Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Mod Fashion Dilemma: Vintage vs New

It’s no secret, Mods are obsessed about clothes. Do you know of any other subculture that considers a closet, prime real estate? Recently, on an on-line, Mod oriented men’s forum about clothes, there was a heated debate about how high a tie pin should be worn. Who else does that? My wife continues to be baffled when she joins my mates and I for a pint and surprises us in a deep conversation about male fashion. Why talk about the cute barmaid when we can discuss the proper width of a jacket’s lapel, right?
So here’s another style related subject we can ponder. Should the Modern Man exclusively be wearing new clothes or strive for a polished, yet trendy look, utilizing vintage clothes?  Maybe a bit of both? I’m all for the third option.
With a bit of savoir-faire, it’s possible to incorporate a piece or two of vintage clothing in an ensemble without ending up looking like you’re about to attend a 60s themed costume party. Even worse, you don't want to look like (dare I say the word that shall not be spoken?)  a hipster! Accessories are the perfect way to ease into the look. A nice vintage scarf, a pair of antique cufflinks or a classic watch are items that usually never go out of style. Slim ties are not easy to come by these days. One found in a thrift shop can turn an ordinary suit into a women magnet!
When comes time to choose vintage threads, I’m very selective. They have to look immaculate and the fit must be nearly perfect. If they don’t hang right, then I don’t hesitate to have them tailored. Deadstock (the equivalent of NOS for the vintage scooter fanatic) is a term you should be familiar with. It's the unworn, brand new, piece of vintage clothes that usually still has the original tag attached to it.

Deadstock items from the sixties are scarse but they are still available. You should expect to pay a premium for them. If the price is the equivalent to what you would pay for something Chinese made and new in a store today, I say grab it while you can.

I remember sometime back in the 90s, there was a little jewish tailor shop in Montreal named Goodman that had been opened since probably the 50s. The owner had a stock of never before worn suits from the 60s in his basement. As soon as this place was discovered, the word spread like wildfire and every Mod and Rude Boy in town raided the place. I managed to put my hands on a few and I have this jacket that I still wear today.

Navy 3-button jacket with tasteful check pattern and subtle peak lapel
The elegance of a king - P. Goodman inc. - "Everything for the stylish man"

I recall buying this brand new pair of socks there that I still wear to this day. That goes to show that quality back then was second to none. This is a compelling argument for buying vintage.

Word of caution, sizes have changed since the 60s. What you would consider a Large today was probably an Extra-Large back in the day. If you buy on-line, make sure that you have access to all the measurements. When buying on eBay, you might end up with a few surprises from time to time. Take this 1960s green gabardine 3-button suit that I bought from a French seller. The suit looked great, still had the original tags and at $40, I was ready to take a gamble on it.

When I received it, the jacket was exactly what I was hoping for but the trousers were another story. They were the furthest thing from being hip huggers. I felt like I was wearing the pants under my armpits! The button style front was freakishly long. So the pants were a write-off but the jacket looks perfect with a pair of black trousers or tan ones.

Not noticeable in this photo, the jacket has a nice green Tonik type
sheen to it.
As for this 60s vintage suit, the jacket was the piece that needed some attention this time.  I had the lengths of the sleeve shortened and I'm still debating about having the lapels slimed or having a fourth button added. But the color was what attracted me to this one. This stunning greenish blue suit was made in England by  Partners. The trousers needed no alterations and  I like wearing them without the jacket on occasion.


Vintage shirts and knits are also worth seeking out. This is one of my more recent buys and I can't get over how much I love this retro beauty. You must admit, the hidden buttons are a feature worth a mention. Plenty more vintage treasures like this one can be found at the Watch The Cloth Moth Facebook page.

Sometimes, the contemporary and updated version trumps the vintage one. As a case in point, lets compare these two similar Fred Perry V-neck cable knit sweaters. The 60's one, albeit being well preserved, is a bit short for my taste but the classic look is still relevant.

As for this limited edition Comme des Garçons / Fred Perry collaboration, it exudes Mod style.

A couple of years back, I bought this prime exemple of 60s or 70s Fred Perry design on-line. It was still in its cellophane package with the original tags attached. I was happy to own something seemingly rare and exclusive. Usually, if I'm going to wear Fred Perry, I like to wear something different from the same polo shirt I've seen since I was a teenager.

Imagine my surprise when I learnt that Fred Perry dusted off the old archives and decided to reissue the same knitted polo. Apparently, some designs age better then others.

Final tip: If you decide to travel the vintage route, especially if you buy on-line, you might want to take a few precautions against the Mod's worst enemy, the dreaded moth! Once you received your item, slip it in a sealed plastic bag and pop it in the freezer for a few days. This should take care of those pesty eggs. If you need it right away because you're attending an all-nighter and you want to impress a cute girl, then toss it in the dryer on high for a full cycle.

Now tell me fellow stylists, on which side does your fashion scales tip? New, vintage or a bit of both?


  1. Certianly in England, the fascination of the hipsters with their 'vintge' shit and the fact that a young mod has to prove his culture's worth (every single day), I don't really do any vintage clothing.

    I thought to myself that unless I could create a mod wardrobe and indeed lifestyle with modern resources, the culture itself is surely one which should be left in the past?? The fact that one can still purchase a satisfactory wardrobe of mod (and other similar thingies) clothing is a comfort to me.

    Some things aren't available properly now - decent tie clips aren't being made, paisley scarves are extortionately expensive as are most of the nice items outside of those big brand monstrosities, so perhaps opportunism and value reigns in the end.

    1. May I recommend Supernova Scarves? Some lovely paisley/Liberty/polkadot scarves at great value. I have a few of them.

  2. Say about 7-8 years ago, it was quite hard to find anything on the market that looked the part. Vintage was the way to go.

    Since then, slim lines and 60s styling has made quite a comeback (especially with the renewed interest in classic Ivy league style), so its much easier to get new items that look good.

    These days, its mostly new for me. I still have some vintage pieces I wear once in a while, mostly ties & blazers though.

  3. Great piece as always Patrick. Back in the 80's there was a certain degree of snobbishness from West Coast mods about people not wearing vintage which I found a bit ridiculous. I like clothes, as long as they look good, fit well and can be had for what I'm willing to pay. But hey at the day's end what's the difference right?

  4. When I was younger I had found a similar store near me; "Shellabys Smart Attire for Men", the name alone was fantastic, much less the rows and rows of deadstock suits they kept from the 50/60's on....I bought what I could before it was discovered and bought out by a group out of NY. Nowadays I rarely go into a vintage shop unless I just happen to be by one and don't expect's a shame really.

  5. The only thing I tend to by vintage is the old Italian style, large collared polo shirts, (i.e. Penneys Towncraft and the like) no designers have such imagination or continental style that I'm looking for nowadays, and if they do, I'm yet to track them down!

  6. My boyfriend's always looking for classic fit shirts because they are suitable for any occasion and they never go out of style.

  7. Vintage...there´s so few modernists here and soooo much vintage stuff in charity Shops etc . Quality stuff as well like pure silk ties (one place has literally 100´s in all colours for an euro a tie) Brilliant fun.

  8. Just buy new...... and tell everyone that your buying into tomorrows Vintage