Just Because it’s New Doesn’t Make it Better

Welcome to The Mod World, my culture blog. My older brother was into the sixties mod lifestyle and got me hooked at a young age. I loved the hip counterculture vibe. I am amazed that it has survived long after other trends and fads have faded, died, been resurrected, and died again. Mod remains intact and still has its followers. Since it has been around for decades, it has a long history of fun fashion, music, and even transportation – think VW bus, painted inside and out. If you celebrate the mod lifestyle yourself or are just interested to see what it is all about, stay in touch for a revelation.

Don’t you just love pop culture? It offers everything from crazy hairdos and boho clothing to sci fi fantasies. Mod is in a category by itself however. Nothing has ever been so widespread and joyous. Thank you, Brits. It hid America hard. Just look at my closet. No, I don’t wear an afro, shoulder-length hair, a tie dye shirt or bell bottoms every day, but I own a lot of “looks” from that special era. I have been known to throw a party or two demanding appropriate attire. It helps that I have quite a collection of cool tunes from the British invasion and American R&B. I remember Carnaby Street, the Mod Squad dominance on TV, and all the trappings of home décor like throw pillows in crazy colors and patterns.

Speaking of parties, one was a near disaster when the water heater broke, spreading pools of water down the hallway, creeping slowing but surely into the rec room, almost soaking the dancing feet of the guests. We had to relocate the patio. The emergency plumber came several hours later, only to relay the bad news that I had to replace it. There goes the party budget I thought. No new LPs for me for months. Now I had to decide what to do. It would be easy to go for a tankless model from Tankless Center. It costs more, but is superbly efficient, and takes up practically no space. No tank, no leaks. But, surprisingly, I opted for a used, but still functioning electric unit. Maybe I will go tankless later. I need to economize right now. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean its better. This applies equally well to pop culture as well as a water heater.

Mod Fashion: Look the Part

Mod fashion came about in 1950s England and rapidly gained traction. The war was over and kids could be kids again, and started going back to school. No longer did they have to chip in to support their families or fight in battles and worry about dying. And what did the kids want with their new (old) freedom? To celebrate the fact that they survived. To rebel. And cool clothes.

By the time the 60s rolled around, there were loads of students running around London with money in their pockets to burn. The fashion industry saw dollar signs, and kids saw bright clothing, geometric patterns and bright accessories. They were hooked. Ready-to-wear designers tried to keep up and perpetuate the trend.

So if you are a guy, what sort of clothes should you look for? Pointy toe shoes made of leather. Chelsea or desert boots. Mohair suits with narrow lapels and thin ties. Streamlined is the key. Pop-art designs. Eyeliner is ok. Checked shirts with a classic style and fitted shape. Slim fit navy chinos or jeans, tapered and cuffed. A bomber jacket paired with round, wire-rimmed glasses. Think Beatles and you’ll be close to where you want to be. Mod culture essentially brought fashion into the mainstream for men and let them actually care about clothes.

Girls, mascara and liner are your friends. Dark doe eyes, long lashes, and cats’ eyes. Mod clothes for girls are in the details: Peter Pan collars, pussy bows, graphic prints, geometric designs, and bright colors. Shift dresses and miniskirts are must haves. Go-go boots and block-heeled slingbacks complete the look. Haircuts are very short and sleek. Feminine and androgynous at the same time. Look up Twiggy and you will have your ultimate goal. She is a mod icon.

The main idea was to break out of the necessary blandness and utilitarian clothing from the War and into something that was fun, new, and rebellious. Bright clothes and short skirts, men wearing slim fitting pants and rolling up their pants to show off footwear. The name of the game is calling attention to yourself and your cool lifestyle. Mixing formal items and casual items – dressing clothes up and down is also a concept popularized by mod style. Graphic prints are visually interesting and fun to wear, and anything with the Royal Air Force roundel will always win approval.

No matter what, Mod remains in fashion. The clothes are just too good. Everyone looks good in clean lines. Girls will always look lovely in shift dresses and tall boots. Suits with pointed collar shirts will never not be a good look for guys.

Mod Travel Mode: Scooter

I have never been big on cars. They have always felt too…traditional and confining to me, I guess. When I was younger, I would ask my parents if we could walk if the destination was close enough. They even occasionally humored me and agreed, except if my mom was planning to hit up some shops or something. I am proud to say that I have never owned a car in my life, either. They are expensive and annoying to take care of and park.

