"I'm the hippiest number in town and I'll tell you why,
I'm the snappiest dresser right down to my inch wide tie,
And to get you wise I'll explain it to you,
A few of the things that a face is supposed to do."
Zoot Suit, The High Numbers, 1964
It goes without saying, a Mod without a suit in his wardrobe is not a Mod. It's his uniform. Trends have changed over the several revivals the movement has gone through but one thing has remained, the suit.
The first time I ever wore a suit was to a high school dance. I don’t quite remember where I got the vintage threads from, but it most likely came from my grandfather’s closet. I permanently borrowed a few pieces from that closet. In fact, I still wear a crombie style, black coat with a velvet collar that came from that mysterious treasure trove.
The suit was a black pinstripe, 3-button jacket with matching trousers. I wore the customary thin braces with the pants because the waist was far too large. My mother had tapered the leg to give it the unmistakable Mod flair. To complete the look, I had a traditional white shirt with a shinny, imitation silk, black tie.
On my feet, I had some basic 3-hole, black Dr. Martens knock-offs and a pair of white socks. If you remember the 80’s, white socks were the norm. Don’t ask me why, they just were. As for the shoes, I had to settle for the counterfeit because the genuine Docs were hard to come by in North America. They were expensive and only a handful of shops had them in Toronto. But don’t judge me too fast because a few months later, I had enough cash saved up to buy myself a pair of real Dr. Martens 1460’s.
My suit might not have been a perfectly tailored, hand made mohair masterpiece but it was still a suit. You have to give me credit for being the only one to wear one to a school dance. It took guts. Especially since I was the only Mod in my whole French speaking high school. Luckily, I was part of a popular bunch of friends who accepted me as I am. I was never really teased for being a lonesome individualist. At least, nobody ever did it to my face.
That was just the beginning of my quest for the perfect Mod suit. When your 16 and have limited funds, you can’t afford the services of an Italian tailor to make a suit to your specifications.
So what are the avenues for a young Mod to find a respectable suit on a student budget? The answer is thrift shops. For me, that’s where the hunt for the elusive Mod garment began. But what are the universal requirements for a suit to be accepted in the inner circle and to be typified as “Mod”? There are a lot of different definitions out there. This is my vision.
First, I think everybody will agree that you need a single-breasted jacket with a minimum of three buttons. Personally, I like four. You can even push it to five, with the collar worn high. Narrow lapels are usually a staple on any Mod jacket. A two-inch lapel will help you achieve the look.
The jacket is worn short and sometimes referred to as a bum freezer. The sleeves are customarily worn short to let the cuffs of the shirt be seen. Besides, what would be the purpose of having a nice pair of cufflinks if you can’t show them off?
We traditionally like to customize our jackets to be different and add that Mod “je ne sais quoi”. For example, you can add extra buttons on the sleeves. I like mine with at least five. It’s an inexpensive way to add a personal touch. Even better, you can have them covered in fabric. You can’t go wrong.
It’s also imperative that you have that jacket well fitted. The slim fit look with a tight waist is a must. As for the back vents, you may go with a central one or two side vents. I personally prefer side vents and they seem to be a widely spread Mod convention. Like The Who song Cut My Hair states: “Zoot suit, white jacket with side vents. It’s five inches long…”
The number of pockets on a jacket may vary but most ready made suits offer a minimum of three, not including the breast pocket. The smaller ticket pocket, on the right hand side, is a nice touch. The pockets are often slanted and the flaps are apparent.
A detail that is frequently overlooked is the jacket’s lining. A nice silk pattern will give it that little something extra. I’ve even heard of Mods, back in the day, adding a lining to the inside of their trousers. Now, that’s dedication!
The pants must be tapered and the leg is worn slightly shorter than usual to make sure that the shoes or the boots attract the attention that they deserve. The pant pocket can be straight or slanted. A popular choice is the frog mouth pocket. The trousers must be freshly pressed and devoid of a single wrinkle, often with a central crease.
No matter if you follow those guidelines or not, the most important aspect is that you feel comfortable and confident in what you wear. And make sure you add that personal touch. That’s the way to separate the men from the boys. So go on… suit up!