Coolhunt thecoolhunt
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Coolhunt thecoolhunt Document Transcript

  • 1. from The New Yorker March 17, 1997 ANNALS OF STYLE The Coolhunt Who decides whats cool? Certain kids in certain places-- and only the coolhunters know who they are. by Malcolm Gladwell1. had decided they didnt want shower sandals. DeeDee the hundred-and-twenty- five- recalls, "Im like, Im tellingBaysie Wightman met dollar basketball sneaker with you, Baysie, this is going toDeeDee Gordon, seventeen different kinds of hit. There are just too manyappropriately enough, on a high-technology materials and people wearing it. We havecoolhunt. It was 1992. colors and air-cushioned heels to make a shower sandal. "Baysie was a big shot for anymore. They wanted So Baysie, DeeDee, and aConverse, and DeeDee, who simplicity and authenticity, designer came up with thewas barely twenty-one, was and Baysie picked up on that. idea of making a retrorunning a very cool boutique She brought back the sneaker-sandal, cutting thecalled Placid Planet, on Converse One Star, which was back off the One Star andNewbury Street in Boston. a vulcanized, suède, low-top putting a thick outsole on it.Baysie came in with a classic old-school sneaker It was huge, and, amazingly,camera crew-one she often from the nineteen-seventies, its still huge.used when she was and, sure enough, the Onecoolhunting-and said, "Ive Star quickly became the Today, Baysie works forbeen watching your store, signature shoe of the retro Reebok as general-Ive seen you, Ive heard you era. Remember what Kurt merchandise manager-partknow whats up," because it Cobain was wearing in the of the team trying to returnwas Baysies job at Converse famous picture of him lying Reebok to the position itto find people who knew dead on the ground after enjoyed in the mid-what was up and she committing suicide? Black nineteen-eighties as thethought DeeDee was one of Converse One Stars. DeeDees countrys hottest sneakerthose people. DeeDee says big score was calling the company. DeeDee works forthat she responded with sandal craze. She had been an advertising agency in Delreserve-that "I was like, out in Los Angeles and had Mar called Lambesis, whereWhatever "-but Baysie said kept seeing the white teen-age she puts out a quarterly tipthat if DeeDee ever wanted girls dressing up like cholos, sheet called the L Report onto come and work at Mexican gangsters, in tight what the cool kids in majorConverse she should just white tank tops known as American cities are thinkingcall, and nine months later "wife beaters," with a bra and doing and buying.DeeDee called. This was strap hanging out, and long Baysie and DeeDee are bestabout the time the cool kids shorts and tube socks and friends. They talk on the
  • 2. phone all the time. They get cutting edge, the more elusive lack of a better word, reallytogether whenever Baysie is the cutting edge becomes. cool. She doesnt do the teenin L.A. (DeeDee: "Its, like, This is the first rule of the thing of climbing half anhow many times can you cool: The quicker the chase, octave at the end of everydrive past O. J. Simpsons the quicker the flight. The act sentence. Instead, she dragshouse?"), and between them of discovering whats cool is out her vowels for emphasis,they can talk for hours about what causes cool to move on, so that if she mildlythe art of the coolhunt. which explains the disagreed with somethingTheyre the Lewis and Clark triumphant circularity of Id said she would sayof cool. coolhunting: because we have "Maalcolm" and if she coolhunters like DeeDee and strongly disagreed with whatWhat they have is what Baysie, cool changes more Id said she would sayeverybody seems to want quickly, and because cool "Maaalcolm."these days, which is a changes more quickly, wewindow on the world of the need coolhunters like DeeDee Baysie is older, just paststreet. Once, when fashion and Baysie. forty (although you wouldtrends were set by the big never guess that), and wentcouture houses-when cool DeeDee is tall and glamorous, to Exeter and Middleburywas trickle- down-that with short hair she has dyed and had two grandfatherswasnt important. But so often that she claims to who went to Harvardsometime in the past few have forgotten her real color. (although you wouldntdecades things got turned She drives a yellow 1977 Trans guess that, either). She hasover, and fashion became Am with a burgundy stripe curly brown hair and bigtrickle-up. Its now about down the center and a 1973 green eyes and long legs andchase and flight-designers Mercedes 450 SL, and lives in so much energy that it isand retailers and the mass a spare, Japanese-style cabin hard to imagine her asleep,consumer giving chase to in Laurel Canyon. She uses or resting, or even standingthe elusive prey of street words like "rad" and "totally," still for longer than thirtycool-and the rise of and offers non-stop, deadpan seconds. The hunt for cool iscoolhunting as a profession pronouncements on pop an obsession with her, andshows how serious the chase culture, as in "Its all about DeeDee is the same way.has become. The sneakers of Pee-wee Herman." She DeeDee used to sit on