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Woah, You Guys are So Cool! But What is "Being Cool" in 2016?

I went to Field Day, the coolest festival of all the music festivals, to try to understand what it means to be cool in a post-hipster, post-ironic reality.

This article was originally published on Noisey UK

The hipster is dead. He choked to death on a hemp burger after refusing the Heimlich manoeuvre because he'd read somewhere that Dr Heimlich wasn't vegan. Since then, so many disparate trends have risen to fill the void. Nu-bros, normcore couples, health goths, yuccies, cutesters, and many more cultural tribes have formulated and grown, all seemingly united under a very vague idea of being cool. But if each one of them is totally different, yet all think they are cool, then how do you define cool? What is 'cool' anymore? Am I cool? Are you cool? Is Noisey cool? Is my dad cool? There’s a small pigeon nibbling on a discarded artisan pastry outside the cafe where I write this—is he cool? Or has the idea of cool in 2016 finally and entirely expunged definition? Is it simply some sort of invisible force of nature, like quantum physics or Kevin Bacon in Hollow Man?


Irrelevant, desperate and out-of-touch, I think about what cool meant to me growing up. It was Vince LaSalle sending a kickball into outer space, Joey Jordison on a double-bass pedal, Duke Nukem in a pair of shades with a gun, thrusting. Being cool used to be so pure, and so honest; it wasn't based on how many cactus plants you owned or the regularity at which you shared cropped pictures on a photo service. So how do you describe being cool in this post-hipster, post-ironic reality of Guardian thinkpieces, Evening Standard trend guides, and ready to be scaled markets of social capital? What is on-trend?

The only way I was going to find out was by embedding myself within the annual gathering of London’s youth culture, the Field Day music festival—an event known for the sort of tastemaking, trendsetting patronage that advertising executives dedicate entire marketing spends to trying to understand. As a place where dreams are born and Snapchatted in seconds, the festival is an ideal venue for embarking on a mission of cool discovery. So I strapped on my worst pair of socks and headed into the damp, waterlogged land of Field Day to ask the youth of today the big question. Come on, cool people of cool Field Day. Tell me: what is fucking cool?!

Noisey: Man, what is even cool in 2016?
Center, right: Short length trousers.

Oh, OK. Does that mean hobbits are in vogue?
Just wear what you want, innit?


So, if you had to pinpoint a definitively on-trend and cool person, who would it be?

What makes you cool?


Hey! What's cool?
Center, left: When I was 12 years old, I read in the Times Magazine that rolling cigarettes was the epitome of cool. Then I started smoking. Every time I roll a cigarette, I think of that article and how cool I am.

That’s the coolest thing you can do?
It’s not the coolest thing I can do. I’m just reminded of it as the concept of cool.

Judging by your post-wacky-CBBC-presenter outfit, you seem well versed in the seminars of being cool. How do you become cool?
Left: Wear things that are ahead of the time. That’s cool. Center, left: Cool is when I bought a pair of Adidas trainers in secondary school and was so embarrassed that I cried and threw them away. Only now are they cool! I was cool in year 8 before anyone knew it. Right: She was not cool, I was in her Science class. I can vouch for her not being cool. Cool is not caring. So stop worrying what other people think, wash your glitter off your fucking face and just have a good time.

Hey guys. Across the shifting, varied plains of this ever-changing universe, who is the coolest person you can think of?
Girlfriend: My boyfriend. Boyfriend: Andre 3000. Girlfriend: What?!

I always thought Bubble from Big Brother Two was cool. What do you think of the word ‘hipster’ now? Are we post-hipster?
B: It’s got to the point where it’s so saturated now. I remember when they said skinny jeans was cool. But nowadays everybody wants to rock the whole outdated Hollyoaks style. G: It used to be underground, cool—it used to be niche.


What’s the next step then?
B: For me, cool is King Krule, Jessie James, Rejjie Snow and that kind of genre. Death Grips and that, you know? The crossover to underground.