My best advice for scooters though is not to get the cheapest thing you can find. You are a bit vulnerable on a scooter as they don’t go as fast as cars or even most motorcycles. There also is not a lot between you and the pavement. So you need something reliable and built to last. You can get a really fantastic top-of-the-line scooter for less than you would pay for a crappy, bare bones car. Sometimes they are even cheaper than used cars. There are good ones out there for very reasonable prices. It just depends on what you are looking for.

My lifestyle does not require owning a car. I’ve got laundry usage in my building so there is no need to lug clothes anywhere. I only have to feed myself  and I am not great at cooking so I never need more than a bag or two of groceries at a time. Also near me is a decent mass transit system for rainy days – it is not far to the bus station and it is a short ride to work, with a stop pretty close to my job and everything. But mostly if weather permits, I ride my motor scooter.

I would love to own a Vespa. They are the perfect mod scooter and they are top quality machines. I know a lot of people who go in for the vintage models but I know my limits – I am not a handy guy, nor do I want to spend weeks rebuilding engines and replacing brakes. Instead, I would get a retro looking model, specifically the GTV 300.

My budget does not really allow that at the moment so I have ‘settled’ for a used 2014 Kymco People, which is a nice ride and was a good buy. It started out white, but I’ve had it painted blue and grey. I’ve also had the mirrors changed out to something a little cooler and with more chrome. I know people who do a lot more customizing on their bikes, but like I said, I am not great with tools. Besides, I would rather put that money aside every payday for a brand new Vespa instead of spiffing up the Kymco. My plan is to buy the Vespa outright, as I don’t believe in paying interest for almost anything.

Do you ride a scooter? What kind?

Quadrophenia

If you are looking for one thing and one thing only to give you a good idea of what the mod culture is like, look no further than The Who and Quadrophenia. The film is a little easier to follow than the album itself. However, the album is absolutely brilliant. Between the film – where you get a good idea of the clothes and scooters and overall mod look – and the album, which is straight up mod heaven, it does a good job of explaining some mod history and the culture.

Quadrophenia tells the story of young man named Jimmy Cooper, a typical disillusioned London teenager in 1964. [Beware if you haven’t seen it, there’s spoilers in this post.] He joins up with the mods to give himself a sense of purpose and identity. His time is spent riding scooters, taking amphetamines, and hanging out with his Mod friends. Their idea of a good time is brawls with Rockers. After one explosive holiday weekend of rioting and fights, Jimmy gets arrested. To make matters worse, when he gets home, things go downhill even more. He grows depressed, is thrown out of his parents’ house, quits his dead end and soul crushing job, wrecks his scooter in an accident, and finds out his girl is with his friend Dave. That would be enough to shove anybody over the edge, but fate has one last thing to show him: he also discovers his mod hero, Ace Face – played by Sting in the film – is nothing but a loser bellboy. He snaps, steals Ace Face’s scooter, and throws it off Beachy Head.

The movie’s score goes beyond just The Who’s album and gives a good representation of the mods and the time period, specifically side four. There you get songs by James Brown, Booker T. and the M.G.s, and The Cascades. While it is basically a fictitious rock opera, the brawling between the mods and rockers really did happen and are the stuff of mod legend.

The title comes from misnomer “schizophrenia” and implies that Jimmy has four distinct personalities, each of which corresponds to a band member: a tough guy (represented by Roger Daltrey and the song “Helpless Dancer”), a lunatic (personified appropriately by Keith Moon and the song “Bell Boy”), the romantic fellow (John Entwistle and “Is It Me?” which is part of “Doctor Jimmy”) and lastly the beggar (Pete Towsend and my favorite theme, “Love, Reign O’er Me”).

I have to say, it is not a film for everyone. It is dark, a bit violent, there’s sex and some language too. It’s also quite bleak. It’s a coming of age story but in a gritty and realistic way, without a sugarcoated ending that makes you think that everything will eventually work out for you. You need to find your identity and purpose all on your own. If that sounds good to you or you are interested based on the Mod culture, music, and style, check it out.

