The must (not) have ‘cool’ consumer items

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A LIST of the top ten coolest brands in Britain has just been published.

Glancing at it, I was mightily relieved. Because I neither own nor aspire to own any of the brands in question.

The list is topped by Aston Martin. Ferrari and Harley-Davidson also figure. There are Rolex watches, Nike trainers, Bang & Olufsen hi-fis, Blackberry... er, whatever Blackeberries are exactly; I’ve never been sure... and the website YouTube, which is where people watch grainy footage of dancing pigs.

Now all of these brands are undoubtedly attached to exceptionally good quality products. But can you imagine anybody less cool than a bloke in an Aston Martin, with a Rolex watch on his wrist, Nike trainers on his feet, consulting his Blackberry (and no doubt saying “Ciao” as he signs off), before settling down to watch You Tube on his Apple computer?

No, words like “plonker” or “poseur” would spring to mind. You might also reflect that he had got more money than sense, because you need a fair bit of brass to acquire that sort of stuff.

If you do it legitimately, that is. It is notable, and rather pathetic, than when one reads about cases of embezzlement and fraud, the courts almost invariably hear how the ill-gotten money was spent on Ferraris, Rolex watches and such like – just the kind of things that appear on the new cool list.

There is a serious point to be made, perhaps, about the shallow nature of consumer society. But there is another moral to be drawn. You can only be cool by spurning whatever everybody else deems to be cool. That probably means wearing an old Timex, and a pair of pumps, using an old brick of a mobile phone and driving a Vauxhall Chevette.

* WE have had Hollywood Noir and more recently the big thing has been Scandinavian Noir – all those novels and serials about despondent detectives in Sweden/Norway/Finland/Iceland.

Now at last we have Yorkshire Noir. I knew we could do it. This is the Friday night ITV series “DCI Banks”, about a despondent detective based in Leeds. I’m not making any great claims for the series as drama, but it is notable for use of half-lit, brooding, gloomy Yorkshire locations in a way that is obviously influenced by the Scandinavian school.

I am sure that Calderdale Noir would be perfectly feasible - Inspector Gaukroger investigating a murder on the tops, while undergoing a bout of existential angst. But what a shame that Halifax was stone cleaned in the seventies and eighties. If it was still the smoke-blackened, rain-lashed town of old it would be the most Noirish place on earth.

* LAST week I wrote about modern etiquette – mobile phone use etc – but I left out the important subject of iPod manners.

But I then encountered an article in which an expert from Debrett’s Peerage no less advised on the vexed question of whether or not a gentleman or a lady takes off his or her headphones when entering a shop.

The advice is that you take them out. Not to do so is belittling to the shop assistant.

Fair enough. But it backs up my contention that modern society is just as much an etiquette minefield as the world of “Downton Abbey”.