Hi all

when I was a youngster in the Mod Revival, everyone just thought of themselves as a Mod and then either stayed with the scene or drifted into another.   Scooter Boy if into the scooters or Soul Boy if obviously into soul, but some also followed prevailing fashion into Pyschobilly and other scenes.

I remember a couple of the more well dressed, older blokes started to call themselves Stylists in an attempt not to be identified with the rougher/violent end of Mod which caused them to receive a lot of stick, but I kind of understood it.

I drifted into the soul scene and was dedicated to it during my twenties and thirties.  I still am but as I got to forty I decided I wanted to look, feel a Mod again in a mature, assured way.    I work in business all over UK and outside, so work alongside colleagues from USA who have that relaxed Ivy League look that is smart, often expensive but not needing to shout about itself which got me thinking.

Over the last few years I have utterly redefined my wardrobe to reflect my sense of myself.   People have commented how this seems to be 'me' and it feels like I have found how to look and feel right as I age onwards.

However the term Mod now doesn't feel right to me in the strictest sense.   This isn't elitism but I realise in style, music interest and look I am more akin to one of the early Modernists or late 60s Seudeheads than I am a 63-66 Mod.    My look and music combines early Mod with my love of Northern Soul music and culture.   The late 1960s Seudehead look took combined classic tailoring and Ivy League style with a stripped back Mod style that rejected the prevailing hippy influence.   This is the look I've got, it's identifiably Mod to those who know and gets lots of nods, but enables me to work in the business world just seeming to have a certain sense of style.

In reality at the age of forty two, definitions don't matter really and if somebody said to me 'are you a Mod?' in the office, I would find it uneasy to respond as people's perception is of something other to me and with ignorance of the wider influences and origins.

So I wondered, am I alone in this?   It seems that Mod is a broad topic.   I would never wear the paisley shirted, psychedelic look for example.  I'm much more the preppy style mixed with continental fashions.   I would never envisage wearing a parka, boating jacket, bowling shoes (but wear the Frank Wright wonderful flat desert shoes that are close to them), cravat, sta-prest or two tone suit.   That feels like the me that was sixteen and nothing wrong with that or that look.  But we evolve with different stages.

To get a bit of dialogue going and put a bit back into the forum, I welcome the thoughts of others about how they think about and define themselves.   Are others happy with one definition or see themselves in a more nuanced way?

Growing older is an odd thing too, with live commitments, work and home I genuinely don't have time to be 'on the scene' but it doesn't stop me being and looking a certain way.   With some maturity and more money in my pocket at this age, I look better than I did years ago and know myself a lot more.   Indeed at forty two I'm not sure I would find it easy to hang around with Mods in their teens.   The soul scene is easier to age in but that doesn't capture all aspects of how I think about myself.

We'll probably all say quite rightly that definitions do not matter, but I'm sure we all have our own Mod world playing around in our minds and thought it might be interesting to understood how this is for each of us.  

Many thanks.

cheers

Mark

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  • I'll always call myself a Mod although I'm an abortion of a Soulboy Suedehead Skinhead Mod .l started out as a Soulboy in the mid 70s during the height of the Wigan Casino era .Clothes,were fairly standard of the day and people only wore Spencers Soul bags at alldayers or nighters.My schoolbag was covered in Patches of places I'd never been to and l wore white socks and black brogues and later Royals.When the revival happened in 79 l was only attracted by the clothes and the scooters as the music was crap to me and just sounded like punk.I'd seen scooters years before covered in mirrors and high backrests but l didn't know what they were then ,a mix of Northern Mods and 70 s Scooterboy.My main haircut for a long time has been `Suedehead`,basically a crop  long enough to part with sidies.l like a bit of everything clothes wise,Tonic suits ,Crombies,Brogues ,Bowling shoes,etc.You can seem overdressed in Levis and Desert boots wearing a Wrangler these days cos everyone is so lazy and scruffy.

  • I'm still defining my mod style, could you list some of the different types of mods, since mod is such a broad topic?

    • There are a few distinct eras that inform the look:

      1.  The evolution out of the rock and roll look into early Modernism, about 57-59 - we would find it hard to see this as 'Mod' today but it was winkle picker shoes, bum freezer waist length suit jackets (often double breasted), high collar shirts (often detachable collar), pointing up in dress shirt style.

