"Within the broad spectrum of MacInnes's Absolute Beginners a key group were those who called themselves 'Modernists'. We have already seen how this styletribe emerged with the Cool School jazz musicians of New York in the early fifties as a reaction against the 'hot jazz' and gaudy style of the forties. We have also seen how by the mid-fifties the pavoneggiarsi of Italy extended this tendency into a total design aesthetic. But it was in Britain, at the end of the decade, that a small but fanatically dedicated band of Modernists transformed this style into a religion.
"In Absolute Beginners the Modernists are most precisely represented by the character known as the Dean, who has
college boy smooth cropped hair with burned-in parting, neat white Italian, rounded-collared shirt, short Roman jacket very tailored (two little vents, three buttons" no-turn-up narrow trousers with 17-inch bottoms absolute maximum, pointed-toe shoes, and a white mac lying folded by his side. [...]
"International in outlook, deliberately blurring traditional gender boundaries, and decidedly street-smart, these kids are ready for a brave new world.
"It is generally agreed that this new generation of British Modernists tended to come from lower-middle-class, often Jewish backgrounds. However, it is unlikely that individuals in question would have concerned themselves with such classifications -- for them (unlike Teddy Boys who explicitly saw themselves as working class), what mattered was not where you had come from but where you were going to.
"But while class was being downgraded as an issue, spending power (as in North America) was increasingly important. Unlike, for example, the Beats, these Absolute Beginners celebrated the new Consumer Age. Most people did, of course -- young and old -- in the second half of the 1950s. But for the Modernists, a desire to demonstrate affluence was always secondary to a desire to demonstrate good taste -- better to have one perfect suit than a dozen with the wrong number of buttons."