What was the 1960s MOD style

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The Mod Way Of Life

In the 1960s, being mod in Great Britain meant unconditional coolness paired with an elegant, accurate clothing style that is unparalleled in its consistency. Even today, the youth culture of mods is synonymous with a style that combines elegance, modernity and a neat appearance with unadjustment and youthful rebellion. Reminiscences of the Mod style of the 1960s can be observed in current fashion events and on the catwalks of international fashion weeks. Today you can see the typical elements, especially on the street: the olive-colored military parka, desert boots, classic sunglasses by Ray-Ban and polo shirts by Fred Perry, in the original or as a fashionable adaptation, as well as simple suit jackets in combination with tight pants, shirt and narrow tie. Certainly with more nonchalance than the model, but all the more representative of very contemporary fashion. It is noteworthy that even in the adaptation, the bold simplicity of the look has remained the decisive distinguishing feature of the mod style.

"In the early sixties a lifestyle evolved for young people that was mysterious, exciting and fast-moving. It was directed from within and needed no justification from without. Kids were clothes-obsessed, cool, dedicated to R&B and their own dances. They called themselves 'Mods'. "
Richard Barnes

Originally, the youth movement of the mods goes back to individual young people from the lower middle class, who were particularly characterized by a very elegant style of clothing. At the end of the 1950s, the first adherents of the Mod style could be identified without constituting a movement. In the post-war era, rock'n'roll thrilled young people in Great Britain. The mods rejected the rough and glare of rock'n'roll and were based on developments that appeared modern and new to them. She was enthusiastic about modern jazz and its casual image. The Italian lifestyle and French Nouvelle Vague films became role models. Following modern jazz, some individuals named themselves as modernists at the beginning of the movement, which later became mods in the shortened form (Barnes 1991: 8f).

The youth movement was initially predominantly male and the outward appearance of the mods was characterized by the slim-fitting and tight-fitting suits of Italian men's fashion of the 1950s, which they preferred to have tailor-made. In the further course of the movement, the movement was dominated by young people from the British working class, who declared being mod to be their very own motto for life and who essentially expressed this through a strikingly accurate and elegant style of clothing (Baacke 1999: 72). Her lifestyle appeared just as characteristic as the style of clothing: Overly hedonistic, music, dance, clubs and drugs were the focus of her life. During the day they went to school or did simple jobs and in the evening or at the latest on the weekend there was excessive partying (ibid .: 88). They went to clubs, preferred to listen to rhythm'n'blues from America and music from British bands such as The Who or The Small Faces.

They invented idiosyncratic dances and dressed up for going out with amphetamines. Going out was central to their way of life, even during lunch breaks the mods met in London clubs to listen to music and dance (Hebdige 1983: 52). Enjoying life in the here and now, that corresponded to her view of life. With this attitude they opposed the achievement-oriented ideals of their parents as well as the pursuit of prosperity and social advancement. They devoted themselves to the fun of hanging out in clubs with their friends and driving through the city on their scooters. Going to school or doing a job was just a chore or a means of making enough money for the bespoke suits, as they spent all their money on clothing and leisure activities (Barnes 1979: 7). The maxim of the mods was "looking and being‘ cool ’" (ibid .: 6). Everything about them, the way they walk, dance, talk, and especially dress, was exhibited under the premise of unconditional coolness.

The mod culture initially emerged as a counter-movement to the teddy boys' movement, also known as Teds, established in the 1950s, which marked the beginning of the British youth movement out of the working class (ibid .: 7f). The distinction from other groups is seen as a decisive motive for the development of youth cultures. Mechanisms of demarcation to the Teds and later to the rockers give rise to new behavioral and aesthetic manifestations. Heike Jenß says: "The opposition to the Teds and later the rockers is emphasized in youth culture research as fundamental for the development of the mods and accordingly their styles are defined as polarizing to one another" (2007: 53).

