The attitude of cool can be traced back to the ancient civilizations of West Africa, from which it was brought west by the slave trade. It can also be found in the English aristocratic reserve and the Romantic irony of nineteenth-century poets. The modern version of cool was kept alive among black musicians, until it was discovered by Hollywood and hard-boiled crime writers of the 1930s and 1940s, and injected into white culture by Elvis Presley and rock and roll. Along the way, cool found its way into the Surrealists, the Beat Generation, film noir, conceptualism, rock, soul, funk, hip-hop and techno.
A general definition might be as a permanent state of private rebellion. Permanent because cool isn't a "phase" in life; private because cool means individual, not collective, defiance. Today, cool, which originally opposed subjugation and humiliation, has become a means for the media and advertisers of the world to push their way into the wallets of young consumers. Cool still flirts with living on the edge, and loves the night. Despite government health warnings, cool still loves, cigarettes, drugs and liquor. It has started to admit women, but is more in love with violence than in the past. Even though cool has emerged in different societies during different periods of history, it can be recognized as a combination of three personality traits: narcissism, hedonism and ironic detachment.
This book won't reveal how to acheive cool (because the definition changes all the time), but it otherwise does an excellent job at analyzing the subject for those on the outside.