Oral fixation is at the forefront of cool guy culture, right behind wearing sunglasses and, of course, leaning against a wall with your hands in your jeans pockets. Damn, and how could I forget motorcycles? But after all those things, it’s having an oral fixation. Think James Dean smoking a cigarette, or the cocky, rebellious high school dreamboat chewing gum, or a cowboy hat-wearing guy in a Western gnawing on a toothpick. Having something in your mouth is cool as hell, and has been for decades. But there’s another oral fixation that I believe should be added to the cool guy canon, and that’s good ol’ fashioned hard candy.
All oral fixations enhance the cool guy ethos. Even toothpicks! Just check out this pic of Tom Hardy. Dang! This guy looks like he only speaks in head nods and doesn’t know what anxiety is. The only thing cooler and calmer than having a toothpick in your mouth is flicking the toothpick out of your mouth, which is technically littering (not cool) but then you remember wooden toothpicks are biodegradable (cool again).
Then there’s gum, the universal emblem of youthful rebelliousness. Traditionally, gum chewers are young rabble rousers or handsome, self-assured jocks. The simple act of chewing gum can be a powerful, passive aggressive middle finger to The Man. In TV and film, it’s often an effortless way for the heartthrob protagonist (an unlikable teenager) to rebel against stuffy authority figures (a poorly paid teacher just trying to do their job). Personally, I think the best way to give the middle finger to The Man is with your actual middle finger. It’s more quick and to the point. But still, there’s something mesmerizingly nonchalant about chewing gum; cool guys know this, which is why they chew it constantly.
Moreover, chewing anything at all is very cool. Just check out this 15-minute compilation video of Brad Pitt eating. Watch him eat a bag of chips in Oceans Eleven. Enthralling. Sometimes I just walk into a party holding a little bag of chips, hoping it creates an air of mystery around me. Eating and talking, as Nick Kroll pointed out on Conan, is very, very cool. Don’t believe me? Try telling your favorite story to a friend. Now, tell that same story while waving around a sandwich. One is much, much more engaging (and disarming to the listener). Just imagine you fired someone while holding a muffaletta; they would have no choice but to respect the decision (and you).
Then there’s cigarettes, the most disgusting of the cool guy oral fixations. This one breaks gender barriers. Both male and female Hollywood icons of the past like James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe made smoldering cancer sticks seem cool in the 1950s. And while the habit is less popular nowadays, the allure has lasted. The whole reason I started smoking in the first place was because I saw people do it in movies! Wow, the power of cinema!
Speaking of icons who have a major impact on what is considered “cool,” what do both Kojak and Ariana Grande have in common? Sucking on a lollipop. And lollipops are, that’s right, a hard candy. Which brings me to my point: Hard candy should be a cool guy thing. Categorically, it’s pretty close to gum. You don’t chew it, per se, but you don’t really eat it either. It just kind of hangs around your mouth, like the aforementioned cigarettes, gum, and toothpicks. Hard candy is also so random and specific that it’s bound to create buzz. “What is that?” People will ask, “Is that…a butterscotch disc?” You will have people talking.
Now, technique is important here. The way you eat hard candy is a big factor in how cool it is. You don’t want to noisily suck on it (there’s nothing cool about that), but a Jolly Rancher casually hanging around in your mouth mid-conversation? That sends a message: This dude is punk rock, and we should all try to be his friend.
Really, hard candy just needs better branding. It needs help. It needs cool guy endorsements: posters, magazine spreads, commercials, and Instagram partnerships. It needs Jonathan Majors eating root beer barrels while wearing overalls in GQ. It needs Robert Pattinson on camera sucking on butterscotch candy (Batman’s suit full of candy wrappers would absolutely tickle me). Imagine what BTS could do for Werther’s Originals! Let’s see Pete Davidson do a commercial for Mexican hard candy, and Idris Elba hawking soothing lemon drops on Instagram. Hot, famous, cool guys can turn this ship around, and they will if we can get the hard candy lobby started. So please send your donations to HGFHC (Hot Guys for Hard Candy).
As ridiculous as this all may sound, I do think the logic tracks. I believe hard candy is unfairly perceived as an “old people” thing. But what’s old about sweet hard candy? Maybe the flavors could use an update, sure, but not all hard candy is butterscotch and molasses. Jolly Ranchers run pretty tasty, Lifesavers mints are quite good, and a lot of Mexican hard candy is exciting and flavorful. Hard candy is worldly, and, like all great things, it has evolved.
By now, reader, you must be moved by the mounting evidence: Things in your mouth categorically enhance your coolness. But gum can be annoying, toothpicks don’t really do anything, and cigarettes kill. So it’s time to embrace the un-annoying, pragmatic, non-toxic, sugary coolness of hard candy. And if you’re a cool guy reading this: It starts with you.