Mod (from modernist) is a subculture that originated in London, England in the late 1950s and peaked in the early-to-mid 1960s.
Significant elements of the mod subculture include: fashion (often tailor-made suits); pop music, including African American soul, Jamaican ska, and British beat music and R&B; and Italian motor scooters. The original mod scene was also associated with amphetamine-fuelled all-night dancing at clubs. From the mid-to-late 1960s onwards, the mass media often used the term mod in a wider sense to describe anything that was believed to be popular, fashionable or modern.
There was a mod revival in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s, which was followed by a mod revival in North America in the early 1980s, particularly in Southern California.
Jobling and Crowley called the mod subculture a "fashion-obsessed and hedonistic cult of the hyper-cool" young adults who lived in metropolitan London or the new towns of the south. Due to the increasing affluence of post-war Britain, the youths of the early 1960s were one of the first generations that did not have to contribute their money from after-school jobs to the family finances. As mod teens and young adults began using their disposable income to buy stylish clothes, the first youth-targeted boutique clothing stores opened in London in the Carnaby Street and Kings Road districts. Maverick fashion designers emerged, such as Mary Quant, who was known for her increasingly short miniskirt designs, and John Stephen, who sold a line named "His Clothes", and whose clients included bands such as The Small Faces.
Two youth subcultures helped pave the way for mod fashion by breaking new ground; the beatniks, with their bohemian image of berets and black turtlenecks, and the Teddy Boys, from which mod fashion inherited its "narcissitic and fastidious [fashion] tendencies" and the immaculate dandy look. The Teddy Boys paved the way for making male interest in fashion socially acceptable, because prior to the Teddy Boys, male interest in fashion in Britain was mostly associated with the underground homosexual subculture's flamboyant dressing style.
Newspaper accounts from the mid-1960s focused on the mod obsession with clothes, often detailing the prices of the expensive suits worn by young mods, and seeking out extreme cases such as a young mod who claimed that he would "go without food to buy clothes". Jobling and Crowley argue that for working class mods, the subculture's focus on fashion and music was a release from the "humdrum of daily existence" at their jobs. Jobling and Crowley note that while the subculture had strong elements of consumerism and shopping, mods were not passive consumers; instead 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. The song "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" by The Kinks from 1966 jokes about the fashion obsession of the mod community.
Mod fashion adopted new Italian and French styles in part as a reaction to the rural and small-town rockers, who were seen as trapped in the 1950s, with their leather motorcycle clothes and American greaser look. Male mods adopted a smooth, sophisticated look that emphasised tailor-made Italian suits (sometimes white) with narrow lapels, mohair clothes, thin ties, button-down collar shirts, wool or cashmere jumpers (crewneck or V-neck), pointed-toe leather shoes that were nicknamed winklepickers, as well as Chelsea or "Beatle" boots, Tassel Loafers, Clarks Desert Boots and Bowling shoes, and hairstyles that imitated the look of the French Nouvelle Vague cinema actors of the era, such as Jean-Paul Belmondo. A few male mods went against gender norms of the era by enhancing their appearance with eye shadow, eyepencil or even lipstick. Scooters were chosen over motorbikes because scooters' use of bodypanelling and concealed moving parts made them cleaner and less likely to stain an expensive suit with grease. Scootering led to the wearing of military parkas to protect costly suits and trousers from mud and rain.
Female mods dressed androgynously, with short haircuts, men's trousers or shirts (sometimes their boyfriend's), flat shoes, and little makeup — often just pale foundation, brown eye shadow, white or pale lipstick and false eyelashes. Female mods pushed the boundaries of parental tolerance with their miniskirts, which got progressively shorter between the early and mid-1960s. As female mod fashion went from an underground style to a more commercialised fashion, slender models like Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy began to exemplify the high-fashion mod look. The television programmeReady Steady Go!, presented by Cathy McGowan, helped to spread awareness of mod fashions and music to a larger audience.
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Mod is a dandified youth subculture that developed and was strongest in the 1960's, but has experienced many reincarnations since then and is still very much in existance.
As with many subcultures, the defining characteristics are clothing and music, both of which become an obsession for Mods. The clothing has a vintage, well-taylored, and peacockish look, favoring bright patterns, plenty of color, brands like Ben Sherman and Fred Perry, and slim-cut, three button suits (preferrably Italian) in the style of the sixties. The favored music of Mods is varied rather widely but, for the most part, shares the characteristic of being danceable. Favored genres include old school Ska, Soul, and R&B as well as New Wave, Britpop, and some things that, today, are heaped into the rather loose label of "Alternative Rock".
Another defining characteristic of Mods is their chosen mode of transportation, the Italian moterscooter (most notably Vespa and Lambretta). Not everyone who rides a scooter is Mod, however. These scooters tend to be in a retro style and sometimes heavily customized.
Unlike the case with some other social subgroups, there exists no Mod ideology or philosophy(outside of a general avoidance of violence because of unwillingness to damage their clothes and the idea that, as The Who put it in one of their earliest songs "you gotta be cool"). However, this does not mean that Mods do not have any depth; only that there is no specific mindset associated with the group.