Coolness, Aesthetic Agency and Self-Construction
Keywords:Coolness, Self-construction, Autonomy, Aesthetic Agency, “Sprezzatura”
The notion of coolness is connected with a broad range of different meanings that involve personal attitude, taste, fashion choices but also the recognition of uniqueness and authenticity by others. Moreover, coolness is related to self-confidence and imperturbability, as the usual historical reconstructions of its meaning show. In fact, the manifestation of subjective invulnerability is the expression of the general need to avoid any weakness that could challenge one’s own autonomy through other people’s gaze. In other words, the opposite of cool is to be excessively self-conscious, too dependent on the approval of others, and to be exposed and vulnerable to external judgment. Taking cues from these different meanings, this contribution will try to argue how the need for individual autonomy, social recognition and aesthetic fulfilment are closely intertwined in the practices of coolness, defined as acts of “self-construction” and, in particular, as aesthetic self-fashioning. From this perspective, it will be argued that even the most frivolous search for coolness as a stylistic attitude in everyday’s aesthetic domain like fashion, consumption and lifestyle, plays a role in the dynamics of self-assertion and becomes an instrument for recognition and autonomy.
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