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Mods and Rockers were the first post-war style-based subcultures of Europe. The Mod lifestyle was based around fashion and music that developed in London in the late 1950s. Mods showed an affinity for scooters, such as the Italian Vespas. Rockers favoured American rock and roll music by artists like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and early Elvis Presley. Dress style was dominated by leather jackets, Levi's jeans, biker boots and the ubiquitous James Dean quiff. Motorbikes were also integral to the scene, with British brands Triumph and Norton being favourites.

Related: fashion - music - 1960s - street fashion - style - subculture - Swinging London - Swinging sixties - Twiggy - UK - Vespa - youth movement

Contrast with: Rockers

Las Nenas del mini-mini (1969) - Germ n Lorente

Mod (lifestyle)

An unconventionally modern style of fashionable dress originating in England in the 1960s.
[After the Mods, name of several gangs of English youths in the 1960s, short for modern.]--American Heritage Dictionary

Mod (or, to use its full name, Modernism or sometimes Modism) was a lifestyle based around fashion and music that developed in London in the late 1950s and reached its peak in the early to mid 1960s. People who followed this lifestyle were known as Mods. This later spawned the Skinhead.

Mods were obsessed with clothes and music, including Black American R&B and Soul, Jamaican Ska, and Bluebeat and a select few British groups such as the Small Faces, the Kinks, The Spencer Davis Group and The Who. Mods would gather at all-night clubs to show off their clothes and dance. They would typically choose scooters as their mode of transportation, either the Lambretta or the Vespa. These were sometimes adorned with many lights and mirrors and were intended to gain attention.

An alternative youth movement known as 'Rockers' often clashed with the Mods, leading to street battles between the two factions in seaside resorts such as Brighton and Margate. These events led to much anguished discussion about 'modern youth' in Britain during the early 1960s. The conflicts inspired Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange in which the anti-hero is arguably a futuristic Mod. The film Quadrophenia (1979), based on the album of the same name by The Who (1973), also celebrated the movement.

Partly because of the success of this film, the mod movement enjoyed a revival during the late 1970s. Many of these later mods were fans of bands such as The Jam, The Merton Parkas, Secret Affair, and The Lambrettas, and Two Tone groups such as The Specials, The Beat, The Selector, and Madness.

The logo of the mod movement was a stylized target. A prime example of this is the logo of British fashion designer Ben Sherman, whose clothes were and continue to be associated with the Mod movement.

The band The Jam were highly influenced musically and stylistically by mod culture as are more recent musicians Ocean Colour Scene who often collaborate with Paul Weller, and The Ordinary Boys.

"Modism is clean living under difficult circumstances" - Peter Meaden --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mod_%28lifestyle%29 [May 2005]

Mod music

The Small Faces were a British rock and roll band of the 1960s, led by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane with Kenny Jones and original organist Jimmy Winston. The Small Faces were all genuine East End mods and they ranked second to The Who as Britain's premier Mod band. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Small_Faces [Dec 2005]

Mods and Rockers

The Mods and the Rockers were two British youth movements of the early 1960s. Gangs of mods and rockers fighting in 1964 sparked a moral panic about British youth. They can be seen as a type of Folk devil.

The Rockers adopted a macho biker gang image tending to wear such clothes as black leather jackets.

The Mods adopted a pose of scooter-driving sophistication. It was believed that Mods were cleaner and tidier than Rockers. They often wore colourful clothes considered outrageous by the standards of the time.

In Britain during the 1960s most teenage boys could not afford a motorbike or a motor scooter. These bikes/scooters were a status symbol perhaps equivalent to a car today.

The film Quadrophenia (1979), based on the album of the same name by The Who (1973), also commemorated the movement. The conflict between the Mods and the Rockers was the butt of a joke in The Beatles' first film A Hard Day's Night. In the press conference scene, a hapless reporter asks Ringo, "Are you a mod or a rocker?", to which he replies "I'm a mocker." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockers_%28youth_movement%29 [May 2005]


Rocker was a term originally applied in a derogatory manner to British motorcycle riding youths in the 1960s, but was later taken as a badge of pride. The word can apply to both male and female riders, and their pillions. Rockers were almost entirely defined in opposition to their famous antitheses of the same time, the Italian scooter riding Mods, or Modernists. Mods and Rockers rocketed to fame in 1964 by the sensationalistic media reporting of what by today's standards was very mild youth behaviour; the famous Bank Holiday clashes between both parties on the English South Coast holiday resorts of Clacton, Margate and Brighton. Before this time, young motorcyclists had not been grouped together and labelled in such a manner. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockers [Dec 2005]

Mary Quant

Mary Quant (born February 11, 1934) is an English fashion designer, one of the many designers who took credit for inventing the miniskirt and hot pants.

Born in Kent, Quant studied illustration at Goldsmith's College before taking a job with a couture milliner. In October 1955, she teamed up with her husband Alexander Plunkett Greene, and an accountant Archie McNair, to open a clothes shop on the Kings Road in London called Bazaar.

