So there we are in Paris, in the slightly cluttered Diptyque flagship store on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Diptyque has long been a global, iconic brand, though if you ask me, it owes its credibility in no small part to this somewhat cramped little shop where it all began and where everything continues to originate from (much like Mariage Frères, for example). We’re here to buy a fragrance for the Range Rover. A very nice Kathy Hilton–style purchase. I wonder: Is that cool? To which Richie, the best husband in the world, gives the only possible answer: Who cares? We opt for the Baies scent – the irresistible freshness of a bouquet of roses interspersed with fresh blackcurrant leaves – to replace our previous England Rugby air freshener.
The thing that fascinates me most about coolness is that you can’t simply go and call yourself cool. And this in a time when more and more people are fervently assigning all sorts of attributes to themselves in order to derive some kind of identity from them. Coolness, on the other hand, becomes unattainable when you strive for it. This, beyond all definitional difficulties, is what makes it so difficult to grasp hold of and hold on to. Its unattainability by design places coolness in the vicinity of pleasure. And pleasure, as the poet Heinrich Heine tells us, is “a giddy girl, and loves in no place long to stay”. Coolness, as a phenomenon of longing and desire, is often confused with composure or even with dispassion, and that’s just wrong. Being cool doesn’t mean that you take nothing seriously or think that nothing is important or that you don’t marvel and wonder at the world anymore. Fortunately. Granted, a certain imperturbability appears to be the necessary condition for peace of mind (ataraxia) and bliss (eudaemonia), at least in the view of the ancient philosophers. I, on the other hand, would like to point out that there is a special kind of inspiration that lies in amazement. But that’s no reason to immediately loosen your grip on composure.