theNike and Reebok used to sounds at first like a teen, like corner of West Broadwaycome out yearly. Now a new the same teens who, at and Prince in SoHo-backstyle comes out every Lambesis, it is her job to when SoHo was cool-andseason. Apparel designers follow. But teen speech- take pictures of everyoneused to have an eighteen- particularly girl-teen speech, who walked by for an entiremonth lead time between with its fixation on reported hour. Baysie can tell youconcept and sale. Now speech ("so she goes," "and precisely where she goes ontheyre reducing that to a Im like," "and he goes") and her Reebok coolhunts toyear, or even six months, in its stock vocabulary of find the really coolorder to react faster to new accompanying grimaces and alternative white kids ("Idideas from the street. The gestures-is about using maybe go to Portland andparadox, of course, is that language less to communicate hang out where thethe better coolhunters than to fit in. DeeDee uses skateboarders hang out nearbecome at bringing the teen speech to set herself that bridge") or whichmainstream close to the apart, and the result is, for snowboarding mountain has
  • 3. cooler kids-Stratton, in and Polo Sport and Reebok Hilfiger by the hip-hopVermont, or Summit Classics on their feet. But auteur Grand Puba, whoCounty, in Colorado. when I asked DeeDee about wore a dark-green-and-blue(Summit, definitely.) that, she just rolled her eyes: Tommy jacket over a whiteDeeDee can tell you on the "Sometimes Baysie goes off on Tommy T-shirt as he leanedbasis of the L Reports these tangents. Man, I love on his black Lamborghini onresearch exactly how far that woman!" the cover of the hugelyDallas is behind New York in influential "Grand Pubacoolness (from six to eight I used to think that if I talked 2000" CD, and whose lovemonths). Baysie is to Baysie and DeeDee long for Hilfiger soon spread toconvinced that Los Angeles enough I could write a other rappers. (Who couldis not happening right now: coolhunting manual, an forget the rhymes of Mobb"In the early nineteen- encyclopedia of cool. But then Deep? "Tommy was mynineties a lot more was I realized that the manual nigga /And couldnt figurecoming from L.A. They had would have so many footnotes /How me and Hilfiger / useda big trend with the whole and caveats that it would be to move through withMelrose Avenue look-the unreadable. Coolhunting is vigor.") Then I had lunchstupid goatees, the shorter not about the articulation of a with one of Hilfigershair. It was cleaned-up coherent philosophy of cool. designers, a twenty-six-year-aftergrunge. There were a lot Its just a collection of old named Ulrich (Ubi)of places you could go to buy spontaneous observations and Simpson, who has a Puertovinyl records. It was a strong predictions that differ from Rican mother and a Dutch-place to go for looks. Then it one moment to the next and Venezuelan father, playswent back to being horrible." from one coolhunter to the lacrosse, snowboards, surfsDeeDee is convinced that next. Ask a coolhunter where the long board, goes to hip-Japan is happening: "I the baggy-jeans look came hop concerts, listens tolinked onto this future- from, for example, and you Jungle, Edith Piaf, opera,technology thing two years might get any number of rap, and Metallica, and hasago. Now look at it, its huge. answers: urban black kids working with him on hisIts the whole resurgence of mimicking the jailhouse look, design team a twenty-seven-Nike-Nike being larger than skateboarders looking for year-old black guy fromlife. I went to Japan and saw room to move, snowboarders Montclair with dreadlocks, athe kids just bailing the most trying not to look like skiers, twenty-two-year-old Asian-technologically advanced or, alternatively, all three at American who lives on theNikes with their little once, in some grand Lower East Side, a twenty-dresses and little outfits and concordance. five-year-old South AsianIm like, Whoa, this is guy from Fiji, and a twenty-trippy! Its performance Or take the question of exactly one-year-old white graffitimixed with fashion. Its how Tommy Hilfiger-a forty- artist from Queens. Thatsreally superheavy." Baysie five-year-old white guy from when it occurred to me thathas a theory that Liverpool Greenwich, Connecticut, maybe the reason Tommyis cool right now because its doing all- American preppy Hilfiger can make whitethe birthplace of the whole clothes-came to be the culture cool to black culture"lad" look, which involves designer of choice for urban is that he has peoplesoccer blokes in the pubs black America. Some say it working for him who aregoing superdressy and was all about the early and cool in both cultureswearing Dolce & Gabbana visible endorsement given simultaneously. Then again,