Following the positive reaction to a pair of "mad house pyjamas" designed for the opening, and dissatisfied with the variety of clothes available to her, Quant decided to make her own range of clothing. Initially working solo, she was soon employing a handful of machinists, producing unusual clothes she considered to be fun.

Her skirts had been getting shorter since about 1958 - a development she considered to be practical and liberating, allowing women the ability to run for a bus. The miniskirt, for which she is arguably most famous, became one of the defining fashions of the 1960s. The miniskirt was developed separately by Andre Courrèges, and there is disagreement as to who came up with the idea first.

In addition to the miniskirt, Quant is often credited with inventing the coloured and patterned tights that tended to accompany the garment, although these are also attributed to Cristobal Balenciaga.

Irrespective of whether she invented these items, Quant was one of their major popularisers, largely thanks to the fact that Bazaar was a popular haunt for the fashionable Chelsea Set of "Swinging London". By 1961, Quant had opened a second Bazaar in Knightsbridge and by 1963 she was exporting to the USA. To keep up with demand, Quant went into mass-production, setting up the Ginger Group.

Quant's popularity was at its peak in the mid 1960s, during which time she produced the dangerously short micro-mini skirt, "paint-box" make-up, and plastic raincoats. She was described as being the leading fashion force outside Paris.

In 1966 Quant was appointed an OBE for services to the fashion industry.

In the late 1960s, Quant launched hot pants, which was her last big fashion development. Through the 1970s and 1980s she concentrated on household goods and make-up.

In 2000, she resigned as director of Mary Quant Ltd., her cosmetics company, after a Japanese buy-out. There are over 200 Mary Quant Colour shops in Japan, where Quant fashions continue to enjoy some popularity. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Quant [May 2005]

Mod influence on haute couture

This article is excerpted from a lecture the author from http://www.geocities.com/modmiss (who holds a Master's degree in costume and fashion history from New York University) delivered to the 1994 Popular Culture Association Annual Conference.

The Mod movement started in Britain by young designers such as Mary Quant and Barbara Hulanicki spread to mid-range and high-end fashions. By 1964, much of the off-the-rack mainstream fashions had already adopted many elements of the Mod styles of clothing, including shorter hemlines and simpler construction. Some couture fashions had also become more relaxed and youthful in construction and style, although they did not completely adopt the Mod look. That year, however, one couturier almost single-handedly jump-started the revolution in couture fashions, influenced by the youthful Mod designers. Andre Courrèges started his career in the fashion business working for Balenciaga handling fabric for $25 a month. He opened his own fashion house in 1961. Clothes from his early lines were styled in the conservative tradition of haute couture. In 1964, however, he shocked the couture fashion world when he raised hemlines above the knee, and introduced the first couture trousers for street wear. He was credited with starting an innovation in fashion as he revolutionezed haute couture. -- http://www.geocities.com/modmiss

Quadrophenia (1979) - Franc Roddam

Quadrophenia (1979) - Franc Roddam [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Mod Movies

A Hard Day's Night - British, 1964. The Beatle's first film, this movie demonstrates the earlier Mod styles on the teenage girls. This is before miniskirts became really short and clothing became wild.

Help - British, 1965. The Beatle's second film, this demonstrates the relaxed clothing styles for men, such as the turtleneck with the sports jackets, etc., rather than the matching suits the Beatles wore earlier. Eleanor Bron, as Ahme, wears some really fab clothes - a tongue-in-cheek mixture of Mod and East Indian styles.

The Knack, and How To Get It - British, 1965. Directed by Richard Lester, who directed the Beatles' first film, it stars a young Michael Crawford (of "Phantom of the Opera" fame) and 60s it-girl Rita Tushingham (whatever happened to her?). It shows the average teenage styles of the time, such as blouses and miniskirts and simpler dresses, rather than the wilder discotheque or fashion magazine styles of Mod clothes.

Kaleidoscope - American, 1966. Warren Beatty stars as a con man trying to seduce a shop assistant, played by British actress Susannah York. Miss York's costumes were designed not by theatrical or film costume designers but by the Mod fashion design team of Marion Foale and Sally Tuffin. The pantsuit that Miss York wears in the film was a very popular design of Foale and Tuffin. It consisted of hip-hugger pants with flared legs, and a longer, fitted jacket.

Blowup - British, 1966. Starring Vanessa Redgrave and David Hemmings, this movie explores the glamourous world of fashion. David Hemmings stars as a fashion photographer who unwittingly photographs a murder. The character of the fashion photographer was loosely based on the popular Sixties fashion photographer David Bailey, who had been engaged to Sixties supermodel Jean Shrimpton

Qui-etes Vous, Polly Maggoo? (Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?) - French, 1966. This film was written by William Klein, the fashion photographer. It features model Peggy Moffit as, what else, "the model." Moffit was Rudi Gernreich's muse and favorite model.

Basic Black - American, 1967. Another collaboration between Gernreich, Peggy Moffit, and Moffit's photographer husband Bill Claxton, this film is more of a fashion documentary on Gernreich's work. I have never seen this film and I have found it impossible to locate a copy anywhere, as it was not a general theatrical-release film. But I will not stop searching until I find it.