      2.  The Modernist look 59-62, obsessed with USA Ivy League clothes, so Brooks Brothers type button down collar shirts, suits (not just in three buttons but two and four were acceptable), knitted ties, penny loafers and brogues, rain coats.   Hair was in sharp USA university cuts for men.  Mod fabrics included Mohair and two-two brushed look, expanding with the introduction of Seersucker candy striped jackets.   Even Baracuta jackets were assumed to be from the USA with their G9 'Harrington' but were in fact English.

      3.  The continental influence - due to French and Italian cinema starting to be popular in UK and Hollywood making films there, the knits, Italian suits, trench coats all started to merge into Modernism.  This would be from about 1960 onwards.  By 1962 Mod was breaking out of London and into the working classes.and this late Modernist look was the first to be known as Mod distinctly.    Female mods in particular were informed by the continental actresses such as Jean Seberg and Anita Ekberg (the Swedish cool look was also quite instructive).

      4.  The casualisation of Mod.  In 1963 Mod shops and specific tailors were starting in London, notably John Stephens and Ben Sherman (and later such as John Simons).   This allowed the UK Mod scene not to be dependent on outside brands from USA, Italy and develop its own look, combined with an explosion of comparatively inexpensive bespoke tailoring.    With the working classes in and outside London now identifying themselves as Mod, the scene started to operate in layers, Faces with money and style at the top, Tickets or Numbers wearing simple t-shirts, jeans, desert boots at the bottom.   They were called numbers due to a fashion for t-shirts with numbers on.   This was when sports labels like Fred Perry started to come through, wereas before knits were more expensive and exclusive from Lacoste, John Smedley.   The parka coat was becoming synonymous with Mods, especially after the bank holiday fights and Mod became at least to outsides a uniform.   However any picture of Mods always showing surprising variation in the look.

      By this time the original Modernists had either lost the name and were subtle stylists operating underground and as part of society.  The Mod scene continued to explode and absorb youth so by about 1965 it had lost the exclusivity and everyone was to some extent influenced by it, wearing high street Mod copyist clothes, listening to the poppier end of the music in the clubs.   The three button suited look was predominant at this time.  Many Mods were wearing mix pattern blazers, full length knits and evolving with new fabrics and looks in mix and match - most obviously seen in The Small Faces who generally aren't seen in a straight forward suit.

      This was the time of the 'Swinging 60s' so the pop-art being taught in colleges mixed into fashion, with USA comic imagery (Batman, Ginsberg plane crashes etc, Warhol Monroe image), ironic use of iconic symbols (union flag, RAF target) and black and white op-art.   Through The Who this was adopted into the Mod look in 1965.

      By 1966, Mod was fragmenting as was the image.  The classic tailoring was being blended with paisley and embryonic psychedelic clothing.   Boutiques such as Granny Takes A Trip were opening and vintage clothing was booming.   So Victorian clothing and vintage military dress started being incorporated.    Three new scenes were emerging, the psychedelic/hippy look that would take many London Mods out of the scene, the hard 'Rude Boy' look of Jamaica that would lead to Skinhead and the stripped down, denim look of John Mayall that would lead to the blues boom later in the decade.   In London Mod fragmented although it also continued as it in the central London clubs (the classic pictures taken outside The Flamingo of Mods were as late as 1967).

      The strict definitions of Mod fashion were lessening but so was the identity.   In the Midlands, North and Scotland psychedelia has less effect and the scenes carried on basically as is, though simplifying in dress with the years and with less places to show off, the casual look took over.

      In the late 1960s as I have written earlier the soul scene, smart skins and young business gentry adopted the Ivy League and City Gent looks, seeking to be smart but less obtrusive.  This introduced elements such as flat bowling style shoes, some tweed, long point collar (in rebellion to the ever bigger rounded collars of popular fashion).   Ironically it's very 'straight' look would then later inform the Two Tone scene, which merged it with the Rude Boy look of early skins.   A number of older Mods who were now adults morphed into an almost gangster look with Crombies and sombre suit based looks, adopted in Lock Stock for example by Guy Ritchie.

      The 1970s saw an expansion of knits in particular and the introduction of such as Gabicci in 1973.

      The Mod revival had its roots in the black suit and white shirt look of the pub R&B scene, with Dr Feelgood leading on to the early look of The Jam.   For me the revival had some awful clothes, often cheap knock offs, piano ties, targets everywhere.   I didn't know it at the time but it was a sincere homage with aspects of parody.  Nobody I knew ever had an original label or had probably heard of Baracuta but were wearing rip-off Harringtons of poor quality.  Clothes were bought from vintage shops for a better look or ordered by mail from the pages of music magazines and on rare trips to Carnaby Street.   There were top-Mods dressing differently I'm sure, but the scene was so new and disconnected from its heritage, without any internet or books to refer to, it was hard to get it right.  The authority of 'old men' (often only about 30-35) still on the scene was absolute in what was and wasn't Mod.

