Talkin’ ’bout my generation

In Britain, our parents often applied themselves to youth cultures growing up like Mods, Rockers, Teddy Boys, Punks, Acid Ravers, and Hippies.

There was once a time people would proudly demonstrate which group they belonged to.

For me, youth culture in 2016 is empty, sadly abandoned and insignificant.

Music personifies youth cultures values and beliefs, and as a way of self-interpretation and spite, a group is born.

Over the last 15 years we have seen a vulnerable and powerless attempt of a youth formation. Gangsta, Emos, Chavs and Grunge are probably the most recognisable for me, but when was the last time you saw any of these lurking around?

The emergence of mod culture came about when a group of tailor-suited lads from London wanted to grow the “mod identification” – this group were predominantly young Jewish men, whose parents had moved to Britain after the war.

Mod is a term that derives from the 1950s, where, on the back of the Second World War, Britain still largely living on rations and the country littered with depression, modern jazz music brought about one of most inspirational sub-cultures.

Despite Britain being in crippling debt, young lads often managed to find work, looking across the pond to America with jealousy, where the youth of the 1950s were described as “‘The Luckiest Generation’.

Rock ‘n’ roll was in full swing and fashion was alive. Britain’s youth longed for their own character and the mod was born.

 

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After the rise of this sub-culture there was no sign that it was going to disappear quickly like a fad.

Quadrophenia, released in 1973, was a film about mod culture in the 50s and 60s – it’s the ultimate mod classic film often described as “coming of age, boredom at work and pulling birds”.

This type of lifestyle went hand-in-hand with life in the sixties, and parts of it can be related to how the mod culture is expressed now.

In more recent times we have fashionable icons like Paul Weller, Bradley Wiggins and the Gallagher brothers, supported by the roaring success of bands like Sleaford Mods which all demonstrate how passionate the mod movement is.

The pre-modern jazz look of the late fifties influenced British modernists, and it’s relevant in 2016 and in the next 50 years it seems likely we will still have mod icons as passionate, as patriotic, and as influential.

Paul Weller, who we would think to be a timeless mod, famously said “I bought a scooter and done the whole works, everybody thought I was fucking mad in Woking, but it was just something for me to do. At the time, I really wanted something like the punk movement to come along, with, like, everyone playing to kids your own age. Up until then we were just playing to 40-year-old hippies, but I needed something to relate to.”

 

Fashion and clothing are a large part of mod lifestyle

Being a mod, or being a part of any sub-culture, is a way of escaping the grey realities of the boring adult world; we use fashion, music and drugs to create our identities, to emerge from average crowds.

Woefully in today’s over-sensitive safe pop-infested charts, our modern youth have their needs served on the high streets, but they lack artistry.

Nowadays, you won’t see modern mods driving on seafronts looking for rockers to have a punch up with, mainly because rock ‘n’ roll is dying.

Today though, modern mods can be seen across all walks of life – the man on the train with his Ben Sherman shirt going to work, the woman with her 60s haircut and polka dot dress, the young lad with his white socks on show and Beatles style obsessed with his appearance, are modern mods.

Fashion has a habit of duplicating itself. If you walk down most high streets across the UK, you still see flares, tie-dye shirts, band T-shirts making their comeback, reforming back to youth culture as an escape, like early modernist did from post-war Britain.

The modern mod still affiliate themselves to parkas and Fred Perry, which the common man still wears today, these are classics that will never leave modern fashion.

We are seeing a rise in the numbers of the “modern mods”, but why?

Drawing on my own experiences, a 25 year old northern lad brought up on the Small Faces, The Jam and Jazz music, I would definitely describe myself as a modern mod.

For me, its about attributing myself to a culture, wanting to belong to a movement. Being smartly dressed and standing out is something all young lads want.

As a young lad, myself and many others have tried to naively attribute ourselves to associations, the most recent example would be football hooliganism.

A trend that, more often that not, finds young lads working for the weekend, to have the cheap thrill of punching someone’s lights out.

This relates back to my idea of belonging. Whilst the similarities are there between both cultures, its not the same. Being a mod is a way of life, being a hooligan is about weekends.

Growing up in a miners town in Mansfield, where subcultures are non-existent and ‘chav’ gang violence is rife, there weren’t many groups I wanted to connect myself too.

We had Britpop in the early 90s, but it never seemed to stick for a long period. Similar to Northern Soul, it died.

They all influence each other, as most subcultures do. The Stone Roses, The Smiths, Black Grape, Blur. All sterling bands, but a subculture was never born on a similar scale to that of the Mods.

