The Mod style came about in the early 1960s when England was finally bouncing back from the effects of World War II. In order to understand why Mod became the influential and popular style that we know it to be today, it is important to start with World War II and how it’s lingering effects brought about the Mod craze.
After the war England was bankrupt, having borrowed a lot of money from the U.S., but England made a slow recovery throughout the 50s. Since the end of the war in 1945, England had been under control of the Labour party who reformed main institutions such as the railways, mining, electricity, oil and banks. Their motto claimed to cater to the needs of ‘ordinary people’.
During the war, ‘Spivs’ emerged, or rather, nicely dressed men offering bargain deals on goods that were never what they appeared to be. They were petty criminals, but in the late 40s, the youth of London adopted this style and formed gangs, calling themselves ‘Cosh Boys’. Their violent behavior and slicked back hair terrorized Londoners, adding to the fear still felt amongst a bankrupt post-war country trying to rebuild itself. This trend where the working class adopted the style of dress attributed to the upper class was seen as a form of rebellion towards the Labour party and its severity in manner and simplicity. In 1953, a movie called Cosh Boy staring James Kenny and Joan Collins was released and popularized the “Cosh Boy” style.
From the “Cosh Boys”, the “Teddy Boys” style developed during the 1950s. The “Teddy Boys” were not solely associated with gangs anymore, but they were associated with teenage rebellion. ‘Clean cut, but roughed up’ was phrase to describe this look. Developed on the streets by the working class, this style sported drab jackets, blazers, and simple suits with a boxed cut and sloping shoulders. The tie and waistcoat is what added definition to the style. Your area and your friends determined the style of tie and the ornamentation of your suit. Girls (“Teddy Girls”) even adopted the style, opting for blazers and pants opposed to dresses and skirts. Police kept watch on these kids and it was not uncommon for the news to report Teddy Boys getting involved in big fights and riots.
Entering the 1960s, England noticed a split in culture with the emergence of two rival groups: the Mods and the Rockers. The “Teddy Boy” style moved north out of London, and influenced the Rockers of North England. Shedding the Edwardian suits for leather jackets, but keeping the rebellious attitude and greased back hair, the Rockers were heavily influenced by rock n roll (Rolling stones, the Ramones, etc.) and would soon give rise to The Beatles in Liverpool.
In the 1951 General Election, the Labour party lost to the Conservatives, who promised to ‘Set the People Free”. True to their promise, under Conservative guidance the deregulation of broadcasting came about in 1954. This had a huge effect on the British population, especially the youth, who indulged in Commercial Television and the availability of colorful magazines portraying the luxury commodities and relatively happy lives of Americans. Compared to the British, the daily lives of Americans were virtually unaffected by the war not having to deal with the destruction caused by a war on the home front. From about 1957-1963, England entered an era now referred to as “The Affluent Society” in which the economy and standard of living was improving. The number of people buying cars and spending money leisurely was increasing. Hollywood even played a huge role in fueling the British youth’s desire for the shiny, modern American lifestyle portrayed in movies. Cinema offered an escape from the drag aftershock of the horrors from the war. Social mobility became common as kids were continuing their education and attending colleges to achieve a higher social status and income. One particular movie that had a huge influence on British teenagers was Rebel Without A Cause (1955), which starred James Dean as an upper middle-class teenager who enjoyed the best modern luxuries, but was still full of angst.
In response to these periods of teenage rage and rebellion, the Mods emerged with a different look on London’s newly prospering society. They wanted to take a more positive and refined direction to their style being heavily influenced by Paris and Italian fashion from across the water. Abandoning Rock and finding love in the smooth, rhythm and blues sound of modern jazz. The Mods were looking for something completely different, something new, modern, and less angry; ‘the next big thing’. They were dazzled by the shiny, materialistic lives portrayed in American culture and wanted emulate that sense of casual luxury and refined taste. The Mods started out as a small group of bold and arrogant kids with impeccable exotic styles. They found huge appeal in dance; hanging out in nightclubs and dancehalls. Once the Mod culture caught fire, it blew up.