Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1963 English mod

Subject: mod
Culture: English 
Setting: youth scene, England 1960s

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Polhemus 1994 p51
"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."


* Manchester Art Gallery > Dandy Style: 250 Years of British Men's Fashion
"[....]  From the 1950s the mod subculture and a new wave of tailors reinterpreted the traditions of English tailoring.  The longevity of the suit is manifested in its popularity with contemporary fashion designers who reinvent traditional tailoring and play with concepts of masculinity." ...

​* Cole/Lambert eds. 2021 p133 (Shaun Cole, "Casual subversion" p125-138)
"The first mods of the late 1950s and early 60s drew on continental European men's style, American Ivy League staples, such as button-down shirts, and an aspirational adoption of local tailors' skills.  Chenoune notes that, by the mid-1960s, mods were 'exploit[ing] the "casual" end' of acceptable dress choices, including polo shirts and cardigans, being unable to afford the hand-made, or even off-the-peg, suits.  Following a mass adoption and commercialisation of 'mod', many of the early originators, or 'faces', moved away from mod to adopt androgynous hippie or psychedelic styles, or returned to mod's more lower-class origins, becoming 'hard mods': they subsequently spawned the skinhead subculture."