Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Monday, January 6, 2014

Why Every Mod Should Own A Tweed Jacket

Good news! Tweed jackets are not just made for professors. Mods can wear them too! Luckily, I am both a Mod and a teacher. With cold weather upon us, it's the perfect time to take them out of the cedar chest and check for moth holes.

We are all familiar with the rough, closely woven wool but I was curious to know how prevalent and popular tweed was with the original 60s Mods. So I started my own little investigation. Without saying that tweed jackets were widespread, some adopted the look and that was confirmed by a few comments I got from first generation Mods on Facebook.

This photo was taken in July 1964 at The Scene Club in London. Is this original Mod dancing his heart out doing The Monkey wearing tweed? Some might argue that he is, although July might be a tad warm to wear tweed.

Take original Mod Del Evans for instance. He had this suit custom made in 1964 and according to his wife Gil: 
"In general in Birmingham there weren't a lot of Mods wearing tweed. Del was able to have all his clothes tailor made as he had a well paid job and so he could go with the more unusual. Del also had a Hardy Amies Black Irish Tweed Ghillie Collar jacket as worn by John Steed in The Avengers. "

How much more debonair can you be? Del is wearing a perfectly fitted tailor made 4-button suit and a walking stick to add some panache.

This photo of Dell was taken in 1963 when he was 17. Gill explains:

"We had been to France and Italy as we took our fashion inspiration from them, that is why we called ourselves Continentalists. 
We noticed that there was tweed and lambswool being worn and we asked about it. They said they liked the Britishness about it. Del is wearing black and white tweed trousers which were part of a suit that he designed and had made-to-mesure. The tailored jacket had black leather on the upper part of the collar. The tailor tought it was very avant-garde. We don't have a photo unfortunately.
The jumper is lambswool in light grey marl worn with a black and white gingham shirt. The cuff links are Georg Jensen. I had bought them for his birthday and he still has them."
But Continentalist men were not the only ones wearing tweed. Women were too. Trend setter Gill was not about to be outshined by her husband. This photo was taken in 1965. Gill has designed the suit herself. Here is how she describes it.

"It was Harris Tweed and when I bought the fabric, it came with a Harris Tweed label to sew into it. The jacket was a dusky lilac plain knobbly tweed and the skirt and lapels on the jacket were a flatter wave tweed in a slightly deeper lilac with a deeper pinky purple outline check."

"Back in the Original Mod days, it was important to have the perfect accessories with the suit. I had a purple skinny ribbed sweater, a black pill-box hat and black patent shoes. I also had black keyhole gloves that I am not wearing in the photo.
I had another Harris Tweed suit in 1963 but I do not have a photo of it. That one was a knobbly tweed in a deep mulberry and black mix. It had a long-line jacket with a high lapel and 4 buttons. The skirt was a straight A-line."

"In this photo, I'm wearing a suit I designed in tweed. It was a deep clover pink and had a straight A-line skirt. The jacket was a longer line and quite fitted with a stand up collar. It fastened with loops and high-ball covered buttons. I wore it with a black skinny rib jumper and black patent shoes."
Robert Nicholls, a London Mod in the 60s, mentions wearing tweed blazers in a very informative article on the Mod Generation website. "I often wore linen or tweed sports jackets with deep vents, and shirts with Nehru collars, light woollen Fred Perry shirts, and lightweight sweaters." It's worth having a read at the full piece. You can find it here.

Scan for the 60s Carnaby Street shop The Modern Man catalog. A tweed jacket with detachable epaulettes?  That might be too much, even for me.

Rod "The Mod" Stewart has alluded to wearing tweed in a retrospective interview for the BBC in 2013. He said: "Me mom and dad burnt me beatnik outfit so I became a Mod. [...] I like tweed, you know, the country gentleman appearance appeals to me a lot."

Now, if you're looking for THE brand that is synonymous with tweed, than you need to remember but one name: Harris.

Eaton catalog 1965 summer collection
Eaton catalog 1967 summer collection
On the Harris Tweed website I found an interesting quote: "Come the 1960s even the less business like youth look it to heart, Mods on their Vespa scooters, wearing the jacket with jeans and boots to buck tradition and re-appropriate a fabric that was reserved primarily for the most respectable members of society and by the 70s and 80s its place in the lexicon of style was assured, a must-have staple for any man worth his salt."

Sean Connery wearing a tweed herringbone jacket in the movie Marnie

Did you know that there's only around 130 weavers in the world that are trained to produce Harris Tweed? Made in the Outer Herbrides of Scotland, despite all of today's technological advances, it's still made by hand. That's true artisanal craftsmanship if you ask me. 

