As someone who lived through the 60s and knew the Manchester mod scene pretty well, here are some thoughts: I realise your leaning is to fashion, not to sociology, and you make some excellent points but your analysis only skims the surface, inevitably, in a short article.
Mods weren’t dressing well just to conform, but were reacting strongly against the Teddy Boys, with their leathers and long jackets with velvet collars, whose music was rock’n’roll. Hence the battles in Brighton and elsewhere between the two sub-cultures. But just by wearing suits that their dads couldn’t afford they were making a statement about seeing themselves as successful and not bound into jobs in the humdrum ways their parents were.
The best dressed boys, though, often didn’t get their money from day jobs, but from dealing in amphetamines which fuelled the all-nighters at the mod clubs. ‘Ordinary’ mods wanted to emulate them in their dress. The interest in black music came on the back of a middle class interest in ‘Trad Jazz’ in the late 50s/early 60s. That evolved into an interest in blues music (think of the early Rolling Stones music from 1962, Eel Pie Island etc) and in turn soul (Sam Cooke the first and best early exponent) then R’n’B with Motown, Stax and Atlantic record labels predominant.
It was a great time to grow up. The range and creativity in music was extraordinary in the 60s as commercial interests cashed in on the younger generation’s new prosperity. Even the Beatles, arguably, were initially mods under Brian Epstein’s influence: think of those collarless Beatle jackets they wore and the relatively tidy moptops they had in 1962.
But it was all to change not just because of media attention but because first the Mersey Sound and then Hippiedom took over, for a number of reasons. As you say, mods still survive in sub-cultures like Northern Soul. It’s almost Neanderthal! Thanks for taking me back! – John Tierney
Dear John, thanks for your emails on this subject, it was really nice to get your perspectives on a subject that many have only lived second handly. The mod culture will keep being reborn long after the oldest target painted military parka has turned to dust! Glad we could take you back down memory lane…
Meet the meat!
I’d just like to tell you about the greatest kebabs I’ve had since my last trip home to S’pore is back! It’s called Dharma kebabs in Boat Quay. I rarely find kebabs the way it’s supposed to be made. The meat was unlike anything I’ve had since being stranded in Shanghai for work. The meat was as good as I’ve ever tasted anywhere… even in Turkey! Please make sure people hear about this place. It’s down by BQ Bar, in the alley on the way to the 7-11. I’ll do my best to keep them open. But I need help – I don’t know what I’ll do if they go out of business again! – T.J. Rossling
Oh, we’ve heard… and tasted! Good stuff… if you’re looking for another great place, check out Sultan Kebab, near the bus stop at Peace Centre, made by real Turks, and they’ve definitely stepped up to fill the void while Dharma’s was gone… now you can get twice the taste!