Its 2016, and I still listen to mod music, read mod books, go to mod gigs, and ride a modified Vespa. This, surprisingly, is becoming a more regular occurrence.

Not everybody like myself was brought up in a Mod household, yet people are still becoming part of the scene.

Arguably, my Dad had a massive influence on the music I listened too, the way I dressed, and even the scooter I rode.

Growing up i always wanted to be Jimmy Cooper, alongside other icons like Miles Davies and Pete Townsend. However, for a lot of “modern mods” its about keeping the movement going, because no other movement is relevant.

People often say they don’t follow fashion, or trends, but no matter what clothing you wear your making a statement. And that statement partners you with a culture.

For me, that culture is being a mod. Its a way of life, a way of life I have gone into detail below, to give a better understanding of life as a mod in 2016.

It’s cold, wet and fucking windy. I’m obviously up north, getting myself ready for the next mod night out with all of my like-minded friends. When I say like-minded I mean we all like music, beer, drugs and being a mod. 

I’m 25, and have been going to mod nights out for the last three years. I’ve always wanted to be part of the mod movement since I wore my first parka in 1999, and in 2015 it’s still going strong. You might find it surprising that the mod movement is alive and kicking some 60 years later, but it is. 

The scene is pretty similar to 1960s, everyone dresses up to the nines, the music is still mostly mod anthems, jazz and with the odd modern band like The Riffles thrown into the mix for good measure. 

My Dad used to travel all across the UK on similar nights out, mostly in bigger numbers and with more enthusiasm, according to him anyway. But nowadays the mod scene is all about the music.

[Andy Hay via Flickr]

I’m not saying the music wasn’t the key element in the 60s, because it most definitely was, but now me and the boys plan the nights around the best music nights and the smallest, grimiest venues.

Up north you’re more likely to find a better mod night than you would down south. I’ve been to a southern mod night and it’s more like attending a fucking school disco, they’re just weird and are only there to fulfil their egos. 

When I say a “mod night” it’s exactly what you are imagining in your head, but without the fights and shit haircuts. Nobody goes to mod nights anymore looking to cause a ruckus, scrap with another group, it’s more about dancing and enjoying the music.

We go because the music is what we’re about, it’s a way of expressing ourselves. It’s the same with all sub-cultures, you base yourself around the music, and the fashion comes naturally. Thats why its vital that everything is organised to a tee.

Our Ben Shermans have to be ironed to perfection, suits all sharp and tailored and shoes polished so you can see your reflection at 4:00am, questioning your life, pondering the streets looking for a taxi home. 

This particular night, we’ve gone to the Sherwood Ranger, the local in my sleepy village in Mansfield. Its full of OAPs and farmers surrounded by fields. This is the pre-drink area, before we move onto see a Jam tribute act at Rescue Rooms.Obviously this is one of the biggest nights of the year for us, I mean its not every day you get to listen to a tribute act to the greatest band ever to exist, is it?  Normally, like I’ve said, we’re in working men’s club in Ripley or old school pubs, none of this bistro shit you see everywhere.

There’s six of us altogether and we’ve met at my house, all the boys have either Vespas or Lambrettas, and we use them day to day, even on our commute to work. And why not? There cheap as chips to run and you look cool as fuck, I mean seriously cool. Who wants to drive a Lexus SC430, once described as the worst car in the world by Jeremy Clarkson, when you can drive a Vespa 946 for half the price?

Me and the boys move on from the pub after a few cheap ales, jump on the bus into town and stop right bang in the city centre. All six of us have Ben Shermans on, it’s our uniform that distinguishes us from everyone else.  At these mod events you have to. The general theme is still relevant today, your usual mod style clothing is obvious, but with a twist. Fred Perry is still cool, parkas are still cool, and Dr Martens are still cool. Hipster-styled flamboyant shirts and bucket hats are not.

Theres a certain excitement in the air tonight, a lot of the boys from various scooter clubs across the North and the Midlands have been talking about this on one of forums for a few months. The forums are the best way for modern mods to keep in contact with each other, share stories and create events for everyone to meet up.

The venue is class, its our usual watering hole on a Saturday anyway, so we know what to expect. The queue is forming outside, theres large groups of young lads with dads, teenage to mid 30s girls with brollies trying to keep their hair dry from the bloody awful weather, and then random folk just here to get pissed.

The rest of the night is a blur. Mostly down to the ale and the pills, but all in all because I just wanted to listen to the music and thats all mods are bothered about. A fucking class night, with many more to come.

This is my personal experience and life for other mods will be different. The backbone will be the same. Clearly things have moved on from the 60s.

