How Idris Elba Proves That “Cool’ Is More Important Than “Swag”

If you were to ask 1000 random Black women to name the single sexiest and most attractive man in American pop culture today, I’d bet a month’s pay that Idris Elba would come out on top. In fact, considering the sheer obsession some women seem to have for him — at a house party I attended a couple weeks ago, I heard a woman call him “the epitome of sexy” — I wouldn’t be surprised if he got 20 to 30 percent of the votes.

This in itself isn’t surprising. Elba is an “understandably attractive” man (“understandably attractive” = “other guys get why woman are into him and even expect them to be”), and he’s the best current candidate to fill the “Black hearthrob with a first name no other American has ever had” quota previously manned by Denzel Washington.

What is surprising, though, is that if you asked the same 1000 women to name the one celebrity whose sexual appeal is completely overrated, Idris Elba might get first place on that list too. There seems to be just as many women who don’t see what the big deal about him is as there are who are infatuated with him.

On face value, this doesn’t make much sense. Actually, lemme rephrase that. It doesn’t make much sense…until you remember how he first entered our collective consciousness: As Stringer Bell on HBO’s “The Wire”

Cool, calculating, manipulative, imposing, and always the “smartest man in the room” — well, at least he thought he was always the smartest man in the roomfew characters in television history had as much of a cultural impact as Bell did, and the previously unknown Elba was the perfect person for that star-making role.

Why does this matter? Well, it seems like Black women’s feelings about Elba are directly correlated to when they first saw him. Basically, my completely unscientific opinion tells me that the majority of the women who are gaga over him first saw him as Stringer Bell, while the majority of the women who don’t see what the big deal is first saw him in “Obsessed” or “Sometimes in April” or “Daddy’s Little Girls” roles where he’s nowhere near as cool as he was on “The Wire.”

Now, if you were to ask those same Idris-obsessed women what exactly it is about him that saturates their panties, most would probably cite something having to do with his unmistakable and indescribable swagger. While I won’t say they’re incorrect, I think it goes a bit deeper than that.

As stated earlier, women who first saw Elba on “The Wire” seem to be the ones most enthralled with his “swag.” This is no accident. The character was intentionally written to be a person practically dripping in brooding confidence, and Idris Elba was placed in a perfect position to show off his attributes. His swag was able to resonate so deeply because of the manufactured coolness of the character he portrayed. In this sense, David Simon was the best wingman ever.

While thinking about how Elba’s hold over Black women’s ovaries is directly connected to him being placed in a position that enabled him to be cool, I couldn’t help but also think about how it applies to our dating and relationships lives. More specifically, how we put a premium on a man’s swagger and the effect it has on women even though his “coolness” actually matters much more than that.

The swagger/emotive confidence thing is something that many men just aren’t ever going to be able to possess. But, while many assume that this is a death knell to a man’s dating life (especially a Black man’s), any man can be cool if they can find a way to replicate the type of environment that made Idris the “epitome of sexy.” It probably won’t happen on the same scale (and by “probably” I mean “definitely”), but it can happen.

The problem with nerdy/socially awkward/introverted guys who claim to have difficulties meeting and attracting women isn’t their lack “swag” or that all women want bad boys or whatever self-depreciating excuse of the month happens to be popular. No, they’re  struggling because many of them are desperately trying to be something they’re not, and they haven’t found a way to manufacture their cool yet, leaving them stuck competing in places where they have no chance to succeed.

Let me put it this way: If you’re a shy and somewhat socially awkward engineer who has to labor to approach and talk to women, nightclubs, bars, and lounges probably aren’t the best places for you to meet them. You know what would be though? A NSBE conference. You know what would be even better? A NSBE conference where you’re a speaker on a panel about some super smart shit only 17 other people in the world understand. You know what would be even better than that? A panel you organized to gather people interested in some super smart engineer shit.

Basically, if you’re not “cool” in a traditional sense, put yourself in a position that enables you to be cool. And, if those positions don’t currently exist, invent them!