  • 4. maybe it was all Grand RXT-a low-cut run/walk shoe baggy Guess jeans, and, onPuba. Who knows? in white and blue and mesh his feet, Nike Air Jordans. with a translucent "ice" sole, He couldnt have been moreOne day last month, Baysie which retails for a hundred than thirteen. But when hetook me on a coolhunt to the and ten dollars-he looked at it started talking you could seeBronx and Harlem, lugging long and hard and shook his Baysies eyes light up,a big black canvas bag with head in pure admiration and because somehow she knewtwenty-four different shoes just said two words, dragging the kid was the real thing.that Reebok is about to each of them out: "No doubt."bring out, and as we drove "How many pairs of shoesdown Fordham Road, she Baysie was interested in what do you buy a month?" Baysiehad her head out the he was saying, because the asked.window like a little kid, DMX RXT she had was a girlschecking out what everyone shoe that actually hadnt been "Two," the kid answered.on the street was wearing. doing all that well. Later, she "And if at the end I find oneWe went to Dr. Jays, which explained to me that the fact more I like I get to buy that,is the cool place to buy that the boys loved the shoe too."sneakers in the Bronx, and was critical news, because itBaysie crouched down on suggested that Reebok had a Baysie was onto him. "Doesthe floor and started pulling potential hit if it just switched your mother spoil you?"the shoes out of her bag one the shoe to the mens section.by one, soliciting opinions How she managed to distill The kid blushed, but a friendfrom customers who this piece of information from next to him was laughing.gathered around and asking the crowd of teenagers around "Whatever he wants, heone question after another, her, how she made any sense gets."in rapid sequence. One guy of the two dozen shoes in hershe listened closely to was bag, most of which (to my Baysie laughed, too. She hadmaybe eighteen or nineteen, eyes, anyway) looked pretty the DMX RXT in his size. Hewith a diamond stud in his much the same, and how she tried them on. He rockedear and a thin beard. He was knew which of the teens to back and forth, testing them.wearing a Polo baseball cap, really focus on was a mystery. He looked back at Baysie.a brown leather jacket, and Baysie is a Wasp from New He was dead serious now:the big, oversized leather England, and she crouched on "Make sure these come out."boots that are everywhere the floor in Dr. Jays foruptown right now. Baysie almost an hour, talking and Baysie handed him the newwould hand him a shoe and joking with the homeboys "Rush" Emmitt Smith shoehe would hold it, look at the without a trace of due out in the fall. One oftop, and move it up and condescension or self- the boys had alreadydown and flip it over. The consciousness. pronounced it "phat," andfirst one he didnt like: "Oh- another had looked throughkay." The second one he Near the end of her visit, a the marbleized-foam cradlehated: he made a growling young boy walked up and sat in the heel and cried out insound in his throat even down on the bench next to delight, "This is bug!" Butbefore Baysie could give it to her. He was wearing a black this kid was the acid test,him, as if to say, "Put it back woollen cap with white stripes because this kid knew cool.in the bag-now!" But when pulled low, a blue North Face He paused. He looked at itshe handed him a new DMX pleated down jacket, a pair of hard. "Reebok," he said,
  • 5. soberly and carefully, "is Ryan and Neal Grosss deliberate and the skepticaltrying to get butter." analysis of the spread of masses, who would never try hybrid seed corn in Greene anything until the mostIn the car on the way back to County, Iowa, in the nineteen- respected farmers had triedManhattan, Baysie repeated thirties. The new seed corn it. Only after they had beenit twice. "Not better. Butter! was introduced there in about converted did theThat kid could totally tell 1928, and it was superior in "laggards," the mostyou what he thinks." Baysie every respect to the seed that traditional of all, follow suit.had spent an hour had been used by farmers for The critical thing about thiscoolhunting in a shoe store decades. But it wasnt adopted sequence is that it is almostand found out that Reeboks all at once. Of two hundred entirely interpersonal.efforts were winning the and fifty-nine farmers studied According to Ryan andhighest of hip-hop praise. by Ryan and Gross, only a Gross, only the innovators"He was so fucking smart." handful had started planting relied to any great extent on the new seed by 1933. In 1934, radio advertising and farm2. sixteen took the plunge. In journals and seed salesmen 1935, twenty-one more in making their decision toIf you want to understand followed; the next year, there switch to the hybrid.how trends work, and why were thirty-six, and the year Everyone else made hiscoolhunters like Baysie and after that a whopping sixty- decision overwhelminglyDeeDee have become so one. The succeeding figures because of the example andimportant, a good place to were then forty-six, thirty-six, the opinions of hisstart is with whats known as fourteen, and three, until, by neighbors and peers.diffusion research, which is 1941, all but two of the twothe study of how ideas and hundred and fifty-nine Isnt this just how fashioninnovations spread. farmers studied were using works? A few years ago, theDiffusion researchers do the new seed. In the language classic brushed-suède Hushthings like spending five of diffusion research, the Puppies with the lightweightyears studying the