girlscooterThe ultimate Sixties youth movement, Mods were a quintessentially British phenomenon, despite their Italian Vespas and love for US soul and Jamaican ska. Christopher Raymond Brocklebank takes a look at one of our favourite vintage subcultures.

Mod has oft been described as ‘clean living under difficult circumstances’, which is an eloquent line, but perhaps misleading, after all, there wasn’t anything ‘clean’ about necking fistfuls of amphetamines on a Saturday night down The Marquee.

But it sums up the essence of what Mod was originally all about: aspiration and a desire for a better lot when your circumstances suggested such things were permanently out of reach. Mod is usually thought of as a largely apolitical subculture, but the burning desire for social mobility that lay behind it – even only in the aesthetic sense – suggests there was a tiny political spark in its fast-beating heart.

The pockets of the original Mods may have been empty, but they were lined with silk. Mods were of the present, looking forever forward; they were the missing link between the bomb site and the Bacardi ad.

Like a virulent strain of flu, post-war austerity long outstayed its welcome. As it wore off, there was another European invasion, that of French culture. Prototype Mods sat uncomfortably through the first wave of the New Wave, sported French Crops and wore Italian suits. But their allegiance to all things continental lapsed when they’d had an earful of French Jazz which was closer to Trad then Modernist, and when sartorially, they realised they could get what they desired closer to home.

gangIn 1962 Town magazine ran a piece in which young working-class men from Stamford Hill in north-east London enthused about the best tailors in the Smoke : ‘Bilgorri of Bishopsgate –  he’s ace, all the best faces go there. And John Stephens – he’s great on trousers.’ From here on, Mod became a very AngloAffair.

Arguably, this was the first time since the Dandies of the Victorian era that young men were openly enthusiastic about fashion and accessories, which when you consider that the Twentieth Century had rolled around to its sixth decade, is really saying something. Moreover, these were working-class and (largely) heterosexual men.

One teenager, Marc Feld (later one Marc Bolan), complained to Town that many of his peers were overtly snobby about where they got their gear: ‘I saw a gingham shirt in Woolworths this morning – only ten bob. A few alterations and it would be as good as anything from John Michael or John Stephen.’ His advice was probably taken up though, for this was a scene in which faces – as opposed to magazines and designers – set the diktats.

Word would percolate out from Stamford Hill all the way to Wardour Street that this week, they’d be mainly wearing cufflinks, which might have been supplanted by cravats the week after.

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2 Responses

  1. Janine

    Great stuff, can you do a rockers piece as well please?

  2. darren

    Well written and some v good observations
    Mods are self obsessed and will keep reiniventing themselves in one form or another

    Just checking your new website

    very good……