      With the 80s, the emerging garage rock scene was part of Mod with cord jackets, paisley and polka dot shirts, winkle pickers back again, narrow white/cream jeans.  This has stayed with us since and is also seen as part of the related Indie Boy look that came with the BritPop and onward years (and is now an established style related to Mod all of its own).

      The 1990s for me were start of today's golden years with designer clothes, good quality high street, specialist retailers, internet and a more instinctual, blended look than earlier times.

      I hope that very brief potted history is helpful.  I wrote it in one go so will have missed loads.  Get the Ivy Look and Mods! books from a good retailer (cheap at Amazon) and go from there.   

      For Mod girl clothing I am less able to describe it well and it hasn't evolved in the same way.  Perhaps Lorraine could give us some thoughts?

      I am away now until tomorrow and will be delighted to continue this theme onwards then.

      Many thanks

      cheers

      Mark

  • Good topic this one!

    I started in '78 (at the we age of 10) not really know what identity I had - i like the energy of punk but it was too scruffy then I saw The Jam on a local telly programme in their black 3 buttoned suit and I knew that was the look I wanted.  So by the end of '78 I was a mod!  Then Quadrophenia was released and I immediately disliked all these other kids tuning into my scene, plastic mods I called them and so I called myself a modernist.

    After subscribing to a fanzine (can't which one - old age and all that) form London, they too slagged off the 1000's of kids wearing cheap replica parka and running around fighting (must admit to doing the latter myself), it was called BQ (Before Quadrophenia)!  I love the film now but couldn't watch it at the time... yes I had become an Elitist and I was only 11 :o).  When Two-tone hits the charts in '79 I must admit to being a suedehead for a few months then (again) as so many other had the skinhead look I realised the erros of my way and went back to being a modernist.

    A year or so later I was a Stlyist, walking around with my brolly and camel hair crombie over my (one and only) suit (at the time).  The '82 arrived and there was something inevitable in the air... the end of the mod music scene.  The Jam split and it was like someone tuned the music off and everyone made their way home from the club after a good night out on the dance floor.  I turned to Northern Soul, it had been all around me at the time, living in the North West of England, but I had no interest initially and soulies disliked Mods back (as they were being targeted as mods mainly 'cos they rode scooters).  So I became a vinyl junky even more so and went in search of rare soul but kept the mod look.

    '85 and the second wave of mod revival (we hated that term at the time) took my interest. When the new revival died as quick as it had begun, Acid Jazz arouse from the ashes and I was on that like a shot!  That carried me into '88-'89 and so into a Blues phase, from day 1 of the Blues to modern stuff I was hooked but in the background was also the new indie scene who took a lot of mod influences.  I didn't do the look though, I now donned a suedehead for a second time.

    When I moved down south (for work) I was wearing suits again and felt mod again, so many mod clubs still going their it would be rude not to go back (though I never felt as though I had ever abandoned Mod. Time flies and I'm still a Mod, just with more suits and John Smedleys tops!

  • The topic re scooter boys has also been aired before. Personally the whole thing of the nylon US airforce nylon flight bomber and pants and cut down scooters was a real turn off...

    I guess they are like all the others ..sort of broke away and forgot where they came from..Once saw a quote on the mod revival by a 64/65 mod who said a scooter was "just a personal form of transport..you cannot hero worship it...."

    I also recall at that time (80s) (now very basic) fanzines like the Pheonix List arranging mod weekenders and refusing anyone without the required level of dress.  May be thats why there became a distance between us!

    • I love the quote on scooters! Seriously, so glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks along these same lines.

      Too often, people put scooters above all else and end up veering into the flight jacket, over-patched, Dr. Marten boot look. Me... well, I'd rather put my energies toward clothes.

      And good records!

  • Thanks for that, I'll have to get back out and down to one of your nights.   If I remeber right it's at Bunker's Hill in Hockley.  I had a look round Hockley on Saturday and there are loads of vintage clothing shops there now, at least six.   Some good items picked up really inexpensively.

