An annual survey of which brands Britain considers ‘cool’ crowned tech giants Apple number one for a fourth year in a row this week, with the rest of the top ten made up of other digital companies like Netflix, YouTube, Instagram and Spotify, fashion brands Chanel, Ray-Ban and Alexander McQueen and – proving Brits will always value the chance to get drunk in a field over buying more stuff – Glastonbury.
In other words the cool brands list was utterly predictable. After all, it’s easy to be cool when or you’re selling handbags to celebrities or you’re what teenagers use to sext each other.
Coolness, though, should surely be about more than what kids and famous people like. Presenting ten unheralded brands that should have made the list, if only Britain could open its eyes and see them for what they are.
1 | Greggs
On every British high street Greggs stands defiant, a glorious riposte to the overpriced salads, sushis and ‘super foods’ being peddled everywhere else. Its commitment to unhealthy but soul-warming pastry-and-meat-based snacks makes them the punk rock of lunch break options, and if you’re still not convinced its cool, consider this: there are more Greggs outlets in the UK than McDonald’s.
2 | Samuel Smith’s
Yorkshire’s oldest brewery has a simple business model: take the most peculiar or ornate public houses in the country, then use them to serve their own lagers and stouts at a fraction of the cost of the pub selling Heineken and Guinness next door. The result? Beautiful watering holes where you can get change from a twenty when buying a round – and pretty much the only way London’s lowest earners can enjoy a night out.
3 | Smint
With its distinctive blue boxy design and ingeniously retro delivery system, Smint has managed to do the impossible – make a simple breath freshener feel like a little slice of luxury. But it’s the brilliance of the product itself, the little white capsule, that makes Smint what it is. An instant perker with psychological powers far beyond its minty job description.
4 | Cobra
Quite simply, if you’re eating Indian food – and in our case that’s most of the time – then no other beer quite cuts it. Despite being brewed in Staffordshire, Cobra has become as synonymous with India as a Bollywood chorus. Served ice cold with a crisp poppadom, a 660ml bottle of Cobra on your table is one of life’s failsafe pleasures.
5 | P20
On paper, there’s nothing cool about sun protection – having to constantly apply the stuff is possibly the worst thing about a holiday. Which is why P20 deserves to be hailed for its simple and effective brilliance. A genuine one-coat all-day protector that leaves you free to swim, lie and sizzle, without fear of spending your holiday in the burns unit of a Spanish hospital.
6 | The Post Office
Normally synonymous with snaking lunchtime queues and endless cutbacks, it’s worth remembering just how damn useful the humble Post Office still is, and how much we miss the things when they aren’t there. From passport renewals to currency exchanges, there’s very little that can’t get sorted from behind that strange glass booth. And an occasional visit can still have a time warp charm you simply don’t get anywhere else.
7 | Easyjet
It's not unreasonable to say budget airlines have revolutionised our concept of travel and flung open the doors to the world in a way never enjoyed by generations past. And if you’re looking to take advantage of it, there is only really one brand to consider. With allocated seats, decent legroom and service well above its price point, Easyjet falls down on the luxury side of budget. Yes, the colour scheme is naff and yes, you'd rather tell people you flew business class with BA, but getting to the greatest cities in Europe for less than £100? That gives you some really cool stuff to talk about.
8 | Argos
In what other shop can you find items that will delight every generation of a family? Paddling pools, football pumps, kitchen knives – it's all there, just a floppy, laminated brochure and an awkward waiting room experience away. Argos is the mob boss of UK high streets, the one who can sort out any problem, and it’s probably the only shop your Dad doesn’t mind being dragged into.
9 | Tabasco
As long as you’re not a dick about it, liking your food spicy is a subtle suggestion of mental fortitude and a certain adventurous spirit. When applied with enough vigor, Tabasco – with its iconic, unflashy American diner-style label – is the pocket rocket that turns the blandest dirge into dangerous experiment. Cool, in other words.
10 | Wikipedia
Dangerous, we know, for a journalist’s integrity to celebrate a notoriously error-riddled online encyclopedia, but the essential aim of Wikipedia – to amass all the world’s knowledge in a free place through collective effort – is both beautiful and undeniably useful providing you use it as a guide rather than a gospel. Consider also the clean, uncluttered design that is somehow at once old fashioned and cutting edge.