Described variously by some as a movement spawned by "working-class dandies", a "Jewish middle-class movement" and a "Beatnik extension", Mod culture began in London in the late 1950s and reached it's zenith in the early to mid 60's, when it was superseded by the hippie/youth culture movement. By the end of the 60's Mod had become mainstream and commercialised, thus temporarily alienating the truly cool...yet the essence of the style has never really disappeared. What is the essence of the style...? Invention. Mod was all about customising classic clothes and mixing different fashions together.
Veering toward suave Italian and Ivy League, Mod clothes were tailored, flamboyant and distinctive and suggested a more sophisticated aura than the contrast greasy haired, pointy-shoed rocker culture that was around at the same time. There was a kind of streamlined elegance about the tailored jackets, pinstripes, stylised pants and soft hair, carefully coiffed, in keeping with the clothes, to look somewhere between Eton-cut and Lord Byron.
By contrast Mod-girl hair was very short or cut into geometric shapes. Interestingly. compared to other subcultures of the era, mod-girls had more autonomy and inclusion and weren't seen merely as attachments to the males. Mod men eschewed many male working class traditions; for one thing they went shopping...a task previously allocated to women. A more androgynous look was at play in the clothes or both sexes and gender roles were freer and blended more easily in Mod culture, and indeed, the1960s saw the emergence of a second-wave feminist revolution...the first being the suffragette movement earlier in the century.
To some extent the Beatniks with their Bohemian edge and the Teddy Boys with their dandified fashion obsession paved the way for the emergence of Mod...as did the Jamaican rude boys from the 1950s with their gangster-inspired sharp suits, thin ties, and pork pie and trilby hats.
Mod style was closely linked to the music of the era and influenced a generation of teenagers. To be a Mod was to make a statement and in the 1960s a generation of sons and daughters with disposable incomes rejected the dour and somewhat timid post- WW2 working class values of their parents and embraced image-culture, individualism, leisure and consumerism.
A Dedicated Follower of Fashion
They seek him here
They seek him there
His clothes are loud
But never square
It will make or break him
So he's got to buy the best
'Cause he's a dedicated follower of fashion
She's a Mod yeah
Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances
Although I'm not sure exactly what it means, Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances was the Mod philosophy, a term coined by The Who manager, Peter Meadon....a description seemingly at odds with an early Mod penchant for amphetamine use and all-night clubs, although it's been suggested that Mods used the drugs as a stimulate to 'hang in there' and not as an intoxicate 'to blot out'.
According to Mod historian Terry Rawlings, Mods are difficult to define because theirs was a subculture that started out as a "mysterious semi-secret world".
One thing seems certain - the focus was on fashion and music...and escapism. They were the pleasure-seekers. However, as some commentators note, although the Mods were shoppers and consumers they weren't passively so:
They were very self-conscious and critical, customising "existing styles, symbols and artefacts" such as the Union flag and the Royal Air Force roundel symbol, and putting them on their jackets in a pop art-style, and putting their personal signatures on their style.
From Graphic Design: Reproduction and Representation Since 1800, Jobling and Crowley
Clashes did occur between the subcultures in the 60's , particularly between mods and rockers, the two groups having opposing tastes in clothes and music.Sometimes things got vicious. Some mods use to sew hooks into their jacket lapels to shred an assailants digits.
When Ringo Starr was asked if he was either a mod or a rocker? he said "I'm a mocker"
Mod revived itself in Britain in the late 70's and again in the 80's in the US, through punk rock/mod revival bands like The Jam (in particular, their 1978 LP, All Mod-cons).
These bands included punk rock, pub rock and new wave styles and also drew influences from classic 1960s mod and beat music bands like Small Faces, The Who and The Kinks.
Direct Hits were another 80's incarnation of Mod. The band were highly 60's influenced, as evidenced by their album title Blow-up, an homage to the 1966 Antonioni classic film.
Other notable mod Revival bands included The Chords, The Purple Hearts and Secret Affair. Live music is what really made the Mod-scene bloom.
The revivals were relatively short-lived yet there is a nostalgia around the Mod scene that has never really evaporated and Mod enthusiasts can still be discovered on websites, clubs and on the streets.
Classic British brand Ben Sherman is synonymous with not only the re-invented Mod style, but the original movement. The same year the Beatles released their first LP-1963, Ben Sherman set up his factory in Brighton. Reputedly, Sherman was inspired by the smart Ivy League gear worn in the US. The legendary button down Oxford shirt, with back pleat and stylishly packaging [in black boxes with an orange logo] developed a cult status among mods...a popularity that spread across Europe and the US.
The Ben Sherman brand also became popular with the post-mod skinhead movement, whose followers desired some classic styling with their braces and bother boots.
The Ben Sherman spiel has always been that it's not really about the clothes but rather, a way of life. It's a distinct label, a status symbol that projects an image and tells the world exactly what you're about. Call it a marketing ploy, call it BS but Ben Sherman is undeniably a classic and stylish brand. You could don a Ben Sherman shirt from 40 years ago and comfortably walk the streets in it today, feeling confident that you are a beacon of style.
