Anna Wintour has a flip phone. So does my coolest friend, Judith. Judith also wears deep plum lipstick (which I’ve since adopted) and shops exclusively at a Swedish clothing store that does not exist in the states (I’ve looked into it: it opens in New York next Spring). When Judith first told me that she doesn’t have a smartphone (“Maybe someday! I just don’t really want one!”) I stared at her, mouth agape, for a good 15 seconds before whispering, “So you don’t even instagram?”
No, Judith doesn’t Instagram. She doesn’t Venmo or tweet either. Somehow, she is able to flirt with boys without using an arsenal of Emojis. If someone needs to reach her, they can call her or send a text-only SMS. If she’s around, she’ll get back to you, but sometimes, she’s just not around.
Judith is the type of cool girl who can make having an iPhone seem basic, which, I guess it kind of is. For a long time, having the most expensive new phone with the most impressive technological capabilities was a status symbol: now, it seems kind of desperate. iPhones are for people who wait in lines—in Apple lines—outside the stores for days, using their old iPhone to send excitable tweets about getting their hands on the new one. And then there are the people who go mysteriously silent sometimes, the ones you suspect have cooler pastimes, despite (or because of) their Nokias.
Shailene Woodley, perhaps unsurprisingly, is also on the record eschewing smartphone technology. “The more you get away from all the technological buzz, the more freedom you have,” she told The Daily Beast, before smearing on some homemade deodorant and (presumably) heading off to have sex in a forest.
The nerds have had their day in the sun: now, It Girls are reclaiming “cool” by rejecting these technological gadgets. Of the new Apple iWatch, she of oversize sweater and don’t-care messy-chic hair, Alexa Chung said, “It’s kind of dorky…” Trying too hard isn’t cool, and having an iPhone 6 (let alone 6 plus) is trying too hard. It’s sitting in the front row of class, it’s refreshing Facebook at a party, too available for conversation, too willing to fit in. If Adidas slide sandals and Esprit-logo sweatshirts are nonchalantly in style again, think of the flip phone as the ultimate in normcore technology.
Smart phones aren’t sexy. The iPhone 6 is “a huge phone with a huge battery,” according to The Verge (reviews for the phone were under embargo until last night). Having a smartphone — at least one you check compulsively (and is it possible to own one without checking it compulsively?)—reeks of a certain societal obligation. You neeeed your phone, because what if you get an email from your boss? What if someone likes your Instagram? What if you need directions?! The steadfast flip phone users of the modern world don’t give a shit about answering emails on time, validating their life choices on instagram, getting lost or being late. After all, celebrities have “people” to handle the things that ensure the rest of us remain plugged in 24/7: appointments, schedules, directions, Seamless. There’s nothing that renders you as instantly cool, desirable, and sexy as not needing something that everyone around you does. It’s not especially practical, and it’s certainly not efficient. But. It is kind of hot.
A flip phone represents the ultimate luxury: inaccessibility. The most alluring thing about people with flip phones is the vote of confidence they are giving themselves (and their social lives) by not giving people a 24/7 way to reach them, across multiple platforms. It’s like they have an innate trust that the people who really want to talk to them will seek them out, will still want to talk to them three hours after sending an email. They can go off the radar without worrying that people will forget about them while they’re gone. And by not tweeting, Facebooking, and Foursquaring their whereabouts, they’re leaving their everyday lives open to interpretation. As if at any given moment, they’re probably doing something much cooler than we are. Judith almost certainly is.
Photo-collage sources, from left: Darron Cummings (AP Photo); David Goldman (AP Photo); Gregory Pace (Getty); Michael Loccisano (Getty); Luca Bruno (AP Photo); Anja Niedringhaus (AP Photo).