If you’re good at what you do and you’re able to put yourself in a position where your talents are recognized, trust me when I say that regardless of how weird, unusual, or “uncool” your specific skill is, there will be people out there who appreciate you for it. (and by “people” I mean “women”) Shit, if you’re a cat who happens to be an expert crocheter and a comic book maven, start a professional network for crocheting-ass n*ggas who like to read comic books, and watch how much more popular and “cool” you’ll get in if actually takes off.

Maybe you’ll never be the swagged out cat who attracts all the eyes at the club like Stringer Bell. But, if you’re a friendless recluse who has more experience with computer codes than coochie, invent something that brings people into your environment, on your playing field — something that makes people acknowledge whatever unique skill you bring to the table. If it worked for Mark Zuckerberg, it can also work for you.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

***If you haven’t noticed, we also posted our first “Very Smart Single” today as well. Check out R.G.’s profile and hit us up at contact@verysmartbrothas.com if interested in her***

On Saturday, June 2, 2012, we’ve got another edition of REMINSCE at Liv Nightclub coming up! Except this time, we’re gonna be celebrating Panama’s birthday! Please come out and hang the VSB team. Plus, it’s free before 11pm w/RSVP (reminiscedc.eventbrite.com) and $10 after. AND there’s an open bar from 930-10:30 WITH NO DRESS CODE. You can come in shorts because it gets HOT in there.

  • http://flavors.me/brran1 brran1

    Yeah. I second the sentence about NSBE conferences. The ones while in undergrad were one for the books.

    It’s all about going with what you know and and using it to your advantage.

    • http://twitter.com/tylerg_thomas tgtaggie

      +1. When I was in college, I heard some of those NSBE parties was LEGEN….wait for…DARY.

      • http://flavors.me/brran1 brran1

        Yessir. A mid semester out of town break? What else would it be? lol

      • https://twitter.com/#!/Think2Inspire Think2Inspire

        Any time there is a conference, professionals, and liquor be prepared for a real party. I am a nerd, I’ve been to conferences that were more live than the club (yes, THE club) on Short Skirt Thursday or any night where ladies get in free before 11. When you can talk to me in my own dialect of nerd, these panties turn into the Pacific Ocean :)

        • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

          WOWZER! @pacific ocean.

        • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com/ Perverted Alchemist

          “Any time there is a conference, professionals, and liquor be prepared for a real party.”:

          If they have Heineken and Dos Equis, I’m there!

        • nillalatte

          True dat! I’ve attended a couple of health care conferences. Every reception I attended (and they had a LOT) had an open bar. One of the vendors invited me to a VIP party at a club later that evening. Now you’d think health care folks would be stepping away from all that type of behavior, right? LOL… they were in it to win it! :D

        • http://twitter.com/kjnetic King Jordan

          “Any time there is a conference, professionals, and liquor be prepared for a real party. ”

          anyone going to the urban league conference?

    • http://www.facebook.com/RandGAreZombies The Other Jerome

      Cosign on NSBE. I’ve heard stories man…….

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      “Yeah. I second the sentence about NSBE conferences. The ones while in undergrad were one for the books.”

      I actually just helped host a party at a NSBE conference a couple months ago. who knew there were so many ratchet engineers?

      • A Woman’s Eyes

        :-)

      • http://flavors.me/brran1 brran1

        After staring at Circuits and Schematics all day, we can be just as ratchet as most. LOL.

        • MJoy

          see… that was kinda hot. lol.

      • rpp1986

        A NSBE conference is where a group of black people who are not used to seeing any black people in there day to day lives go to let some steam off. In college if you were a NSBE member then you were the only black person in classes of anywhere from 100 – 300 people. In the professional world…it is the same. Ratchet stuff happens when you feel like you can let loose around your people. NSBE conference 2012 here we go :-)

        • http://flavors.me/brran1 brran1

          +1!

    • Tinatiin

      Additional cosignage of the NBSE cats. Actually there is a biomedical engineer at my job who is literally the person you described…kinda nerdy and awkward, member of NBSE. He has awkwardly tried to get at me and what gives him cool points is his dweeb apeal. I mean, as a fellow science lover, if you can talk to me about the physical properties and advantages of a nitinol wire versus stainless steel in a cardiovascular stent…chh. You had me at hello *beyonce voice*

      Unfortunately, I’m still slightly shallow and holding out for my dream nerd-thug-yuppie…i’ma find him.