Being a mod in 2016 is growing, there’s meetings up and down the country. Charity events that are branching overseas, and a large amount of members joining mod communities daily.

These charity events really demonstrate the strength of mod communities. March of the mods is a charity event that was just an idea in 2012, but has come a long way since then.

On their website it says “The idea is that in the month of March there will be events up and down the United Kingdom, all raising money and awareness for a chosen charity (Teenage Cancer Trust).

In 2013 there had been 17 events starting in Birmingham on March 1, and ending in Brighton on March 30. Between these two dates, events were held up and down the country from Belfast, Cardiff, London, Glasgow, Tidworth, Hull and Cambridge to name just a few.

But what can we understand about mods in 2016 without drawing comparison to the life of a mod in the sixties?

I managed to speak to Dave Middleton, who’s a London Mod born and raised around the culture in the 1960s. He tells me a bit about what life was like.

“The mod culture had come from nowhere in late 1961 and the cult was at its peak by 1964. London was full of mods. It was a London and English cult to be mod at first, but the cult did in time stretch out of London and into the sticks.

“This new cult, the mods, for one thing did not have anything to do with America as other previous cults were in one way or another.”

Dave continues to talk about how the Mod culture’s love was scooters, records, night clubs, clothes, coffee bars, rhythm and blues.
Exactly the same things mods like in 2016, minus the night clubs, we prefer pubs. Mods hated pubs in the 60s, because they were “full of pricks”, apparently.
A change in the ways of mod culture thats for sure. Everything cant stay the same. Dave said “The ultimate kick for most of the mods was popping lots of pills [good gear] and in a club somewhere dancing the night away all weekend.”  Nothing’s changed here.

Dave Middleton

“The mod way of getting about in London was on a scooter.  Mainly one of the two makes of scooters that came over from Italy, Lambretta and Vespa, were the best looking scooters.

“At the end of your journey when you are getting to where you were going you still wanted to look good, and to the mod the Italian scooters were clean, reliable and cheap.”

The similarities are still there. We still use vespas for the same purpose, the same reason, and that demonstrates the continued growth of a culture.

Things will change, subcultures change, lifestyles change, but the backbone and core is still there and the modernists adapt change and progress.

Fashion is the key backbone I’m talking about, and to get a better understanding on Mods fashion styles, I spoke to Daniel James Warner, the co-owner of The Modfather Clothing Company.

He told me about his views on mod fashion and culture, the movements of the mods, and gives an insider’s view of the fashion and culture from a clothing aspect.

“When we first opened Modfather, our neighbours told us that they thought us too niche to succeed in Camden Town. However, if you take a classic garment like the Harrington jacket & look at its history, having Elvis, James Dean, Steve McQueen and more recently Daniel Craig wearing one in his role as James Bond shows that an item of clothing that people associate with the mod aesthetic has well and truly permeated into popular culture.

“Our customers are young and old. Bands like The Strypes, Spitfires and solo artist Miles Kane have introduced the aesthetic to a younger generation,” Warner told me.

Paul Weller at Modfather Clothing [Daniel James Warner]

“The older crowd have lived through it, either in the 60s, or during the Mod revival and they enjoy the fact that there’s a place in Camden sourcing the clothes they want to buy. For some it’s just nostalgia, they want to own a pair of shoes or tonic trousers that they had in their youth, but for others it is a way of life.”

Warner says there are a number of labels and designers that have inspired their work: “The current Brutus range includes fabrics & patterns that are almost identical to those used in the 1960s. My Dad always tells the story that he had the Stewart tartan Brutus Trimfit the first time round and he gets a real kick out of seeing a new generation buying into the brand.

Art Gallery Clothing produce limited runs of high quality knitwear, shirts & accessories that are heavily influenced by garments worn by bands such as the Small Faces in 60s. The retro aesthetic & attention to detail of both brands is what Modfather Clothing is really about,” Warner added.

For him though, there’s no difference between a mod in 2015 compared to a mod in the 60s: “An individual with a desire to always look their best. We have so many customers that have never let go off that ideology and many young customers who want to stand out and present themselves as best as they can.”

But it’s clear he believes that mod fashion and culture are alive and well: “You only have to look at last year’s gig at Hyde Park in which Paul Weller, Jonny Marr, The Riffles and The Who took to the stage, to know that Mod is alive and well. We had mods from all over the UK come to London for that gig and from our day-to-day experience in the shop, online sales and followers on social media, we know that mod is a global phenomenon.”

 

 

Find out more about the mod generation: http://www.themodgeneration.co.uk/ and in video https://vimeo.com/146638028


Featured image by Modfather Clothing