    Ironically the most difficult conversations were often with scooter boys who were sometimes very antagonistic towards Mods, a real shame and I'm glad things don't need to be so strict these days.   A love of social culture (clothes, music, identifity, group) is something to celebrate.   In fact I don't care what scene someone is in these days, if I see someone with a defined image I'll always say hello as I respect they have made a choice and are striking out from the norm.   I'm no fan of heavy rock, but to be a follower of that scene is as much a choice as ours.   In fact I am constantly surprised that there is some semblence of a rock and roll scene still in the UK, it shows that something with deep roots will endure.

    Mod has been a state of mind for me, being smart, sharp and clued in has been of great benefit in my working life.   As a working class, council estate lad looking to live as Terry Rawlings described, gave me an edge and self-motivation.   Being positive, embracing change, promoting a sense of social community, staying focused, understanding the value of friends are all things that Mod gave me and I try to pass on.   It has been more than just the clothes and the feelings it created inside me run so deeply.   So while I started this thread about the potential to chose or reject identities, I think Mod  and its incarnations has stayed with each of us and informed how we live our life.   Somehow I can tell those who were or are Mods, even if it is long gone.   There's a quality it brings and I'm grateful to have it.

    cheers

    Mark

    • Around 1700 if you were caught in the act of theft you were  ' branded a thief ' and that actually meant having your cheek branded with  the letter T to let everyone know you were a  ' thief' we as mods dont need branding but sure enough there is something about a person that you recognise, it may be one little thing he or she is wearing but you can definitely recognise it.

      I have met people who in later conversation told their story and it always surprises me how similar we Mods are.

  • Returning to the topic fellahs,  I became interested again in the scene in the mid 80s I thimk, when The Face magazine came out - I think the first issue had a pic of Weller on the cover...by the 90s it had completely lost its way and was easily picked off by Esquire etc.

    But point being that towards the end it had these crazy, long winded arguments between Casuals in the letters page as to who was on trend...it seemed to have stolen the mod attention to detail and swagger, but was arguing about white trainers made in the far east  - for Gods sake!!! I even remember one argument about the "wearing of deerstalkers at football matches - yes or no?"

    This may have been debated before but is there a connection (I felt none personally) between the Casual thing and mod?

    • Paolo Hewitt postulated the Mod to Casual evolution in The Soul Stylists book and got a lot of stick for it, but it is true.  In particular it has links in its roots to the southern jazz-funk Chris Hill/Froggy etc scene as much as football.   The southern jazz-funk scene evolved from the London 1970s funk scene which was a more black oriented underground evolution in part on from Mod roots.  Funk in the 1970s was seen as much more radical than reggae so developed a hardcore underground scene of its own with baggy casual clothes that were the prototypes for later casual and hip hop scenes.   Interestingly it's hardly ever written about.

      The Casual clothes had a similar ethos to Mod and anyone who has watched either version of The Firm would recognise some of the aspects as being similar to Mod, both in clothing, music, group mentality and yes it has to be acknowledged, some of the violence (I saw and tried to avoid truly horrible rucks in my day directly related to Mod).

      The casual Mod look that many have now has large crossover back to Casuals and in a shared love of certain brands - Baracuta, Farah, Lacoste (the original polos), Aquascutum, Penguin, French Connection and many more.  

      However although the two ran parallel there was little if any crossover and a lot of trouble between the two scenes back in the 80s at the height of casuals.  I was at the Mod wedding in Kettering with hundreds of us there when local Casuals set fire to the venue and a full riot occured that had me running across the screen on News At Ten.   I have rarely if ever seen vioence like it and it kicked off again in the hospital.   (Having told my mum there it was all fine the next day, my aunt rang up and told her to put on the news to see me running across the screen.... not an easy situation).   

      It is off topic for a momemt but these scrapes Mod caused me were awful - a van load of scooter boys who battered all my mates looking for me, a hells angel who pulled an axe on a load of us, a massive bonehead (right wing skinheads) brawl in Nottingham centre when they arrived in coaches all tooled up.     I was even threatened by one of my former Mod mates who had gone down the drugs road and didn't recognise me any longer.   Thankfully I learnt to talk well, run fast, look innocent and hide inside shops.   Wearing a parka back then was almost an invitation to aggrovation.

      So Casual, a sort of branch off with some common origins.   Now of course people mix and match between scenes and don't feel the need to define themselves in one way.   Pre-internet youth was a lot more delineated into specific groups - Mods, Skins, Goths, Psychobillies, Punks, Casuals, Breakers and it wasn't interchangable. 

      "Which side are you on boys....." as Billy Bragg once sang.

      cheers

      Mark

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