To Sir With Love - British, 1967. The teenage students in this film are from a lower-class area of London. Therefore, their clothes are not as gimmicky or as wild as the typical mod styles. Rather, they are a great example of the everyday styles for young mod women - sweaters or blouses with short skirts. The school dance scene, however, shows more Mod styles of clothing, including a great striped pantsuit the girl with the runny nose is wearing (pantsuits for women were a Mod fashion idea and at this time were still not acceptable for many public places).

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush - British, 1968. This film explores the new freedom of the young Mod teenagers in Britain: clothes, parties, sex, and parents who don't understand. It has some really great fashions, and demonstrates how short the miniskirt had become by 1968 (look for the scene where Judy Geeson is sitting on a bench and her skirt is so short you can see her underwear!)

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever - American, 1970. Arnold Scaasi designed the fashions for Barbara Streisand, who continued to be a client of Scaasi's fashions. Streisand stars as a nutty college student who, under hypnosis, recalls her past life as a sophisticated lady during the Napoleonic era. Her 1960s fashions reflected the Mod styles of swingy A-line dresses with short hems.

Note: It is interesting to observe that most of the Mod movies of the Sixties are British, as American films of the early-to-mid Sixties tended to be more of the "beach-blanket-a-go-go" variety, with Frankie and Annette dancing around in their bathing suits. -- http://www.geocities.com/modmiss


  • Subculture: The Meaning of Style (1979) - Dick Hebdige [Amazon.com]

    Good introduction to the mod phenomenon.


    1. Quadrophenia (1979) - Franc Roddam [Amazon.com]
      Franc Roddam's terrifically energetic movie, set to music from the Who's Quadrophenia, is--at the very least, the best film ever based on a rock album (and, yes, that includes, Tommy, Pink Floyd: The Wall, and Jesus Christ Superstar). Actually, this tale of the battle between two early '60s youth subcultures--Mods and Rockers--in the seaside teenage wasteland of Brighton, England, isn't so much a cinematic "version" of the Who's 1979 double-record rock opera as it is a story based on the sequence of songs on the album. Quadrophenia is about that crucial time in teenhood when the lion's share of your sense of identity is tied up in the music you listen to, the clothes you wear, and the groups you hang out with. Jimmy (Phil Daniels) identifies himself with the sharp-dressing, scooter-riding Mods, who listen to American soul and British pop-rock (The Who themselves were once rather Mod). The Rockers, on the other hand, are leather-jacketed, black-booted, motorcycle-riding tough guys who listen primarily to classic American rock & roll. The film captures this minor pop-culture revolution perfectly. Look for Sting as a club-hopping slickster, who's shameful secret is that he's a hotel bellboy by day. --Jim Emerson for amazon.com

      More films with mod influences: Blow-Up (1966) - Barbarella (1968) -

    They Call Us Misfits (1968) - Stefan Jarl

    Dom kallar oss mods / They Call Us Misfits (1968) - Stefan Jarl

    In 1968, fresh from studies at the Swedish Institute of Film, a young man named Stefan Jarl made a feature documentary with fellow student Jan Lindqvist about two Stockholm "Mod" hippies. "They Call Us Misfits" was intended to allow teenagers to see themselves. The film not only succeeded in that, but – after some trouble with censors over sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll – it become a reference point for Scandinavian film.

    Jarl went on to make two more films about misfits Kenta and Stoffe in 1979 and 1993. In the sequels, restlessness and pot smoking give way to family trouble and heroin overdoses – plus the paradox of yuppie offspring. The films bare the unattractive underbelly of the Swedish welfare state. --http://www.filmfestival.gr/docfestival/2004a/jarl.html [Dec 2005]

    See also: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062900/combined [Dec 2005]

    In 1968, Stefan Jarl's and Jan Lindqvist's documentary Dom kallar oss mods (They Call Us Misfits) was released. The film, the first in what would become a trilogy, is an uncompromising account of the life of two alienated teenagers. Stefan Jarl went on to make several other celebrated documentaries in the 1980s and 1990s. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinema_of_Sweden#Postwar [Dec 2005]

    See also: mod - 1968 - Sweden - Scandinavia

    Beggin' (1968) - Timebox

    Beggin' (1968) - Timebox
    Image sourced here.

    This track featured on Nova Classics Three [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Beggin' (Farina, Gaudio) c/w
    A Woman That's Waiting (Zagni, McCarthy)
    Produced by Michael Aldred
    Deram DM 194, released May 30, 1968
    (USA: Deram #45-85031)

    The first UK single with Halsey on drums. "Beggin'" was the band's only single to achieve minor chart success. It peaked at #38 in August, though some accounts indicate it sold more copies and received more airplay than its chart position suggested.

    The song is a finely produced remake of the Four Seasons song with an extravagant orchestral arrangement. Note the reversal of writing credits on "A Woman That's Waiting" from those listed on the "Come On Up" single. --http://members.aol.com/PattoFan/tb_singles.htm

    See also: 1968 - proto-disco - UK music - pop music - mod classic

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