Previous AUE speculation about the revival of the term "cool" in the mid-'70s has centered around the controversial Fonzie Thesis. While the Thesis has its charms, may I offer a competing viewpoint: let's call it the Punk Postulate.
A few months ago we discussed how the beatnik strain of '50s cool became a source of satire and derision by the early '60s. The other prominent strain of cool, the leather-jacket cool of Brando and Dean, was not so derided, but it certainly had become passe by the rise of the hippie counterculture circa 1966. "Cool" became uncool except in certain counter-countercultural enclaves, typified by such "proto-punk" bands as the Velvet Underground and the Stooges. I've previously noted that one of the very few unironic uses of "cool" in late-'60s rock appeared on the first Stooges album ( The Stooges , 1969), wherein Iggy sang the simple chorus, "We will have a real cool time tonight."

The Stooges' use of "cool" was not self-consciously retro in the way that the '50s nostalgia boom, from Sha Na Na to Happy Days , would be marketed. Nonetheless, proto-punk "cool" appealed to many marginalized folks who found the counterculture excessive and admired the relative lack of pretension found in '50s rock 'n' roll. (Note that the Beatles circa Let It Be and Dylan circa John Wesley Harding were also rejecting hippie excess in rather different ways.) This all presaged the US/UK punk movements, which, I would argue, allowed for the full rehabilitation of "cool" from the mid-'70s onwards.

Punk's most obvious proponents of '50s-style "cool" were the Ramones, who wore leather jackets in homage to the '50s greasers and played stripped-down, unpretentious rock 'n' roll. They were not ashamed to use the word "cool", as when they covered the Stooges' "Real Cool Time" or when they sang "Gonna have a real cool time and everything's gonna be real fine" in their 1977 song "Swallow My Pride."
I was unsure of how acceptable "cool" might have been in the punk movement beyond the Ramones, but there's some evidence to be found in the pages of Punk Magazine , which began publishing in New York in early '76 right when the early punk scene was in full flower, centered around clubs like CBGB's and Max's Kansas City. Much of the magazine's content can now be found on . Notably, the very first issue in January '76 included an article by Joe Koch called "Marlon Brando: The Original Punk":
http://www.punkmagazine.com/backissue/01/brando.html "On the Waterfront" didn't have a single cool one-liner for Brando. It pulled its entire audience together on the mumbles and the promise of violence in Brando's nervous fidgeting. The audience had found a better fantasy: Brando was cool without oppressing the audience with too much sharpness. He was powerful without having to be invulnerable.
The first issue also had the " Punk Drunk as a Skunk Contest", which included this question:
http://www.punkmagazine.com/backissue/01/contest.html On leather jackets
- own one.
- sleep in one.
- real cool.
- disgusting hoodlums.
- indicate deviant personalities.
Clearly the iconic leather-clad cool of Brando resonated with many in the New York punk scene. The Ramones represented the pinnacle of this type of cool, as Punk cofounder John Holmstrom reminded his audience on the occasion of Joey Ramone's posthumous birthday bash in 2001:

http://www.punkmagazine.com/morestuff/holmstrom speech.html Most of all, being a good friend of Joey Ramone was an unforgettable, really cool thing. And The Ramones were the coolest band in the history of rock 'n' roll. And don't you ever forget it.
But "cool" in the punk era was a more complex concept. No one summed up these complexities better than legendary rock critic Lester Bangs, an early and vehement supporter of US and UK punk rock. By 1976, Bangs was already complaining that the punk scene was being dominated by new arbiters of Cool (as he often mockingly capitalized it). A notorious unpublished piece from early '76 typified Bangs' anti-Cool stance, in which he directed his venom at "the people who sit frozen at tables in any club or in front of their record players waiting for somebody who 'Matters' to come along and tell them that's cool, hip, correct, RIGHT FOR THEM TO LIKE"...
http://www.punkmagazine.com/morestuff/bangsdictators.html THE AUDIENCES AT CBGB'S AND NEW YORK ROCK CLUBS GENERALLY NOW ARE THE WORST CONFORMISTS I HAVE EVER SEEN. They're worse than Maynard G. Krebs on Dobie Gillis. At least Maynard knew he liked Thelonious Monk, even if he had to pawn the records to buy his mother a birthday present, because of course beatniks liked Thelonious Monk at least in the mythology of the late 50's – early 60's. But the people around now are so null ... these kids are so *** dull they make the rank and file, conformist, rigidly Cool beatniks of legend look like Neal Cassady on lastchance bebop whoopup binge. Dig, daddios and kiddios?

The best known portrayal of Bangsian anti-Cool is in Cameron Crowe's autobiographical movie Almost Famous . As a budding teenage writer for Rolling Stone , Crowe was mentored by Bangs, and their relationship was depicted in the movie (though Crowe created a fictionalized surrogate of himself named William Miller). In one scene, William calls up Lester to talk about the band he's covering:
http://www.inthestars.nu/uncool.txt
LESTER BANGS
They make you feel cool. And hey. I met you. You are not "cool."

WILLIAM
I know. Even when I thought I was, I knew I wasn't.

