The definition of ‘Cool’ has a central role in the development of the modern magazine, it’s growth encouraged by youth culture, aspirational desire and the consequent obsession with what’s in and what’s out. How do you join the in-crowd? Our latest Page 23 highlights this conundrum.
This first proper issue of Where is The Cool? – we reviewed their issue zero pilot last year – maintains the ‘having its cake and eating it’ approach of the blog and Instagram feed of the same name. French creative director Laurent Laporte selects a series of people, items, events and trends he and his contributors deems cool. The result is an entertaining mix of the desperately-wants-to-be-cool, the so-uncool-it-may-possibly-be-cool and the effortlessly-timeless-genuinely-cool.
Page 23 represents all three of these categories. Following a brief ode to reggae music, Cyrille Fouque shares five pages of record sleeves from his collection of rare reggae vinyl, and this page shows the first set of sleeves. Reggae and everything related to it remains utterly cool, of course. In the portraits on the sleeves we can see the beginnings of street style as musicians shift sports gear into everyday wear. So far so cool.
But the sleeves are presented as still lifes with elements added to them: a copy of the New York Times, guitar cables, beer caps. The simple perfection of the original sleeves and archive fascination for the clothes and original photography is lost to an Instagram-style montage, the additions adding little while arguably stripping the original sleeves of a layer of cool. The Insta feel – a later example even has a latté sat on top of it – implies a desparation to be accepted as cool; yet could the effect be so uncool as to become cool again?
This sums up the magazine perfectly. Every subject included is a one-off response to the question in the magazine’s name. Cool can be found in Cuba’s colour-dyed racing pigeons, in rowing blazers, in the DIY repairs applied to old cars. You decide which are for you, which are for real.
Where is The Cool? is a wonderfully overblown project, a list of ideas well suited to its digital heritage but brilliantly translated into print through sheer scale. As a small zine it would have been an amusing but easily overlooked curiousity; as a large-format, perfect-bound, glossy magazine it is a brilliant and amusing critique of the editorial process.