1968 Eaton catalog

The strict guidelines that dictate the production is even protected by the Harris Tweed Act of Parliament of 1993. So the next time you slip into that Harris Tweed jacket, you will realize just how special it is.

Mod favourite brands like Fred Perry, Baracuta, Gloverall, Clarks and Dr. Marten have also capitalized on Harris Tweed's sudden resurgence in popularity. In my opinion, the results have been mixed.

I find this modern take on the classic Harrington quite refreshing.

The classic Duffle coat, praised by many Modernists has also been subjected to the Harris treatment. I find the updated look quite interesting.

But when it comes to incorporating tweed in footwear, I'm sorry but I'll pass.

Some of my contemporaries find the look a bit too "agricultural". I, on the other hand, like it. For many it's too closely associated with fishing, hunting or shooting. I see it as a classic, timeless piece that should be in any gentleman's wardrobe. It has long been established that the Mod look has sourced a lot of its inspiration from the Ivy League style. And how much more Ivy can you get than tweed?

King-Size 1965 summer catalog
The beauty of a tweed jacket is that it can be worn casually with jeans, an open button-down shirt and desert boots or you can opt for a more dressed up, formal look with a tie and a pair of pressed wool trousers.

Eaton 1968 summer catalog

If you're in the market for a vintage jacket that has a classic Mod cut, you can scour the Internet or visit your local second hand shops in the hopes of finding that needle in the hay stack. Putting your hands on a 3-button jacket with small lapels that fits well is not an easy task. Don't despair, your efforts will be rewarded.

Summer 1965 collection

If I was going for a 2-button number, this jacket found on Etsy would probably be the one. Obvious tag aside, the great blending of colours is enough to sway the most die hard of Mods.

If your search turns up empty, you can always turn to the new. But expect to pay a pretty penny. They do not come cheap. This Harris tweed jacket from Gibson of London has some nice features like patch pockets and cuff straps. It can be worn as a 60s 3-button single breasted blazer or fastened to the top and worn as a 5-button military style jacket. You'll find a few designs on the Atom Retro website.

Now feast your eyes on these beauties! These one-offs are the creations of Claudio De Rossi from DNA Groove. If you want to put your hands on one, you better act quickly because they are going to fly off the rack.

Rust brown herringbone patterned heavy weight tweed made by Magee from luxury house Comeliani
Brown, burgundy and green large multi check - Heavy weight tweed made by Magee from luxury house Comeliani
Beige with sky blue Prince of Wales check - Soft tweed made by Magee from luxury house Comeliani

The choice of colour blends of tweed are quasi limitless. Patterns vary between the popular herringbone, the widespread windowpane, classic houndstooth, basic twill and traditional tartan. Here are a few examples from my wardrobe.

Well, that's all the arguments I could come up with to persuade you that every Mod should own a tweed jacket. Convinced yet?

I want to thank Gill Evans for her insight and the permission to use her photos. Make sure to pay her a visit on the ModTogs Facebook page.


  1. And if wearing a tweed jacket in the summer of '64 at the Scene Club didn't get Mickey Tenner hot under the collar, dancing opposite Sandy probably would have...!

  2. Where do you stand on hacking jackets?

    1. Good question John. I don't own one so I never thought about it. I do like the classic, smart look of it though. How Mod is it? That's a whole other debate.

  3. Surely you wear what's smart and looks good? Never mind if original mods wore it or not

  4. Tweed came to Mod via the USA Ivy League minimalist sack jacket take on the fabric turning up in London during the 1950s. A bit like Barracuta G9s it had to be exported to come back here! Early modernists wore tweed, then it was more the stylists who evolved Mod individually rather than as the typical younger scene in 64-66. It stayed on the fringes through The Ivy Shop, Cecil Gee's. Suedehead didn't have much tweed and I didn't see much about in 70s-90s. Now though I'm back wearing an Ivy League styled take on Mod that includes tweeds (not just Harris, check out Shetland, Barra, Donegal, Yorkshire etc). Lots of enjoyment to be had and a life of fabric to explore.

  5. Glad you can pull off tweed, i sure as hell can't! I'd rather have my fabric smooth anyway. Good one though!

  6. I'm a fan of giving the tweed a bit of a juxtaposition by pairing it up with 'slim', well cut, dark… shock/horror… jeans. throw a colour blocked, collar-less long-sleeved shirt and a brighter scarf. Finish it off with a shoe of your choice… just not a trainer. Its all about juxtaposition… same goes with avoiding the double denim / canadian tuxedo :)

  7. Yet Another great read...sir . my Harris tweed jacket keeps me warm, don't think it would so nice without lined trousers. has a suit.