UK org promoting 21st century modernist & 60s underground music culture, via nightlife, events, film, fashion, & scootering. Join us now!
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Dummies Guide to ‘Mod’
Origins: circa 1958, London, UK consisted initially of the young Jewish community and upper working class/ lower middle class students, (17 years +) and then subsequently the working class youth from most suburban areas of London. The Phrase 'MOD' is possibly derived from 'Modernist' - i.e. a 'modern person' who is fashionable or 'HIP' whom eschews that which is 'old'. Early Modernists are generally associated with the Modern Jazz Scene of the SOHO area of London and are viewed as being the smarter rivals of the 'Traditional Jazz' scene who often favoured a scruffy 'Beatnik' look. (see: 'Absolute Beginners' - Colin McInnes) However the emerging R'n'B music scene is also another influence, there being many smart young men like Charlie Watts and Brian Jones.
This nascent scene was largely based in the middle class and affluent suburban areas of West London like Richmond.
The early look for Mods was the predominately tailor made suit. The original style is thought to be Italian in design - the box type jacket with narrow lapels and 2 or 3 buttons.
Shoes started as the 'winkle picker' through to ‘chisel toes’ and 'Chelsea boots'. The hair was usually kept short and neat.
Scooters were hugely popular in the 1950's and the early modernists by and large adopted the Italian made machines such as the Vespa GS and series 1 + 2 Lambretta for being stylistically superior to the British machines of the day. The weather of London in this era was frequently cold thus the overcoat of choice for scooter travel was the American Army Parka, it was very warm and kept off dust although not particularly waterproof!
Around 1962 the scene increased in size enough to be reported in the mainstream press notably 15 year old Marc Feld (Marc Bolan) was interviewed in the (London based) 'Town' magazine.
Also at this time of expansion many 'casual' day clothes came into use like cycling shirts, Fred Perry sports shirts and bowling shoes.
The Mods at about this time adopted the emerging R'n'B, early Tamla Motown Soul and Blue Beat and Ska as their club sounds, primarily because the music was very new and also good to dance to and thought of as "cool".
From 1963 on 'MOD' gradually turned into a full-blown 'youth' movement attracting younger and younger teenagers, which in turn drove many older originals away. This culminated with hundreds of 'Mods' on the beaches at Bank Holidays which after a small disturbance in Clacton, Easter 1964 which was totally blown out of proportion by the national press, the resulting publicity generated an explosion in all things 'Mod', became the popular high street fashion for 1964/5. However more Tabloid 'exposé’s' associated the movement with drugs such as amphetamines, which generated a negative establishment reaction. However the movement itself began to die away naturally as the 'Swinging Sixties' era took off fully in '65 and many participants moved on to the new exciting pop, rock and psychedelic scenes.
There were two notable exceptions to this; one was the offshoot - Skinheads in the southern areas of England who retained much of the image and listened almost exclusively to Soul, Ska and Reggae.
In the North of England the mod look survived longer via clubs such as the Twisted Wheel in Manchester and then directly evolved into the Northern Soul and Scooter boy scene. Paradoxically there was also another offshoot in the South West of England where several scooter clubs existed (notably The Modrepheniacs) who referred to themselves as Mods but didn't use the stereotypical image.
The Mod Scene returned by 1978 - and saw a massive 'Revival' in 1979. This petered out around about '82, picked up again in 1984 and again died down by 1989 coincidently when House music and 'E' was at the peak of popularity.
Since then it has enjoyed mixed fortunes in the UK and in numbers at least is a shadow of its former self. However it these days with the assistance of email and the World Wide Web, the protagonists of this lifestyle are much better organised and have a vibrant, diverse and well-attended club scene.
The Mod ideals have now spread all over the westernised world and influenced many famous designers, writers and especially musicians.
There is now also a flourishing 'virtual' mod community presence on the web, where ideas, issues and consensus opinions are discussed freely with a tinge of wit.