Ben Sherman Commuter Bags
Modern Mod-Ben Sherman Pants and Jackets
cBt on April 16, 2013:
I LOVE the mod style- its trendy, cool, smart and sharp. Its nice to have a style that's a cut above the hoodies'n'chinos everone else seems to wear nowadays. Great Hub this- nice job!
Jess on March 14, 2012:
Hello that's some cool info.like the article..
Check out the mod Retro music videos on chrome city events..www.chromecityevents.com
Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on May 11, 2011:
lol, go for it b4murray...Twiggy's still pretty popular. And thanks for the comment!
b4murray from Massachusetts on May 11, 2011:
Cool hub... I like twiggy hmm... Feel a twiggy hub coming on :)
Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on February 24, 2011:
michael ely from Scotland on February 24, 2011:
Hi Jane Bovary, Good Hub. An enjoyable read about an interesting style.
Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on February 13, 2011:
Simon, thanks for the great comments. I understand about the scooter/parka set...this is kind of *contrived mod* I suppose.
I've got no doubt the term Mod has been abused and exploited...rampant capitalist consumerism has a way of scooping up inventive trends and using them for it's own evil ends....(just like me trying to flog Ben Sherman under the Mod banner).
I'm glad to hear there's a healthy underground Mod movement. To me the term will always be synomous with great style.
Simon on February 13, 2011:
As someone who is a mod and attends club nights and weekends all over europe, I thought I'd add a bit about what is happening today on the mod "scene". As a scene its kinda mopthed into different things, some are scooter based, with parka wearing types and to be honest not very well dressed, these are the stereo type mods, dessert boots and Ben Shermans, never really digging the obscure soul and R&B and still listening to power pop. There is however a much cooler and more underground mod scene, maybe one that's gone back to the first concept of mod, wearing smart clobber and avoiding parka's and anything with a target on it. Many mods, myself included, think that the term mod has been abused and is used to sell bad clothing, comp CDs and quite badly written books on the subject. The media version of mod is almost like a parody of this cool underground scene, and yet it is a version that many buy into and never progess out of or are even aware of a much cooler "real deal". In short; theres a lot of people who own a Weller CD and wear apair of Levi's, Ikon shoes and parka or maybe a bad off the peg suit from Merc at the weekend calling themselves mods that really haven't got much ideal, and just lack the effort to do it proper.
Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on August 23, 2010:
rod, thanks -or the comment. pardon the missing letters but, there's something wrong with my keyboard. I've caught the cat sitting on it a few times and I think he's stu--ed it up. Suddenly I can no longer type the letter between 'e' and 'g' nor can I capitalise 'r's! I'll have to get a new one or writing hubs will be extremely hard. I didn't see Mod Squad but I did watch -unky Squad on the ABC a while back..haha...which was a parody o- Mod Squad. I think Twiggy might have started the whole extreme-skinny model thing...damn her.
Lemmy, thanks to you too. You made some great points ...and yes, mod had an androgynous element that could well have been the precursor to metro-sexuality. As mod style went, the guys explored a more -eminine territory and the girls had options in clothes and hairstyles that were more masculine. Twiggy had an androgynous look and perhaps the boyish skinny body was a rejection o- the over-sexualised 50's cleavage.
I'm partial to The Kinks too...it's that distinct sound. A great era musically and as you mentioned, mod had a huge impact on many later bands.
You're right, it would have been interesting to explore more in greater detail but I was too greedily intent on trying to sell Ben Sherman, as you may have noticed...:)
lemmyisgod on August 23, 2010:
Great hub, interesting read. I have taught a lot of stuff on mods vs. rockers in terms of media driven moral panics and emerging youth subcultures. Interstingly mod was a total media construct and was the first stirrings of a youth culture that was able to engage in conspicuous consumption more extensively than before. It also challenged ideas about masculinity and was perhaps one of the seeds of a more feminised male that is now expressed perhaps in concepts like metrosexuality.
I love the music of mod and although I am very much a "rocker" musically the significance of mod for rock is huge. Take the riff from the Kinks All Day and All of the Night for example and the Troggs - Wild Thing - both powerfully struck chord sequences that still stir me when I hear them.
In UK mod eventually morphed into acid house and rave music as forms of youth subculture but mod is still strong in UK. Paul Weller is known as the "modfather" and still oozes mod style that still has a huge following witnessed at his gigs. Also BritPop owes more than a passing nod to mod in terms of its emergence. Oasis, Blur, The Divine Comedy, Gene etc all quintessentially British bands that owe their existence to mod in various ways.
Might have been interesting to explore these avenues too in your hub. Nonetheless a great hub loved it thank you
Rod Marsden from Wollongong, NSW, Australia on August 23, 2010:
This takes me back. What I especially remember reflecting on the period was The Mod Squad television show. I had long hair back in the '60s and '70s.
I didn't think much of Twiggy growing up. She was too much a stick insect. The women Calvin Klein uses as models are also stick insects.
This was the period of Thunderbirds and there were mods in Doctor Who.