Slate has released part one of its monthlong series on the history and future of cool. Cool Story: What does “cool” even mean in 2013?
That’s a darn good question. But no matter what, Miles Davis is part of the discussion.
But what is cool in 2013, and why are we still using this term for what scholar Peter Stearns pegged as “a twentieth-century emotional style”? Often credited to sax player Lester Young in the 1940s, the coinage was in general circulation by the mid-1950s, with Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool and West Side Story’s finger-snapping gang credo “Cool.” You’d be unlikely to use other decades-old slang—groovy or rad or fly—to endorse any current cultural object, at least with a straight face, but somehow cool remains evergreen.