Have you ever wondered why all of a sudden, you see flared denim on runways and retail stores? They are the new ‘cool’. Just like skinny jeans have been ‘cool’ for the past few years. This going back and forth of fashion trends is not a coincidence. Believe it or not there is a very important neuroscience involved in this process. A smart fashion brand will always be updated with the ‘cool’ trend of the season as it is an important marketing tool. It is the science behind ‘cool’ that explains why a customer pays an extravagant $1000 for a Vetement sweatshirt or a whopping $2500 for an Apple MacBook.
So what is ‘cool’. It is an attitude, a term of approval, a target that is always changing and shifting. Steven Quartz and Anette Asp, neuroscience researchers at the California Institute of Technology explain that there is a part of the human brain called the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). MPFC is responsible for our reactions to social emotions such as pride and embarrassment. It is how we perceive ourselves and believe how people around us perceive us. “Cool turns out to be a strange kind of economic value that our brains see in products that enhance our social image, this abstract good—social approval, reputation, esteem, or status—plays a central role in our motivation and behavior, and it is the currency that drives much of our economy and our consumption,” they explain, through their research.
To trace ‘cool’ back in history, you have to throwback to 1873, when denim overalls were born. The design by Levi Strauss & Co was aimed towards a target audience of miners and cowboys. They slowly gained popularity as casual clothing in 1953, when they were worn by Marlon Brando in the movie ‘The Wild One’. It was the birth of the modern blue jeans. Emma McClendon, a curator at the museum at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology writes about it in her book Denim: Fashion’s Frontier, “The denim-clad rebel generated cultural excitement that bordered on hysteria”. ‘Cool’ became something you can buy.
Instagram has made it easy to follow the latest trends and track down the ‘cool’. Fashion bloggers who sometimes have more fan following than movie stars are an easy source for teenagers and youngsters to turn to for tips on what is ‘cool’ and what is not. Although if what is cool becomes too common, it is time for a change in the trend. As the whole idea of cool is to be rebellious and not conform to the rules of society and fashion.