adoption handful of farmers who crêpe sole-the moc-toeof irrigation techniques in a started trying hybrid seed oxford known as the DukeColombian mountain corn at the very beginning of and the slip-on with thevillage, or developing the thirties were the golden buckle known as thecomplex matrices to map the "innovators," the adventurous Columbia-were sellingspread of new math in the ones. The slightly larger group barely sixty-five thousandPittsburgh school system. that followed them was the pairs a year. The companyWhat they do may seem like "early adopters." They were was trying to walk awaya far cry from, say, how the the opinion leaders in the from the whole suède casualTommy Hilfiger thing community, the respected, look entirely. It wanted to dospread from Harlem to every thoughtful people who "aspirational" shoes: "activesuburban mall in the watched and analyzed what casuals" in smooth leather,country, but it really isnt: those wild innovators were like the Mall Walker, with aboth are about how new doing and then did it Comfort Curve technologyideas spread from one themselves. Then came the outsole and a heel stabilizer-person to the next. big bulge of farmers in 1936, the kind of shoes you see in 1937, and 1938-the "early Kinneys for $39.95. ButOne of the most famous majority" and the "late then something strangediffusion studies is Bruce majority," which is to say the started happening. Two
  • 6. Hush Puppies executives- Rockford, Michigan my mind"). A few monthsOwen Baxter and Jeff Lewis- (population thirty-eight later, in Los Angeles, thewere doing a fashion shoot hundred), where Hush designer Joel Fitzpatrick putfor their Mall Walkers and Puppies has been making the a twenty-five-foot inflatableran into a creative Dukes and the Columbias in basset hound on the roof ofconsultant from Manhattan an old factory down by the his store on La Brea Avenuenamed Jeffrey Miller, who Rogue River for almost forty and gutted his adjoining artinformed them that the years. They took me to the gallery to turn it into a HushDukes and the Columbias plant when I was in Rockford. Puppies department, andwerent dead, they were In a crowded, noisy, low-slung even before he opened-whiledead chic. "We were being building, factory workers he was still painting andtold," Baxter recalls, "that stand in long rows, gluing, putting up shelves-Pee-weethere were areas in the stapling, and sewing together Herman walked in andVillage, in SoHo, where the shoes in dozens of bright asked for a couple of pairs.shoes were selling-in resale colors, and the two executives Pee-wee Herman! "It wasshops-and that people were stopped at each production total word of mouth. I didntwearing the old Hush station and described it in even have a sign back then,"Puppies. They were going to detail. Lewis and Baxter know Fitzpatrick recalls. In 1995,the ma-and-pa stores, the shoes. But they would be the the company sold fourlittle stores that still carried first to admit that they dont hundred and thirtythem, and there was this know cool. "Miller was saying thousand pairs of the classicauthenticity of being able to that there is something going Hush Puppies. In 1996, itsay, I am wearing an on with the shoes-that Isaac sold a million six hundredoriginal pair of Hush Mizrahi was wearing the shoes thousand, and that was onlyPuppies. " for his personal use," Lewis scratching the surface, told me. We were seated because in Europe and theBaxter and Lewis-tall, solid, around the conference table in rest of the world, wherefair-haired Midwestern guys the Hush Puppies Hush Puppies have a hugewith thick, shiny wedding headquarters in Rockford, following-where they mightbands-are shoe men, first with the snow and the trees outsell the American marketand foremost. Baxter was outside and a big water tower four to one-the revival wasworking the cash register at behind us. "I think its fair to just beginning.his fathers shoe store in say that at the time we had noMount Prospect, Illinois, at idea who Isaac Mizrahi was." The cool kids who startedthe age of thirteen. Lewis wearing old Dukes andwas doing inventory in his By late 1994, things had begun Columbias from thrift shopsfathers shoe store in to happen in a rush. First, the were the innovators. Pee-Pontiac, Michigan, at the age designer John Bartlett called. wee Herman, wandering inof seven. Baxter was in the He wanted to use Hush off the street, was an earlyNational Guard during the Puppies as accessories in his adopter. The million six1968 Democratic spring collection. Then Anna hundred thousand peopleConvention, in Chicago, and Sui called. Miller, the man who bought Hush Puppieswas stationed across the from Manhattan, flew out to last year are the earlystreet from the Conrad Michigan to give advice on a majority, jumping inHilton downtown, right in new line ("Of course, packing because the really coolthe middle of things. Today, my own food and thinking people have already blazedthe two men work out of about Fargo in the corner of the trail. Hush Puppies are
