Why I Hate “Cool”

April 25, 2012

cool-dudeThere’s nothing more uncool than “cool.” And people who feel they have to try to be “cool.” And the things they do or say in the name of being “cool.”

Yawn. Boring. Dumb.

To clarify, I’m not talking about the word “cool” itself; if I see something on TV or online that’s interesting, I’ll still say, “Oh, that’s cool” or something similar. That’s not what this is about.

This is about the bigger version of “cool,” where people try to be something they’re not. (And usually fail miserably at it.)

The Problem With “Cool”

Cool doesn’t care. Cool is indifferent. Cool doesn’t think it has to try because … it’s not cool to try. Cool would rather fail than try, because trying isn’t cool. Trying implies caring. And caring isn’t cool.

Cool thinks it’s above everything else, better than everyone else.

Cool wants to fit in — as long as it fits in with other cool. Everything else is uncool, and to be ignored (at best) or just outright mocked.

None of My Heroes are/were Cool

I don’t know if you can ever learn anything from “cool” people. But I do know that you can learn a lot from uncool people. John Wooden was certainly uncool — maybe the most uncool coach in sports history.

How cool is it to demand that your players put their socks on in a certain way, so that they’re less likely to get blisters? How cool is it to write love letters to your wife every month for years after she’s died? He did that, too. (I happen to think that’s pretty cool; but if you’re “cool,” that kind of passion is the furthest thing from cool.)

You know who else isn’t cool?


They’ve never been cool. About anything. Since day one, they’ve cared and been passionate. I don’t always agree with the things they’re hot about, but I love that they’re hot about a lot of things.

In fact, here’s how Brian Eno described U2 and coolness in an article about the Achtung Baby recording sessions:

Cool, the definitive Eighties compliment, sums up just about everything that U2 isn’t. The band is positive where cool is cynical, involved where it is detached, open where it is evasive. When you think about it, in fact, cool isn’t a notion that you’d often apply to the Irish, a people who easily and brilliantly satirize, elaborate and haggle and generally make short stories very long but who rarely exhibit the appetite for cultivated disdain — deliberate noninvolvement — for which the English pride themselves.


It is this reckless involvement that makes the Irish terminally uncool: Cool people stay ’round the edges and observe the mistakes and triumphs of uncool people (and then write about them).

I’ll take someone who’s “positive” and “involved” and “open” (those are Eno’s words) every time over someone who’s “cool.”

My kids are getting to the age where being “cool” is important. I’d much rather they be themselves, no matter what anyone else thinks or says.

That’s really the only way to be cool — to be yourself, 24/7. We’re all uncool. And the sooner the we all realize that … well, that will be a very cool day.

(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)


  • Reply Carson Ward April 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Hi Matt,

    I hate to get all deep on this post, but I’ve actually been thinking a lot about this since reading “On Killing.” It disturbs me a that so many of the “cool” heroes are portrayed as stone-faced sociopaths. Anger and hatred fueled by vengeance is basically the only emotion that a hero is allowed to show, with far too few exceptions.

    I’m with you: down with detached apathy as a virtue. Give us more heroes like (I’m told) U2 – people who are confident without being robotic. People who are passionate and actually show concern for other human beings.

    • Reply Matt McGee April 25, 2012 at 11:09 pm

      Thx very much, Carson — very well said. Passion is highly underrated. I love people who have passion for something.

  • Reply Chris Crouse April 30, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    I’ve been thinking this my whole life but haven’t been able to tell people what I believed with the right words. Cool is overrated. Thank you for your insight. Good luck with getting your kids to see the light. It’s tough to be a kid, you just wanna fit in. Mope fully they find be right friends who think they’re cool just being themselves. Cheers.

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