should get a “second-hand” bike from a “respectable businessperson” somewhere along Brick Lane. Ok so it might be a little bit stolen but then until your bike gets nicked, the London bike theft economy doesn’t affect you so, y’know, who cares?

If for some reason you can’t get a second-hand one, at least go to some lengths to make it look old. Get one with a matte, pastel colour frame and scuff it a bit with some rough sandpaper.

Your approach to bike safety gear – hair-flattening crash helmets and unflattering reflective gilets, etc. – comes down to a simple question: would you rather look good or be killed? If you had to think about this for even a split second then you’re not cool. Go back to your dull, sanitised life of seat-belts, white wine spritzers and condoms.

crashed

One element of safety you should care about is tucking your trouser cuffs into your socks so they don’t get mangled in the bike chain: it’d be a fashion tragedy. If you’re cool, your trousers should already be tight enough to rival Olivia “I had to be sewn into these“ Newton-John so the only real way you’d run this risk would be if you made a concerted effort to feed your leg into the cogs but that’s not the point. Upon dismounting your bike you should forget your trousers are like this and leave them tucked in. This way people will look at you and think “Wow, they must ride a bike; they’re dead cool.” This look was popular with Liverpudlian scallies in the late ‘90s but they’ve abandoned it for long enough now that cool people can pick up the torch without raising too many eyebrows.

Your trips between A and B may involve getting groceries and for this, you’re going to need a basket on the front. Realistically this should be thatched to further emphasise how in touch you are with simpler, computer-free times (bike bells serve a similar purpose). Also, thatched baskets will give people a better view of the cool things you put in it, like a Borough Market canvas bag full of organic vegetables.

boroughbasket

You should get a bike lock so that your bike doesn’t end up in the hands of a respectable business person somewhere along Brick Lane but preferably a key lock one. Combination locks are pretty crass and you’re head’s going to be too preoccupied with being creative and intoxicated to remember the number anyway.

And those, ladies and gents, are the particulars of getting a cool bike. Remember to ride it about town but only to cool places and never when the weather’s looking dodgy.

Next time, I’ll be nonchalantly guiding you through the minefields of either eye wear or technology, I haven’t decided which yet.