  • 7. moving through the country fashion runways and on MTV. 3.just the way hybrid seed It can accelerate the transitioncorn moved through Greene from the innovator to the When Baysie WightmanCounty-all of which early adopter and on to the went to Dr. Jays, she wasillustrates what coolhunters early majority. But it cant just looking for customercan and cannot do. If Jeffrey manufacture cool out of thin response to the new shoesMiller had been wrong-if air, and thats the second rule Reebok had planned for thecool people hadnt been of cool. fourth quarter of 1997 anddigging through the thrift the first quarter of 1998.shops for Hush Puppies-and At the peak of the Hush This kind of customerhe had arbitrarily decided Puppies craziness last year, testing is critical at Reebok,that Baxter and Lewis Hush Puppies won the prize because the last decade hasshould try to convince non- for best accessory at the not been kind to thecool people that the shoes Council of Fashion Designers company. In 1987, it had awere cool, it wouldnt have awards dinner, at Lincoln third of the Americanworked. You cant convince Center. The award was athletic-shoe market, wellthe late majority that Hush accepted by the Hush Puppies ahead of Nike. Last year, itPuppies are cool, because president, Louis Dubrow, who had sixteen per cent. "Thethe late majority makes its came out wearing a pair of kid in the store would say,coolness decisions on the custom-made black patent- Id like this shoe if your logobasis of what the early leather Hush Puppies and wasnt on it, " E. Scottmajority is doing, and you stood there blinking and Morris, whos a seniorcant convince the early looking at the assembled designer for Reebok, toldmajority, because the early crowd as if it were the last me. "Thats kind of a punchmajority is looking at the scene of "Close Encounters of in the mouth. But weve allearly adopters, and you cant the Third Kind." It was a seen it. You go into a shoeconvince the early adopters, strange moment. There was store. The kid picks up thebecause they take their cues the president of the Hush shoe and says, Ah, man, thisfrom the innovators. The Puppies company, of is nice. He turns the shoeinnovators do get their cool Rockford, Michigan, around and around. Heideas from people other than population thirty-eight looks at it underneath. Hetheir peers, but the fact is hundred, sharing a stage with looks at the side and hethat they are the last people Calvin Klein and Donna Karan goes, Ah, this is Reebok,who can be convinced by a and Isaac Mizrahi-and all and says, I aint buying this,marketing campaign that a because some kids in the East and puts the shoe down andpair of suède shoes is cool. Village began combing walks out. And you go, YouThese are, after all, the through thrift shops for old was just digging it a minutepeople who spent hours Dukes. Fashion was at the ago. What happened? "sifting through thrift-store mercy of those kids, whoever Somewhere along the way,bins. And why did they do they were, and it was a the company lost its cool,that? Because their wonderful thing if the kids and Reebok now faces thedefinition of cool is doing picked you, but a scary thing, task not only of rebuildingsomething that nobody else too, because it meant that cool its image but of making theis doing. A company can was something you could not shoes so cool that the kids inintervene in the cool cycle. It control. You needed someone the store cant put themcan put its shoes on really to find cool and tell you what down.cool celebrities and on it was.
  • 8. Every few months, then, the forward than kids in the marketing executives in acompanys coolhunters go Bronx, who like things a little long conference room on theout into the field with more colorful and glitzy. third floor. In the course ofprototypes of the upcoming Brooklyn, meanwhile, is two hours, they put one pairshoes to find out what kids conservative and preppy, of shoes after another on thereally like, and come back to more like Washington, D.C. table in front of me, talkingrecommend the necessary For reasons no one really excitedly about eachchanges. The prototype of knows, Reeboks are coolest in sneakers prospects, becauseone recent Emmitt Smith Philadelphia. In Philly, in fact, the feeling at Reebok is thatshoe, for example, had a the Reebok Classics are so things are finally turningpiece of molded rubber on huge they are known simply around. The basketball shoethe end of the tongue as a as National Anthems, as in that Reebok brought out lastdesign element; it was "Ill have a pair of blue winter for Allen Iverson, thesupposed to give the shoe a Anthems in nine and a half." star rookie guard for thecertain "richness," but the Philadelphia is Reeboks Philadelphia 76ers, forkids said they thought it innovator town. From there example, is one of thelooked overbuilt. Then trends move along the East hottest shoes in the country.Reebok gave the shoes to the Coast, trickling all the way to Dr. Jays sold out of IversonsBoston College football team Charlotte, North Carolina. in two days, compared withfor wear-testing, and when the week it took the store tothey got the shoes back they Reebok has its headquarters sell out of Nikes new Airfound out that all the in Stoughton, Massachusetts, Jordans. Iverson himself isfootball players had cut out