Still looking for a New Year’s resolution? While it is not necessary (nor likely possible) to acquire all twenty-three characteristics on this list, possessing five to 10 should make you the cat’s pajamas in even the most exclusive circles. I’ve canvased the coolest people I know to create this completely objective and universal list. The following “cool rules” are listed in no particular order.

  1. Play an instrument: This one comes courtesy of my New Year’s Eve date. I have to agree, but with the caveat that some instruments are cooler than others. Guitar and drums are classics. If you are in a band, your coolness level is the average of all members.
  2. Being able to make one signature cocktail well: Is there anything classier than a skillfully shaken beverage? It’s giving “good host” and “good taste.”
  3. Being able to cook one good dish from scratch: Along the same lines, this speaks to maturity and domestic independence. Food is the cornerstone of community. Community defines cool.
  4. Being able to shuffle and deal cards well: Admittedly, I only think this is cool because I can’t do it.
  5. Can French braid hair: Admittedly, I only think this is cool because I can do it.
  6. Reads: Not just self-help. Not just the musings of gurus or celebrities. Not just a particular genre of fiction. Reading widely, especially among the works of people who are not like you, is a hallmark of cool.
  7. Can dance: No, I don’t mean sway at arm’s length. But you don’t have to be Fred Astair, either. A little salsa, a handful of swing moves, even a two-step is a subtly cool skill that borders on lost art.
  8. Reasonable skill in any traditional craft (e.g., blacksmithing, quilting, weaving, pottery): Speaking of lost arts, this was universally expressed by the absolutely appropriately-sized sample I polled (my group chat). Some cited implied dexterity. Others noted the inherent appeal of an art with deep history and community. According to my friend Hannah, “Crafts are challenging and result in a really tangible impressive result.” Personally, I think there is something to be said for making what you could easily buy and cultivating the curiosity to learn something beyond what is essential for survival.
  9. Glassblowing: Initially, this was suggested as an item falling under “traditional crafts,” but I looked it up, and furnaces used to blow glass are kept between 2000 and 2400 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s its own category of cool, or rather, hot.
  10. Proficiency and fondness for using antiquated technology: For example, shooting photos on film, listening to music on record, or a casual affinity for an old arcade game. Even aggressive appropriation by hipsters cannot dull the coolness of old things.
  11. Any extreme sport: As one of the wise people I polled pointed out, extreme sports require endurance and precision, and the risks are truly costly.
  12. Fluent in two or more languages: Fluency means you either loved the language you took in school more than was required, you made a substantial investment in another culture, or your personal history and identity are woven with multiple cultures. All very cool.
  13. Regularly engages in a community-focused volunteer activity: Hallmark movies aren’t known for their grasp of cool. Still, they occasionally use a soup kitchen or a toy drive to trigger our admiration for a character. Not that I watch Hallmark movies. I’m too cool for that, obviously.
  14. Skill in any martial art (but never bringing it up in conversation or, heaven forbid, on your dating profile): Discipline is cool. A fascination with violence is not. If Dwight Schrute would say or do it, don’t.
  15. Fencing: Swords are cool. (Duh)
  16. Knowing someone famous: The person who suggested this qualification noted the power of being cool by association. I grudgingly add it to this list.
  17. One good story or joke: You need not be naturally funny. Practice makes perfect.
  18. Adopting a shelter pet: People who like animals are likely not psychopaths. People who like strange, slightly messed-up animals are compassionate and tend to choose “unique” over “perfect.”
  19. Being able to change a flat tire: Problem-solving is cool. So is the ability to help someone else when their day is unexpectedly ruined. At a certain point, the line between being cool and good blurs.
  20. Being comfortable unstimulated in their own company: I debated putting this on the list. Can practices performed in private be truly cool? I think so. Part of what makes cool people cool is that none of the cool things they do betrays anxiety to impress.
  21. “Shooting Your Shot:” Yes, this means respectfully talking to someone you find attractive. But it also means asking for a promotion and calling out the problems you see.
  22. DIY ability and mindset: My friend who suggested this one noted that we live in an era of convenience. Choosing the harder road for the sake of learning is worth something.
  23. A degree of reasonable self-sufficiency: Relatedly, being able to do for yourself and learn what you don’t know points to a winning combination of humility and confidence.


In the end, cool boils down to curiosity, care, and confidence: curiosity receives what the world has to give; care sees those gifts through a perspective bigger than self; confidence empowers us to act on that in a grounded and meaningful way.


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