Mod Appealing

Not everything has a whole culture attached to it, at least not that I can think of off the top of my head. Some religions tell you what to wear. But not all of them do, or at least people don’t follow that as much anymore. Mostly people dress up for services, then come home and change into what they regularly wear even if it isn’t modest or appropriate for their faith. They provide music, too, but it isn’t really something you can find on the radio on your way home or even would want to listen to outside of services. Nobody really cares about all that. Some ethnic backgrounds have their own traditional clothing or music style as well. But they are still free to travel how they want and things like that. Maybe they identify with everything and maybe they pick and choose.

Mod culture is different. It offers a complete lifestyle for those who adopt it. Mod culture provides a style of dress that identifies you to the rest of the world. You make a visual statement wherever you go dressed as a mod person and you are easily recognized as such. The music has been able to stand the test of time, from rock and cool jazz to ska. There is much to listen to and you will find something that you like. Mod culture even has an answer for your transportation needs: customizable motor scooters. They are cheaper than cars, more fun, easily customizable, and just look cooler.

Many may wonder why you would associate with something that provides such a militaristic control over your life. To that, I say if that’s what you think then you are doing it incorrectly. Mod culture is the spirit of youth and rebellion. In other words, these are not hard and fast rules – nobody is going to kick you out of mod culture if you’re driving a Honda or like to listen to rap music. But chances are if you are gravitating toward the mod world in the first place, you already like these things. It is more of a place to find likeminded people and show off your good taste than it is about conforming to a specific set of standards.

What I find appealing about the mod world is the people. There are mod people all over the world who are interested in meeting others and are quite friendly. The rest of the world picks up pieces of mod culture and continues to display its appeal. Mod fashion often shows up on runways and fashion magazines, drawing more people into the fold. Mod bands play on mainstream radio and opens up a larger fan base. It is a very appealing way to dress and live. That is why it has been around for so long. I can see why my brother loved it so much (now he is a boring married person and has given up his slim fit pants for dad jeans and ghastly cargo shorts) and shared it with me. I have fully embraced the life and if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

Mod Music

There are plenty of artists that have shaped Mod culture and kept it going. The term “mod” itself comes from the word “Modernist,” a term to used to described modern jazz.  As the mod culture thrived in London, many of the British Invasion bands found a welcome home with the same crowd. The trend continues today, with jazz and brit-pop through ska, punk, and even rock have roots in Mod culture.

The Mod movement started through young people rebelling against the mainstream, so it was natural that music would be part of the package. Young people are always the trendsetters, listening to music that is not yet on the radio through bands at bars, nightclubs, and discotheques. They are the ones influencing the A & R people and determining who gets the record deals.

Mod music goes back a long time. Modern Jazz started the movement, as I mentioned above. Smooth artists like Miles Davis and Charlie Parker lead the way. Early mod music had a real Motown sound mixed with British pop – a cool combination that brought us artists like The Who, the Kinks, and Small Faces. As the culture grew, factions were created. Harder music fans started listening to Freakbeat (artists like Pete Best, The Creation, The Pretty Things).  Others decided to move toward punk – Sex Pistols, the Clash, Minor Threat. Some even adapted toward Jamaican ska bands like Desmond Dekker, The Melodians, The Specials, and The Untouchables. There was a vicious rivalry with Rockers and what eventually became skinheads but that was in the past and mods don’t acknowledge skinheads as being born from the same place, and most modern day skinheads don’t even know where they came from – which is fine by us.

I do like the old stuff but there are some good things that have come out recently. I like Jack Perrett. He’s got some great guitar work on songs like ”In the Morning” and “Nothing For Anyone.” Artic Monkeys, formed in 2002, have continued to put out good stuff. Alex Turner is especially talented. Check out “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” as an idea for how they sound. They took a break but came back recently to release Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino which is a good evolution to their music.

If you are looking for a great place to hear new music and enjoy mod culture, get yourself a ticket to the Stone Valley Festival in Stanhope.  It is hosted in late June and they run two different campsites and several stages so you can catch as many bands as possible. They have great bands with all different styles: 2Tone ska like the Skapones, traditional rock like Stiff Little Fingers and The Lambrettas, and a Stone Roses tribute band The Clone Roses.

What type of mod music do you like best, and who have you been listening to lately? Let me know in the comments. I am always looking for some new music.