outside Boston-in a modern brash and charismatic andthe rubber component with corporate park right off Route faster from foul line to foulscissors. As messages go, 24. There are basketball and line than anyone else in thethis was hard to miss. The tennis courts next to the league. Hes the equivalenttongue piece wasnt cool, building, and a health club on of those kids in the Eastand on the final version of the ground floor that you can Village who began wearingthe shoe it was gone. The look directly into from the Hush Puppies way backrule of thumb at Reebok is parking lot. The front lobby is when. Hes an innovator,that if the kids in Chicago, adorned with shrines for all of and the hope at Reebok isNew York, and Detroit all Reeboks most prominent that if he gets big enough thelike a shoe, its a guaranteed athletes-shrines complete whole company can ridehit. More than likely, with dramatic action back to coolness on histhough, the coolhunt is photographs, their sports coattails, the way Nike rodegoing to turn up subtle jerseys, and a pair of their to coolness on the coattailsdifferences from city to city, signature shoes-and the halls of Michael Jordan. Thatsso that once the coolhunters are filled with so many young, why Baysie was so excitedcome back the designers determinedly athletic people when the kid said Reebokhave to find out some way to that when I visited Reebok was trying to get buttersynthesize what was heard, headquarters I suddenly when he looked at the Rushand pick out just those wished Id packed my gym and the DMX RXT: it was athings that all the kids clothes in case someone sign, albeit a small one, thatseemed to agree on. In New challenged me to wind the indefinable, abstractYork, for example, kids in sprints. At Stoughton, I met thing called cool was comingHarlem are more with a handful of the back.sophisticated and fashion- companys top designers and
  • 9. When Baysie comes back It Here First, Entertainment approach, sending outfrom a coolhunt, she sits and Leisure, Clothing and coolhunters with videodown with marketing Accessories, Personal and cameras to talk to kids onexperts and sales Individual, Aspirations, and the ground that its toorepresentatives and Food and Beverages-which difficult to get cool kids todesigners, and reconnects are, in turn, broken up into fill out questionnaires. Once,them to the street, making dozens of subcategories, so when I was visiting thesure they have the right that Personal and Individual, Sputnik girls-as Misdomshoes going to the right for example, includes Cool and DeLuca are known onplaces at the right price. Date, Cool Evening, Free the street, because they lookWhen she got back from the Time, Favorite Possession, alike and their first namesBronx, for example, the first and on and on. The are so similar and both havething she did was tell all information in those the same awesome Newthese people they had to get subcategories is subdivided York accents-they showeda new mens DMX RXT out, again by sex and by age me a video of the girl theyfast, because the kids on the bracket (14-18, 19-24, 25-30), believe was the patient zerostreet loved the womens and then, as a control, the L of the whole eighties revivalversion. "Its hotter than we Report gives you the going on right now. It wasrealized," she told them. The corresponding set of back in September of 1993.coolhunters job in this preferences for "mainstream" Joanne and Janine were oninstance is very specific. kids. Seventh Avenue, outside theWhat DeeDee does, on the Fashion Institute ofother hand, is a little more Few coolhunters bother to Technology, doing randomambitious. With the L analyze trends with this street interviews for a majorReport, she tries to degree of specificity. DeeDees jeans company, and, quiteconstruct a kind of grand biggest competitor, for by accident, they ran intomatrix of cool, comprising example, is something called this nineteen-year- oldnot just shoes but everything the Hot Sheet, out of raver. She had close-kids like, and not just kids of Manhattan. It uses a panel of cropped hair, which wascertain East Coast urban three thousand kids a year green at the top, and at themarkets but kids all over. from across the country and temples was shaved evenDeeDee and her staff put it divides up their answers by closer and dyed pink. Sheout four times a year, in six sex and age, but it doesnt had rings and studs all overdifferent versions-for New distinguish between regions, her face, and a thickYork, Los Angeles, San or between trendsetting and collection of silver tribalFrancisco, Austin-Dallas, mainstream respondents. So jewelry around her neck,Seattle, and Chicago-and what youre really getting is and vintage jeans. Shethen sell it to manufacturers, what all kids think is cool-not looked into the camera andretailers, and ad agencies what cool kids think is cool, said, "The sixties came in(among others) for twenty which is a considerably and then the seventies camethousand dollars a year. different piece of information. in and I think its ready toThey go to each city and find Janine Misdom and Joanne come back to the eighties.the coolest bars and clubs, DeLuca, who run the Sputnik Its totally eighties: the eyeand ask the coolest kids to coolhunting group out of the makeup, the clothes. Itsfill out questionnaires. The garment district in totally going back to that."information is then divided Manhattan, meanwhile, favor Immediately, Joanne andinto six categories-You Saw an entirely impressionistic Janine started asking