Tightly fitting, dark suits with narrow lapels in the Italian-classic style, white shirts with button-down collars and very narrow ties as well as hand-made pointed shoes (winklepicker) or desert boots made of suede are the essential components of the mod style. The suit jackets were cut short and boxy (bumfreezer) and were worn with very narrow trousers. A special feature was that the suits were preferably tailor-made and individual changes were commissioned. Details were preferably varied, such as the design of the front edge of the jacket, the number of buttons or the length of the side slits. Within the very uniformly structured style scheme of the mods, these changes allowed a certain degree of individuality (Barnes 1979: 8). Another important feature of the mods was the scooter. The Italian brands Vespa and Lambretta were preferred, and over the years they were decorated with tons of flashing chrome headlights and other accessories (ibid .: 122). When driving a scooter, olive-colored military parkas were worn over suits for protection, and over time the look was complemented by polo shirts by Fred Perry, knitted sweaters, cardigans, Levi's jeans and trainers (ibid .: 9). The mod women were also dressed inconspicuously. They combined sweaters with trousers and preferred straight-cut items of clothing that, in contrast to the current fashion at the time, appeared less figure-hugging and feminine. Short hairstyles and flat shoes rounded off the masculine expression of the look. In contrast to the flawlessly pale complexion, the eyes were made up deep black with lots of mascara and eyeliner. Men and women approached each other in their appearance and an androgynous appearance established itself in both (ibid .: 16). The peculiarity of the Mod style was the unusual combination of exclusive elegance and functional simplicity, the appearance of which was very simple, but was nevertheless perceived as extravagant and progressive (cf. Poschardt 1998: 242).

The fascination of mods has existed since the 1960s, the recurring revivals and references in music and fashion bear witness to this. The style of clothing in particular is a distinctive feature of mod culture. Style can be used to convey identity, but also the attitude and attitude of the individual on the aesthetic level.

Everyday aesthetic appearances and objects, as well as activities and experiences, are combined into a cross-situation scheme and, when repeated, offer the important principles for the formation of a style (Schulze 1995: 102ff). In addition to conveying identity and identifiability of an individual, style also takes on the function of demonstrating belonging to a group, as well as rejection, differentiation and distinction.

The peculiarity of the mods is their clean, elegant, inconspicuous, almost conservative appearance. They use a style of clothing that apparently belongs to a privileged social group rather than a group of young people from the working class. The unadorned suit shape, the combination with accurate short haircuts and the penchant for extensive grooming characterize a style that, in its exaggerated accuracy and correctness, is completely contrary to the bustling lifestyle of the mods. Dick Hebdige describes the mod as “a typical dandy of the lower classes with a mania for small details” who is defined “by the angle of his shirt collar, the precisely measured slit of his tailor-made jacket or the shape of his handmade shoes” (1983 : 52). In fact, the mods appear obsessive in their clothing behavior and their style eccentric and exclusive. This form of self-styling and an attitude that uncompromisingly demonstrates coolness and superiority and appears completely resistant to social conventions without being rebellious, but rather serves to reinforce one's own identity without reflection, are the ingredients of being mod. “The mod way of life ”is synonymous with a view of life in which social recognition and prestige are determined solely by style competence and coolness.

From today's perspective, too, the mod style represents an exciting combination of clothing items from very different contexts and genres. The elegant suit was combined with functional clothing items from the sports sector and military clothing as well as casual knitted sweaters and polo shirts. The pleasurably provocative combination of contradicting styles and genres as well as the individual demarcation from other groups has turned into a playful style sampling that no longer relates to social structures, but rather is an expression of individual identity. Today fads are pluralistic in terms of their content, and unifying tendencies are sometimes difficult to identify (Titton 2010: 98). Recognition as a person is no longer only granted through the externally recognizable membership of a group, but rather through the recognition of the individuality of the individual. Style has become all the more a decisive indicator of uniqueness and individuality. And it is less about attracting attention with a particularly eccentric outfit, but rather appearing as authentically as possible for your own identity.

“The Mod Way Of Life” was published in the anthology “Cool Look - Mode & Youth Cultures” (Ed. Diana Weiss) in 2012 and was published by the “Archive of Youth Cultures” in Berlin.

Specialist literature

Images: Mod-Treffen, early 80s, from: Spex 1/1984
Baacke, Dieter: Youth and youth cultures: representation and interpretation, 3rd, revised. Edition Juventa Verlag, Weinheim 1999.
Barnes, Richard: Mods !, Plexus Publishing Limited, London 1991.
Brake, Mike: Sociology of Adolescent Subcultures: An Introduction. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt / Main 1981.
Hebdige, Dick: "Subculture: The meaning of style", in: Diederichsen, Diedrich / Hebdige, Dick / Marx, Olaph-Dante: Schocker: styles and fashions of subculture. Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek 1983.
Jenß, Heike: Sixties Dress Only: Fashion and consumption in the retro mod scene. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt / Main 2007.
Polhemus, Ted: Streetstyle: From Sidewalk to Catwalk. Thames and Hudson, London 1994.
Poschardt, Ulf: Adapt. Rogner & Bernhard, Hamburg 1998.
Schulze, Gerhard: Die Erlebnis-Gesellschaft: Kultursoziologie der Gegenwart, 5th edition, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt / Main 1995.
Titton, Monica: "Mode in der Stadt", in Texte zur Kunst 78/2010, p. 89.