The concept of hipness is one of those things you cannot define, but you always recognize. Like great wine or the BeeGees.
So who is hip? This is a dangerous game, but here are my nominations:
The Rolling Stones are hip. Frank Sinatra is hip. So are Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton, and George Jones. Bob Dylan is, though sometimes he comes dangerously close to trying too hard to be “Dylan.”
That’s a factor. Anyone who tries to be hip is not hip. People who are truly hip are unaware of their own hipness.
Hair, fashion or education doesn’t guarantee hipness. It can’t be learned, it can’t be taught (though my older sisters tried). It isn’t inherited, although I am convinced it is something you are born with. Like knowing how to accessorize an outfit, or where to place the divan. Or knowing when to use the word “divan.”
Nor is hipness about appearance.
If ever a group of guys should be uncool it would be Maurice, Barry, and Robin. Gawky, big-nosed, balding Australians singing falsetto does not peg the needle on the cool meter. Yet I submit the Brothers Gibb are cool.
Sometimes you can be so uncool you become cool. I submit to the bench Slim Whitman–only he could save the world from aliens in Mars Attacks.
You don’t need to be an artist or musician to be hip. As a teen I worked for three bachelor brothers who farmed together in Iowa. They were over 60, wore overalls and CASE gimme caps and always had a chaw in their cheeks. But they were cool, and never failed to have us high school boys falling off the hay wagon with their wry observations of hippies, musicians, politics, and the world beyond the back forty.
Even as I renewed memories with my old classmates, I could sense myself Dorian Gray-ing back to my high school graduation picture, framed and hanging in the homeplace, staring out at the world from an ill-fitting suit in all my bad hair, acne-riddled, black-rimmed-glasses glory.
But you know what did change?
All these years later, it didn’t matter who was or wasn’t cool, hep, or smart, or pretty, or the fastest or the funniest.
Everyone just was who they were, and not a single person regretted who they had become.
And that is the coolest thing of all.