      • http://www.todisspits.blogspot.com MicTheMessenger

        Sorry, God quit making this the nerd-thug-yuppie after Finding Forrester came out.

        Blame Sean Connery.

        • Tinatiin

          *shakes fists at the world*
          I will never give up!

    • DevyDev

      *flashes back to Toronto 2010!* Nothin short of epic!

    • http://dmblog.marcapplewhite.com Dr. Marctagon

      I definitely cosign the NSBE statement. I attended the NSBE National Conference every year from 99-’03….it was all business during the day

      But at night? Different ballgame…..in a good way!

  • Kandi

    Idrissa cool (S/O west africa) but wee bay my baby father (*BX accent)

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      your screenname should be de’londa brice

      • Kandi

        OOO I hate(d) her how she gonna let that pretty boy son of her’s be a D boy. Aside from the obvious you can’t sell drugs and have defined features like “good/long hair”.

    • http://www.lifetheroughdraft.com/blog Rone

      Wee Bay was a wild dude. Still one of my favorite scenes was him taking more years for soda and fast food. Dude was a G.

  • Iamnotakata

    Well I watched all seasons of The Wire and I still don’t understand the hype…hell Idris wore a smedium sized sweater to speak at my college about finishing school (even though he didn’t )and even then I still wasn’t feelin him…Sorry I’m not drinking the Idris Alba koolaid…

    • Kandi

      Haha no love your screen name Na wa ooooo.
      He’s just tall, dark-skinned, and British. I dont think he’s that smart just because he had the worst Baltimorean accent on the show.

      • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com Val

        “he had the worst Baltimorean accent on the show.”

        Actually I think he and “Jimmy” were neck in neck for the worst Baltimore accent.

        • http://twitter.com/itztrizz617 Tristan

          McNulty’s accent was THEE worst.

          • http://www.twitter.com/Bmorebmw Tentpole

            As a charm city native I disagree.

            • http://flavors.me/brran1 brran1

              As a fellow Charm City native, I have to disagree as well.

              The kids (Namond, Mike, Dookie) had the worst accents out of the entire cast. It sounded like they were picked up off of the corner of Nostrand Ave and Beverley Rd. and plopped down in Baltimore.

              • http://twitter.com/#!/NewYork2VA NY2VA

                ROTFLMAO!!! So did Stringer. Stringer sounded WAY more Brooklyn than Baltimore to me.

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

        “because he had the worst Baltimorean accent on the show.”

        who do you think had the best one?

        • Dignan

          You’re eliminating the native Baltimoreans from contention, right? Otherwise, Felicia Pearson and Jay Landsman win that competition running away.

        • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com Val

          It’s hard to say because there were people on the show who were from Baltimore. With that said, unless he’s a native of Baltimore I’d say “Prop Joe” had the best executed Baltimore dialect. And “Omar” did a pretty good job too. And he’s from NY for sure so his was acting.

          Who do you think had the best Baltimore accent?

        • http://www.twitter.com/Bmorebmw Tentpole

          Please let me know as a native I would like to hear what the masses think

        • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

          I was going to go with jay landsman too, but that is kind of cheating

    • A Woman’s Eyes

      I’ve got to ask this!

      Is your screenname inspired by the book ‘Akata Witch’ by Dr. Nnedi Okorafor?

      • iamnotakata

        No.

    • kenyadigit

      Your name no be nice

      • iamnotakata

        Well i don’t like people who type like they are 3 years old…tf…

        • A Woman’s Eyes

          3 year olds can type?!?

        • kenyadigit

          My mistake. I assumed you were African.

          • iamnotakata

            Oh was that supposed to be that “pidgin” english..I can’t stand that stuff I prefer proper grammar. But i understood your point don’t care really…

            • http://asiyah3.wordpress.com Asiyah

              You sound really humble and sweet.

              • kenyadigit

                No bull. Must be the life of the party.

          • A Woman’s Eyes

            I’m Black American aka African American. I’m pro-Africans, pro-everybody from transparent to blue-black. I like the dark skin, the light skin and the colors in between, as long as the man eats fresh fruits and vegetables and exfoliates with a Walmart wash-cloth or poof or loofah for a glowing complexion. :)

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5FR1LGsT7E TheAnti-Cool

    There seems to be just as many women who don’t see what the big deal about him is as there are who are infatuated with him.

