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‘What is Cool?’

In March 1999 the Levi Strauss Company in San Francisco, the world’s largest and best known Jean brand and purveyors of denim fashion to generations of cowboys and teenagers, was forced to shut down half its U.S manufacturing plants and lay off 6,000 workers. Why?

The reason given was a massive slump in sales, trading figures had revealed that the Levi brand had lost 50% of its market share between 1990 and 1998. These figures were only the symptom of a deeper and more important cultural and social malaise afflicting the brand. Levi Jeans were no longer perceived as cool. Since this event and the growing importance of the teenage consumer market, the question of what is and what is not cool is no longer merely a topic for discussion among insecure and rebellious teenagers. It has also increasingly become the focus of corporate boardrooms, influencing the marketing strategies of all the brands supplying the teenage market for consumer products, from computers games, soft drinks to running shoes. Share prices and profits are now subject to this ephemeral and what could be considered trivial distinction occupying the minds of teenagers. Companies now send ‘Cool Hunters into the urban ghettos to infiltrate sub cultures and discover and influence the latest notion of cool.
What is now considered cool is and will always be a passing fad, however the search for the latest notion of cool by corporations and brand leaders has now become a universal phenomenon that has important influence on all our institutions from the media to education.

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