LESTER BANGS
That's because we are uncool! And while women will always be a problem for guys like us, most of the great art in the world is about that very problem. Good-looking people have no spine! Their art never lasts! They get the girls, but we're smarter.

WILLIAM
I can really see that now.
LESTER BANGS
Yeah, great art is about conflict and pain and guilt and longing and love disguised as sex, and sex disguised as love... and let's face it, you got a big head start.
WILLIAM
I'm glad you were home.
LESTER BANGS
I'm always home! I'm uncool!
WILLIAM
Me too!
LESTER BANGS
(leveling) The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool.
(In honor of this exchange, a Cameron Crowe website is called "The Uncool": .)Latter-day punks are still wrestling with the contradictions of "cool" and "Cool" (see, e.g., this piece on the Punk site about James Bond: ). Still, I think that the punk movement paved the way for the reentry of "cool" in American public discourse, giving it a hip cachet that Fonzie, say, could never have. Though only a small minority were attuned to the original punk scene of the '70s, it nonetheless represented a vanguard with enormous influence on subsequent developments in US pop culture.

Even when a dissenter like Bangs found a covert coolness in being "uncool", he was recognizing that "cool" was a concept that had to be grappled with, just as it had been in the '50s and early '60s. The Fonz might have made it acceptable for teenagers in middle America to say "Cool!" again, but the Ramones et al. revived the possibility of "cool" to be truly... cool.
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Previous AUE speculation about the revival of the term "cool" in the mid-'70s has centered around the controversial Fonzie Thesis. While the Thesis has its charms, may I offer a competing viewpoint: let's call it the Punk Postulate.

I was around in the 60s and 70s and cool was used the same then as it is now.
Cool could be used sarcastically and as a positive. I don't recall it ever falling out of favor.
Previous AUE speculation about the revival of the term "cool" in the mid-'70s has centered around the controversial Fonzie Thesis. While the Thesis has its charms, may I offer a competing viewpoint: let's call it the Punk Postulate.(Excellent and fascinating discussion snipped)

Still, I think that the punk movement paved the way for the reentry of "cool" in American public discourse, giving ... middle America to say "Cool!" again, but the Ramones et al. revived the possibility of "cool" to be truly... cool.

I really don't see this hypothesis as being fundamentally at war with the Fonzie Thesis, which I continue to believe is accurate and well-founded. We're sort of talking about two different generations here. I think for the young teenage punk aficionados of the mid-to-late '70s, Fonzie was relatively irrelevant, although I could be wrong about that. But Fonzie was very relevant to their younger siblings. What I suspect happened was a sort of cross-generational influence, mainly in the direction of the younger Happy Days -watching generation.
If you look at raw cultural evidence, the Fonz had a greater impact on popular culture (thus shaping the younger generation) than the Ramones or the punk movement generally.But one thing to realize is that all these 1970s phenomena (the Fonz, punk, disco, Grease , American Graffiti , revival of "preppie" fashions, Animal House (rehabilitation of pre-hippie college fraternity culture), Tony Cooper, Sha Na Na, perhaps even Star Wars , rise of Reaganist Republicanism, rehabilitation of the South ( The Dukes of Hazzard ), gradual reduction in men's hair length) were closely related. All were part of the 1970s "reaction" against the bogus cultural excesses of the Sixties.

It was more than a reaction, of course: it was a progressive effort to forge a new cultural identity, influenced by but free of the shackles of the 1960s legacy, and drawing freely upon pre-'60s cultural materials for inspiration. And all these developments combined to shape American culture in ways that had a lasting impact not only on the US but on the entire world, for better or worse.

Steny '08!
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I was around in the 60s and 70s and cool was used the same then as it is now. Cool could be used sarcastically and as a positive. I don't recall it ever falling out of favor.

The decline of "cool" during the '60s is no longer a matter of dispute. Negative recollection is not evidence.

Steny '08!
I was around in the 60s and 70s and cool ... a positive. I don't recall itever falling out of favor.

The decline of "cool" during the '60s is no longer a matter of dispute. Negative recollection is not evidence. Steny '08!

It has stayed a constant where I live and it never was out of usage. Maybe where you lived it did, but here it didn't. If you can point out the study and where it can be found and I'll read it.
ever

The decline of "cool" during the '60s is no longer a matter of dispute. Negative recollection is not evidence. Steny '08!

It has stayed a constant where I live and it never was out of usage. Maybe where you lived it did, but here it didn't. If you can point out the study and where it can be found and I'll read it.

How do you explain Fonzie?

Steny '08!
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From the January 1976 issue of Punk Magazine, Ben quoted:
real cool.

What's the earliest attested use of this phrase?
From the January 1976 issue of Punk Magazine, Ben quoted:

real cool.

What's the earliest attested use of this phrase?

Dunno, but the earliest use of "runs real good" in Usenet is March 18,
1991.

Steny '08!
I asked for the earliest attested instance of "real cool," and Areff responded:
Dunno, but the earliest use of "runs real good" in Usenet is March 18, 1991.

Um, Areff.
My memory of "real cool" goes back to the late 1950s. Does it survive in writing from before then?
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