  • 10. around. "We talked to a few jackets, rubber and latex, today. Cool people, on thekids on the Lower East Side khakis, and the rock band other hand, are a constant.who said they were feeling Kiss. Among femalethe need to start breaking trendsetters: ska music, old- When I was in California, Iout their old Michael lady clothing, and cyber tech. met Salvador Barbier, whoJackson jackets," Joanne In Chicago, snowboarding is had been described to me bysaid. "They were joking huge among trendsetters of a coolhunter as "the Michaelabout it. They werent doing both sexes and all ages. Jordan of skateboarding."it yet. But they were going Women over nineteen are into He was tall and lean andto, you know? They were short hair, while those in their languid, with a cowboyssaying, Were getting the teens have embraced mod insouciance, and we droveurge to break out our culture, rock climbing, tag through the streets of LongMembers Only jackets. " watches, and bootleg pants. In Beach at fifteen miles anThat was right when Joanne Austin-Dallas, meanwhile, hour in a white late-modeland Janine were just twenty-five-to- thirty-year-old Ford Mustang, a car he hadstarting up; calling the women trendsetters are into bought as a kind of ironiceighties revival was their hats, heroin, computers, status gesture ("It wouldfirst big break, and now they cigars, Adidas, and velvet, look good if I had a Poloput out a full-blown while men in their twenties jacket or maybe Nautica," hevideotaped report twice a are into video games and said) to go with his 62year which is a collection of hemp. In all, the typical L Econoline van and his 64 T-clips of interviews with Report runs over one hundred bird. Sal told me that he andextremely progressive pages. But with that flood of his friends, who are all inpeople. data comes an obsolescence their mid-twenties, recently disclaimer: "The fluctuating took to dressing up as if theyWhat DeeDee argues, nature of the trendsetting were in eighth grade againthough, is that cool is too market makes keeping up and gathering together-subtle and too variegated to with trends a difficult task." having a "rally"-on old BMXbe captured with these kind By the spring, in other words, bicycles in front of theirof broad strokes. Cool is a everything may have changed. local 7-Eleven. "Id wearset of dialects, not a muscle shirts, like Deflanguage. The L Report can The key to coolhunting, then, Leppard or Foghat or sometell you, for example, that is to look for cool people first old heavy-metal band, andnineteen-to-twenty-four- and cool things later, and not tight, tight tapered Levis,year-old male trendsetters the other way around. Since and Vans on my feet-big,in Seattle would most like to cool things are always like, checkered Vans ormeet, among others, King changing, you cant look for striped Vans or camouflageSolomon and Dr. Seuss, and them, because the very fact Vans-and then wristbandsthat nineteen-to-twenty- they are cool means you have and gloves with the fingersfour-year- old female no idea what to look for. What cut off. It was total eightiestrendsetters in San you would be doing is fashion. You had to look likeFrancisco have turned their thinking back on what was that to participate in thebacks on Calvin Klein, cool before and extrapolating, rally. We had those denimNintendo Gameboy, and sex. which is about as useful as jackets with patches on theWhats cool right now? presuming that because the back and combs that hungAmong male New York Dow rose ten points yesterday out the back pocket. Wetrendsetters: North Face it will rise another ten points went without I.D.s, because
  • 11. wed have to have someone around him has blue hair, Im someone as a coolhunterelse buy us beers." At this going to gravitate toward him, who was not, himself, cool,point, Sal laughed. He was because, hey, whats Joe and it was a disaster.driving really slowly and Regular Guy doing in a coffeestaring straight ahead and shop with people with blue "You can give them thetalking in a low drawl-the hair?" boundaries," Pineycoolhunters dream. "Wed explained. "You can say thatride to this bar and Id have We were sitting outside the if people shop at Bananato carry my bike inside, Fred Segal store in West Republic and listen to Alanisbecause we have really Hollywood. I was wearing a Morissette theyre probablyexpensive bikes, and when very conservative white not trendsetters. But thenwe got inside people would Brooks Brothers button-down they might go out andfreak out. Theyd say, and a pair of Levis, and assume that everyone whoOmigod, and I was asking DeeDee looked first at my does that is not athem if they wanted to go for shirt and then my pants and trendsetter, and not look ata ride on the handlebars. dissolved into laughter: "I the other things."They were like, What is mean, I might even