    I fall squarely in the former category and get tired of trying to explain why. This article has explained it and I now have something to direct them too. Thanks and sht Champ. :)

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5FR1LGsT7E TheAnti-Cool

      If you’re good at what you do and you’re able to put yourself in a position where your talents are recognized, trust me when I say that regardless of how weird, unusual, or “uncool” your specific skill is, there will be people out there who appreciate you for it. (and by “people” I mean “women”)

      Also this. This is how I fall for my “nerds” and “geeks”. If you love what you do and are good at it, I find that hella attractive. Passion begets passion.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      “Thanks and sht Champ”

      no problem!

  • http://www.iamyourpeople.com I Am Your People

    IDRIS!!!! *passes out without reading post*

    • AfroPetite

      *swoon*

      The things I’d do…..

      • Breezy

        Things like what?!?!? Fetch him water and make him scones?!?!? You might be bored. I need some evidence of his macaroni and cheese making abilities before I sign up for the UK Tour.

  • nillalatte

    *looks around the room for Meisarebel*
    What kind of swag you got boo? :D

    • nillalatte

      BTW, I can take or leave Idris. I think there are some other guys out there that are definitely more attractive. Denzel being one. But, Idris isn’t bad on the eyes. :)

    • Meisarebel

      Strange enough my dear, I’m too modest to admit I had/have any swagger. Does architect gain me any points? Ye? Ne? Maybe? Shrug. You’re gonna have to get me started darling, not the type to just brag about myself. But then again, for you… ;-)

      Granted, I do believe I have my fair share of confidence, and I’m pretty comfortable holding my own. I suppose that counts for something. One thing I try not to do is hype myself up. Not a matter of low self-esteem, rather, I prefer to be myself, and in the infamous words of one Sean Carter, you either love me, or leave me alone.

      But seriously, I do agree somewhat with the notion of placing yourself in a position that best exhibits your string traits. Yet simultaneously, I don’t think this is always necessary, unless of course NOTHING ELSE is working in your favour, which I suppose makes you a bit socially awkward in general, which I suppose is the very same reason you would need to do just that… And I may have just contradicted myself. Anyway…

      As for the Idris thing, I’ve witnessed more females go gaga for him than not. And a lot has to do with the “foreign-ness” of him than anything else. Women love them some foreign-ness.

      • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com/ Perverted Alchemist

        Yeah, that explains their fascination with ol’ boy from another continent D***** H*****…

      • A Woman’s Eyes

        ” Does architect gain me any points? ”

        It does. Especially if you can take her for a ride in your car and point out the buildings you designed. Sure!

        • nillalatte

          lmao… AWE… you know, I was thinking all about that ‘ride’ girl and nothing about looking at any building designs! LOLLLLLL

          • Meisarebel

            And that’s fine!!! ;-)

  • http://bigraysmindgraffiti.wordpress.com Big Ray

    The diversity of his character on the wire was very much in contrast to the way drug dealers were portrayed on television at that time.

    • A Woman’s Eyes

      True!

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      “The diversity of his character on the wire was very much in contrast to the way drug dealers were portrayed on television at that time.”

      this is true, although you could argue that Luther Mahoney from “Homicide” had many of those same traits too

      • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com Val

        Yep, there was Luther Mahoney, then Stringer Bell and now Lemond Bishop on CBS’ The Good Wife.

      • http://uphereoncloud9.wordpress.com Wu Young, Agent of M.E.

        Luther Mahoney never got full credit for being a massive s.o.b from the television press. He was so evil he almost slithered while on screen.

  • Kandi

    Many engineering conferences are not frequented by high concentrations of women (esp Black ones, if that’s your preference). Might I suggest a career day at school and trying to pick up the teachers or a TED talk.

    • http://twitter.com/tylerg_thomas tgtaggie

      All the career days I’ve been to (talking to the kids about careers in construction) has been in the hood. And the teachers either been way older or attractive challenged.

