a. Modern thought, character, or practice.
b. Sympathy with or conformity to modern ideas, practices, or standards
'often Modernism The deliberate departure from tradition and the use of innovative forms of expression that distinguish many styles in the arts and literature of the 20th century.'
'Modernism. Clean living under difficult circumstances.' - The oft chanted mantra repeated monotonously by your friendly local Austin Powers lookalike as he minces down the street with his feather cut and winkle pickers looking like an overblown extra from Blow Up.
Well no actually. Let me explain.
'Mod' has always been a strange paradox to me. For a 'scene' (Jesus i hate that term) that likes to think of itself as cutting edge and forward looking it has always struck me as being firmly rooted in the past for it's inspirations and culture. From it's 'look', to its music, to it's heroes and icons and more or less its whole ethos.
Maybe it's time the movement took a look at itself in 2011 and decides where it goes from here.
Of course back in the late 50's into the mid 60's working class kids using their new found money to seek out the latest jazz and R&B records or hunting down the sharpest threads was quite obviously a new, forward looking phenomenon. It was continuously evolving and outsiders looked in on these kids with suspicion and probably no little fear because much of what made this movement tick was brand new to a lot of eyes. These newly unleashed teenagers living for cheap thrills on amphetamines whilst riding around on Italian scooters must have been a hell of a shock for the establishment to deal with in what was a pretty grey and drab post war Britain. These kids had money to burn and burn it they did and from it a proper working class cult was born.
Skip forward 50 years and where does 'Mod' find itself today? Well in essence no further evolved than it was during it's heyday or it's underrated revival in the late 70s - where incidentally the music was as sharp as anything that had preceded it back in the 60s - and that to me is a shame. The 'look' has barely moved on, with the classic parka / Fred Perry / desert boot / 501 / feather cut / sideburns / RayBan's being sported up and down the high streets and clubs the length and breadth of Britain. Yes, it's a completely 100% bonafide classic look (which even i thieve parts from like a greedy magpie) but it begs the question that if you have to look back fifty years for inspiration does it make you a 'mod' in the truest sense of the term? Surely for a 'scene' to be sharp and revolutionary and cutting edge it has to keep evolving, but as i see it 'mod' is firmly stuck in the past. "Oh no no no no! If you're a mod you can't listen to dubstep or house music! You have to listen to Green Onions or Itchycoo Park on repeat to be considered one of us!" Progressive, inclusive and evolving? Can't see it myself.
It's still a marketing mans dream though. Take Liam Gallagher and his Pretty Green label for instance. Nice looking clobber, very smart actually, but are Tootal style silk scarves (£95 by the way), a Clarke's desert boot copy (£90 by the way) and velvet pea coats (£480 by the way) 'mod'? Because that's the target demographic the range is aimed at surely? Would anyone call Liam a mod too? If it earned the fella a few extra quid then I'm pretty sure there's a team of executives and advisers alongside 'Team Liam' who are more than happy for him to be branded a mod because he's reinvented a fifty year old fashion and nabbed himself a Carnaby Street boutique. I remember going to Oasis gigs when i was younger and Liam looked cool as fuck in his Stone Island, Chipie and Gazelles and not a sign of wanting to look like the bastard offspring of Paul Weller and Long John Baldry. Yet have you ever heard him profess his love for Northern Soul, Reggae, Ska, Stax, Chess, Motown, Bluenote, Steve McQueen, Alfie, John Coltrane, American Preppy fashion, The Small Faces, The Yardbirds, Secret Affair, The Chords, Squire or a million and one other mod icons in any of his interviews? No. He likes The Beatles though. Which is nice.
Notable exceptions to the rule are the likes of Eddie Piller, Paul Weller, John Hellier, Keb Darge etc who always seem to be doing something fresh and exciting. Yes they keep a foot firmly planted in the past but have never been scared to innovate and try new things that would be seen as being outside the spectrum of being a mod. Try getting your local Austin Powers lookalike to listen to some Krautrock or Chicago House and see the reaction you get.
And now for the controversial bit....
Football casuals are the new mods. There I've said it.
A massive movement of people all bonded by a common love of football, fashion and music. They have and will always be on a constant quest for the sharpest and newest labels that they can sport on the terraces. It's a constant battle for one-upmanship over their peers. You turn up one week wearing a rare Fjall Raven jacket you can guarantee your mate will arrive the following week wearing the newest MA Strum coat to try and blow you out of the water. Yes, like the mod movement it has it's classic staple items like the Adidas trainer, the Stone Island patch, the Lacoste polo or the Aquascutum scarf but it also has strange stuff like Ellesse bodywarmers, deerstalker hats and waxed Barbour jackets.
Also the music is from a far broader palette. Soul, reggae, funk, mod revival, punk, new wave, pop, indie, two-tone, acid jazz and house music are all linked directly or indirectly to the casual movement. Instead of hunting down old 60s vinyl to reminisce over there are lads out there who actively seek out the latest, most cutting edge house records, which i find very impressive.
And.......they still manage to keep the Old Bill on their toes.
I never meant this article to be a hatchet job on a movement i hold very dear to my heart. I will always love the music and the look just as i always will the skinhead movement or the casual movement which i see as natural extensions of mod anyway. I just wanted to highlight that somewhere along the line 'mod' became corrupted by copyists, marketing men and Luddites and that putting a man in a Fred Perry and a pair of bowling shoes does not make him a mod.
Anyway, we all know that the 'Emo' is the only true youth cult out there today.
As ever Keep The Faith and massive respect to all those who still live the life they love.