And remember, to our generation, it’s all about being cool

Some of you may think I was easy on Ralph Norman in that last post, saying he was only guilty of being uncool.

You forget that I’m a Baby Boomer, and Ralph Norman is, too. I look at him and I don’t see a member of my generation. I see a member of my parents’ generation, or maybe someone older than that. From his pictures, I wouldn’t be shocked to learn he is a Lawrence Welk fan. He looks like your parents’ friend who corners you at the party because he wants to share one word with you: “Plastics.”

Me in about '73.

Me in about ’73.

But eerily enough, he’s just a little more than three months older than I am. I looked it up.

And members of our generation asked little of life, beyond having other people see us as being cool. One of the things I love about the film “Almost Famous” — which is set in 1973, the year I turned 20 — is that it captured that facet of that moment rather well.

We didn’t seek to be rich, unless that just happened to us, in which case we wouldn’t object. We lived in a time of lowered expectations, with Watergate unfolding and America heading for the exits in Vietnam.

But we did hope, most fervently, to be cool. Or rather, as I said, to be seen as cool. Was that really too much to expect, we demanded of the heavens?

Anyway, it is against that cultural backdrop that you should consider the fact that Ralph Norman has been weighed, he has been measured, and he has been found to be decidedly uncool…

11 thoughts on “And remember, to our generation, it’s all about being cool

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That’s not what the cool people wore. That’s what the minority of people who joined their parents’ fraternities and majored in business wore. People who were never, ever going to be cool. We wore jeans and T-shirts — preferably, plain white ones, as in my photo there….

      1. Claus2

        But how big were your bell bottoms? I remember my brother splitting the seam at the bottom on one pair and having my mother sew in a triangle panel to make them even bigger. This would have been around 1974.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I was kind of ambivalent about bell bottoms.

          When I was in high school in Hawaii, one day early in the year in Mrs. Burchard’s English class, Cecilia Toole said something about “that new guy from the Mainland on the other side of the room.” She was talking about Steve Clark, who would later be part of the crowd I hung out with. Since I had recently moved to Oahu from the Mainland myself, I was curious about what had given the other guy away as an outsider. I asked, and she told me it was his bell-bottoms. Kids in the islands weren’t wearing those. (This was the fall of 1970.)

          Since I thought she was pretty cool, I made a note to myself that in Cece’s book bell-bottoms were not cool.

          And even when I was back on the mainland in subsequent years and couldn’t find any pants that weren’t bell-bottoms, a little of that prejudice lingered in my mind…

          I’ve included the names in case Burl reads this, as he will remember the people involved…

          1. Norm Ivey

            I treasured my first pair of bell-bottoms and my first crop of long hair. They were integral components of the non-conformist uniform, and I wore them proudly.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                I dunno. Must have been a red-flag word. Trolls have used so many pseudonyms over the years, and I’ve put them all on the black list.

                Oops. I mixed color-metaphors there…

  1. bud

    Once again Brad has demonstrated to the world, beyond any reasonable doubt, that he values above anything else – style. It would never have crossed my mind back in the 70s about obsessing over what to wear. It was pretty simple, just wear denim blue jeans and a tee shirt or perhaps a colorful silk shirt. It wasn’t a matter of being cool or uncool it was just the style of the times. Style over substance. That’s good ole Brad.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Bud, that was a really inside-out comment. You said “just wear denim blue jeans and a tee shirt.”

      Which is what I said.

      So what ARE you on about?

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