So underground is cool?
Underground is cool.

So, are mole people cool?
G: What are mole people?

They live underground.
B: I’m from Cornwall, and we pick coal from underground. So obviously I think that’s pretty cool.

Hey, what’s cool?
Girl: Films! We’re all talking about films.

What’s the coolest film you’ve ever watched?
Pulp Fiction.

What makes Pulp Fiction cool?
It’s stylized. It’s done by a director who is like, really, really involved with the canon. He’s produced something original, yet harks back to a lot of other great directors. It’s bloody and quite sensationalist.

How would you channel that film into day-to-day life to make yourself cooler at Field Day?
Well every single character in that is an individual. So I think that you should take from that to become your own person, and be a fully-fledged human being.
Boy: Everyone in this field, deep down, thinks they’re cool. And objectively, if you think you’re cool, if you’re trying to be cool, you’re not cool.

Do you care if you’re cool?
Absolutely, yeah. But I think self-awareness and self-reflectivity, in a film like Tarantino’s, that’s cool. But if you’re self-aware in real life then you’re not cool, ever.

So is like, a tennis ball, completely unaware, travelling through the air pretty cool?
Yeah, that’s pretty cool.


What are you doing?
Right: We’re chill, man.

Is being chill the new cool?
Don’t know. Not really, sort of, I guess. Yeah, it’s cool. It’s relaxing.

Is Antarctica cool?
It depends on the context, doesn’t it? In terms of temperature, yeah. But like, in terms of things to do. It’s not cool, no.

So being cold isn’t cool?
You can be cold because it’s cool, but being cold isn’t cool.
Friend: Fuck. That’s great, man.

You’re really, really tall and, if life has taught me anything, it’s that tall people are cool.
Tall man: Well, there are two perceptions of cool. What people think is cool, and what is cool for you. Me for example: I’m actually a massive dork. But I love being a massive dork, so it kind of works for me. But people who don’t know me see me and think, "That guy is so tall. He must be cool."

But yeah, you must be. Tall people are the shit.
Nah, it’s just a thing. I just woke up one morning and was like "Woah, growth spurt." Then I was mad tall. But don’t talk to me about cool, because I’m not! Go and find Skepta, he’s the epitome of cool. Despite having the biggest Fifa playing, YouTube video-making dork brother, he’s really cool. If you’re doing something you love, you’re cool.

What about a man rampantly pushing a trolley around a supermarket and loving it, is he cool?
I don’t know whether that’s cool, or psychotic. Why would you do that?

He’s obsessed with Supermarket Sweep.
Oh, then yes. Very cool man.


So, Supermarket Sweep is cool?
Was that ever in doubt?

I don’t think so.

Where can I find cool at Field Day?
Lady with the pink hair: Dean Blunt is about to play, he’s cool.

What other bands are cool?
DIIV were really good. Skepta was fucking cool, but the sound was shit. We’re going to try and see Dean Blunt.

What’s the cool thing to do when you’re watching a band though?
Just like stand, listen to them, start dancing if you’re into it. Maybe start break dancing? I don’t know, I’m not cool.

But if you’re not cool and don’t want to be cool, doesn’t that make you cool?
That doesn’t make sense. Why are you asking us if we’re cool?

I thought you looked on-trend and could explain to me how to be cool in this new and daring age of modernity.
No, you know what, I’m sick of this mentality. Everyone says ‘you’re a hipster!’ I’m not a fucking hipster! I just know what I want to fucking wear and I fucking wear it, and I know what I want to fucking do and I fucking do it. Nobody’s trying to be fucking cool, just be who you are! Who fucking cares, man? Friend in hood: I think this is exactly what they wanted. Lady with the pink hair: I don’t give a fuck, I’m fucked.

Where can I find cool then at Field Day?
Shoved up your fucking arse.

OK, I think I've got it.

You can find Oobah Butler on Twitter.