go up towrong with you. My you in a cool place." "I mean, I myself might goboyfriend used to dress like into Banana Republic andthat in the eighth grade! Picking the right person is buy a T-shirt," DeeDeeAnd I was like, He was harder than it sounds, though. chimed in.probably a lot cooler then, Piney Kahn, who works fortoo. " DeeDee, says, "There are a lot Their non-cool coolhunter of people in the gray area. just didnt have that certainThis is just the kind of Youve got these kids who instinct, that sense that toldperson DeeDee wants. "Im dress ultra funky and have him when it was O.K. tolooking for somebody who is their own style. Then you deviate from the manual.an individual, who has realize theyre just running Because he wasnt cool, hedefinitely set himself apart after their friends." The trick didnt know cool, and thatsfrom everybody else, who is not just to be able to tell the essence of the third ruledoesnt look like his peers. who is different but to be able of cool: you have to be oneIve run into trendsetters to tell when that difference to know one. Thats whywho look completely Joe represents something truly Baysie is still on top of thisRegular Guy. I can see Joe cool. Its a gut thing. You have business at forty-one. "ItsRegular Guy at a club to somehow just know. easier for me to tell youlistening to some totally DeeDee hired Piney because what kid is cool than to tellhardcore band playing, and I Piney clearly knows: she is you what things are cool,"say to myself Omigod, twenty-four and used to work she says. But thats all shewhats that guy doing here? with the Beastie Boys and has needs to know. In this sense,and that totally intrigues the formidable self-possession the third rule of cool fitsme, and I have to walk up to of someone who is not only perfectly into the second:him and say, Hey, youre cool herself but whose parents the second rule says thatreally into this band. Whats were cool. "I mean," she says, cool cannot beup? You know what I mean? "they named me after a tree." manufactured, onlyI look at everything. If I see observed, and the third saysJoe Regular Guy sitting in a Piney and DeeDee said that that it can only be observedcoffee shop and everyone they once tried to hire by those who are themselves
  • 12. cool. And, of course, the first and expressionless, with a the big clear-blue plasticrule says that it cannot peacoat, dark jeans, and bubble on the side-theaccurately be observed at all, short-cropped black hair. visible Air-Sole unit- withbecause the act of "Jonas is good," DeeDee says. one finger. "Its so fuckingdiscovering cool causes cool "He works with me on rad. It looks like a platypus!"to take flight, so if you add everything. That guy knows In front of me, there is a pairall three together they more pop culture. You know: of Nikes new shoes for thedescribe a closed loop, the What was the name of the basketball player Jasonhermeneutic circle of store Mrs. Garrett owned on Kidd.coolhunting, a phenomenon The Facts of Life? He knowswhereby not only can the all the names of the extras I pick it up. "This looks . . .uncool not see cool but cool from eighties sitcoms. I cant cool," I venture uncertainly.cannot even be adequately believe someone like himdescribed to them. Baysie exists. Hes fucking DeeDee is on the couch,says that she can see a coat unbelievable. Jonas can spot a where shes surrounded byon one of her friends and cool person a mile away." shoeboxes and sneakers andthink its not cool but then white tissue paper, and shesee the same coat on DeeDee Jonas takes the boxes of shoes looks up reprovinglyand think that it is cool. It is and starts unpacking them on because, of course, I dontnot possible to be cool, in the couch next to DeeDee. He get it. I cant get it.other words, unless you are- picks up a pair of the new "Beyooond cool, Maalcolm.in some larger sense-already Nike ACG hiking boots, and Beyooond cool."cool, and so the says, "All the Japanese inphenomenon that the uncool Niketown were really into © 1997 Malcolm Gladwellcannot see and cannot have these." He hands the shoes todescribed to them is also DeeDee.something that they cannotever attain, because if they "Of course they were!" shedid it would no longer be says. "The Japanese are allcool. Coolhunting represents into the tech-looking shit.the ascendancy, in the Look how exaggerated it is,marketplace, of high school. how bulbous." DeeDee has very ambivalent feelings aboutOnce, I was visiting DeeDee Nike, because she thinks itsat her house in Laurel marketing has got out ofCanyon when one of her L hand. When she was in theReport assistants, Jonas New York Niketown with aVail, walked in. Hed just girlfriend recently, she says,come back from Niketown she started getting light-on Wilshire Boulevard, headed and freaked out. "Itswhere hed bought seven cult, cult, cult. It was like,hundred dollars worth of Hello, are we all drinking thethe latest sneakers to go Kool-Aid here? " But thiswith the three hundred shoe she loves. Its Dr. Jays indollars worth of skateboard the Bronx all over again.shoes hed bought earlier in DeeDee turns the shoe aroundthe afternoon. Jonas is tall and around in the air, tapping