Kent Bernhardt: Not cool — don’t wanna be
Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 27, 2023
By Kent Bernhardt
I’m not cool.
It’s a reality that I’m comfortable with because the truth is I never really was. Even in the ’60s and ’70s when everyone was bending over backward to appear cool — well, we called it groovy back then — I looked, sounded, and even felt rather starchy. It was me. I was more comfortable that way.
I blinked and my friends suddenly had long hair, even longer sideburns, and they were wearing bell-bottom jeans along with wild open collar shirts. I remember how those jeans dragged the floor, picking up most household dust along the way.
Thanks to my more conservative parents who decided there would be no hippies in our household, my journey to perceived coolness took a little longer.
For my brother and me, hair over our ears was forbidden during our high school years, though I sneaked in a pair of longer sideburns once I was able to grow some facial hair. Sideburns were the mark of maturity by my senior year of high school, and I promised my parents I would keep them neatly trimmed, which I did.
My brother had already left the nest for greener pastures at UNC Chapel Hill, the standard bearer of deviant behavior. His hair immediately grew long and bushy, and with the bell-bottom jeans and dirty sweatshirts, he fit right in the ’70s Tar Heel crowd at Granville Towers.
True to my parents’ warnings, God punished him with male pattern baldness by his early 30s in retribution for his violation of the 11th commandment, “Thou shalt not use up all thy hair in your teens and early 20s.”
By the mid ’70s when I was at UNC Charlotte, my parents had given up their crusade for tidy necks and my hair follicles blossomed as well, but to a lesser degree. I also managed to purchase my own pair of bell-bottom jeans, and I owned more than one leisure suit.
By the way, I have burned all pictures of me in a leisure suit. I consider that period of fashion a glitch in the time-space continuum, and we do not speak of it in my household.
But coolness does not live by hair and fashion alone. True coolness is a state of mind and an attitude more than anything, especially here in the 2020s.
That said, I wonder what tomorrow’s young adults will think of today’s jeans that reveal copious amounts of butt crack and baseball caps worn backward.
Cool? Not really. Some of today’s fashion trends will be the leisure suits of tomorrow, but self-confidence and individuality never go out of style. Remember that kids.
Nearly 68 trips around the sun taught me that. That’s why when a younger voice points out how uncool I am, I smile and tell them if they want to keep the sun out of their eyes, they may want to turn their baseball cap around.
Kent Bernhardt is a long time local broadcaster, humorist, and host of the Salisbury Symphony’s “Bury Home Companion.”