Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Once a Mod...

“Look, I don't wanna be the same as everybody else. That's why I'm a Mod, see? I mean, you gotta be somebody, ain't ya, or you might as well jump in the sea and drown.”

Jimmy, Quadrophenia

I became a full fledge Mod somewhere in 1986-1987. I was not part of the original movement of the 60’s (I’m only 38), was not born when the spirit of ‘69 made its mark and missed the ‘79 revival by a few years.

So what made a 16 year old French Canadian kid, living in Toronto, plunge into an obscure subculture; a way of life that would consume a young teenager and that some 20 years later, a wiser adult could not even shake?

I ask myself that question often.

In 1986 my father, working for IBM, moved the whole family from Montreal to Toronto. French being my first language, I attended the only French public high school in Toronto. One would think that being in a French environment, I would not be exposed to the quintessential British youth movement. I was wrong.

My good friend Greg, who also had a dad who worked for IBM, had moved to Toronto a few years earlier and was attending the only French private high school in Toronto. He was responsible for introducing me to a band called The Who. His older brother was a big fan. At that time, The Who was not considered a genuine Mod band. Hell, they were more Rocker than Mod. Just have a second look at the Who’s Next album and you’ll see what I mean. But it was still an introduction...

Greg then made me listen to a band called The Specials. I was hooked! The infectious rhythms of ska, the anti-racist message, the sharply dressed Rude Boys, were all that I needed.

Rebels in suits, advocating non-violence and unity, it was the perfect match. And how could parents of a teenage boy be against their son wearing a 3-button suit to school? I spent countless hours looking at that Specials album cover. I dissected every detail from the shoes they were wearing, the cut of their suit, to the style of their hat.

Album covers. That was my only reference back then. You had the odd magazine article to go on, but that was basically it. I had no one to educate me in all things Mod, no real live role models to emulate, no older Mod to pass the torch. Plus, Internet with its millions of links, was non-existent.

Being a Mod in a French speaking high school didn’t help much either. At least Greg and I did our homework. Every time we heard of a new band, we would tell each other. I remember him giving me my first slim tie. I have no idea where he got it but it was the ultimate Mod tie. It was a skinny, one inch, 60’s brown collegiate tie with a crest in the middle. I still wear it proudly.

By then I had jumped firmly on the train to Skaville. The 2-Tone phenomenon took a few years to cross the Atlantic and I caught the tail end of the wave. But was I more a Mod or a Rude Boy? That is a debate for another day.

It was the start of a long journey to my inner Mod. To this day, I not only dress the part, I am a Mod. This passion for music, style, fashion, design and scooters is more alive in me than ever. This is what this blog will be all about.

I don’t consider myself an expert or an historian. This is a personal account of a French speaking Canadian Mod keeping the faith. This is an intimate look into how a Mod lives in a Modern World. My interpretation is open for debate and your opinion is welcomed.

So keep on, keeping on!