      • Kandi

        Peep game you gotta get the schools with a high % of Teach for America/Teaching Fellow recruits. I worked with them and the ratios (M:F) work out soo they fiending for male attention.

        • S.V.W

          This I do know…

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      “Many engineering conferences are not frequented by high concentrations of women (esp Black ones, if that’s your preference)”

      like i said upthread, i helped host a party for this year’s NSBE convention (i’m on the board of the urban league young professionals here), and there were quite a few women at this conference. hundreds.

  • AfroPetite

    I know I’m not technically supposed to comment on the VSS but R.G.’s dress is giving me everything I need.

    I really only like Idris for two reasons:

    1. His accent
    2. His copious amounts of melanin

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5FR1LGsT7E TheAnti-Cool

      That’s where he gets his points from me as well. Doesn’t make him swoon-worthy for me though.

      • AfroPetite

        I think Idris being British definitely adds to the allure for me. Then again, I’m a sucker for accents in general.

        • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

          @ AP,

          Yes, a black man with a British accent is so segggazzy! BUT, I am not allured by certain accents, the INDIAN one-KILLS me! I just had to put it out there! yuck.

          • A Woman’s Eyes

            I’m not impressed by Black British men because I haven’t witnessed the ones who love Black women. I am biased until I see otherwise.

          • MJoy

            man, i hate accents.

    • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com/ Perverted Alchemist

      Idris is proof that there is someone who can be blacker than Akon, LMAO!!!!

      • Breezy

        LMBO.. that dude is straight pitch black.

        • A Woman’s Eyes

          ?!? Akon & his brother are darker than Idris.

          • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com/ Perverted Alchemist

            Together or separate?

            • Breezy

              ROTFLMBO….I cant breath!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            • A Woman’s Eyes

              LOL that was hilarious

              Made me think of that Rick James skit on Dave Chapelle’s show.

              • Breezy

                DARKNESS, EVERYONE, DARKNESS! HEY EVERYBODY, DARKNESS IS SPREADING!

                • AfroPetite

                  I cannot with you! LOL

        • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com/ Perverted Alchemist

          He ain’t black, he’s opaque!!!

      • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com Val

        Akon seems to be doing okay for himself, he’s dating (or was) Tracee Ellis Ross. Seems like an odd couple to me but what do I know.

        • MJoy

          weird

        • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

          @ Val,

          You stand corrected my dear. She had a thing with BU and not Akon. She can do better for herself, he is my people, but he kills me with ebonglish!

          • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com Val

            Okay, AM. I knew it was one of them. Thanks.

        • http://twitter.com/tylerg_thomas tgtaggie

          Akon’s brother (who is a music exec) dates Tracee Ellis Ross. Tracee’s booty probably had a lot to do with that….

      • Eric McD

        Black people talking about how dark skin is less valued than lighter skin. Interesting (not)

    • A Woman’s Eyes

      Your standards are real low if all it takes is his accent and melanin.

      There’s plenty of sexy dark-skinned Black men with accents.

      • AfroPetite

        No one said that those were the only standards I had of men…but ok you got it :-)

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      “I know I’m not technically supposed to comment on the VSS but R.G.’s dress is giving me everything I need.”

      lol, me too.

  • That Ugly Kid

    “Basically, if you’re not “cool” in a traditional sense, put yourself in a position that enables you to be cool.”

    This is EXACTLY what I did in high school. I was “cool” in two ways. The nerdy/goth chicks (who were actually attractive by the way) were into Japanese culture, anime, and videos games. My natural style of dress just happened to be similar to the way the schoolboys in japanese anime dressed. Clean, fitted button-up shirts and a non-flashy neckpiece (like simple dogtags). Not to mention I enjoyed most of the same things they did and those girls became pretty easy to get.

    I was also “cool” in the sense that I’m really good at basketball. Once the jocks/popular guys found this out during P.E, I made some friends in that circle. Now, did I start getting the girls they were getting? Hell no. But I think hanging with those guys added cool points because this GORGEOUS chick asked me to prom. And then…things went WAY south smh…

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      “I was also “cool” in the sense that I’m really good at basketball. Once the jocks/popular guys found this out during P.E, I made some friends in that circle.”

      why didn’t you play on the basketball team?