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extension", Mod culture began in London in the late 1950s and reached it's zenith in the early to mid 60's, when it was superseded by the hippie/youth culture movement.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.