Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How to avoid Mod fashion mistakes: 10 principles to live by

Acquiring a fashion sense and developing your personal style doesn't happen over night. Mods are not immune to sartorial faux pas. Like any craft, you learn from your mistakes and over time you can hopefully build a reputation for being someone who knows how to dress well. Humility and being open to new ideas goes a long way in achieving that goal.

Every new school year, I ask my new cohort of 5th graders to describe me in one word based on what they heard about me. It's a little test of my reputation in the school. Year after year, the same words come up: strict, stern, funny and... elegant. I must be doing something right. Many posts on this blog might be the subject of fashion and style but I don't pretend to be an expert on the matter. I might have chosen to be a teacher as a career but when it comes to clothes, I still consider myself a student.

What I can not be faulted on is my passion and my willingness to try new things even if it means falling flat on my Face. Another key ingredient to fashion greatness is to listen to other's opinions and than forge your own idea. I'm guilty of many transgressions over the years and I felt the need to confess my sins. I'm turning the mirror on myself and exposing the ugly truth. Some of these I am not guilty of, they are simple observations I noticed on others and couldn't let pass by.

This is not meant to be a "how-to guide" or the "A to Z of Mod rules". I aim to inspire and not dictate.  I hope this will help in your journey to improve your wardrobe.

1) Dress your age

I have nothing against hipster trousers. They just don't suit me well. They're fine if you're 20 something. The really tight drainpipe trousers can also stay in the closet if you're my age. That doesn't mean I turn my back on a nice pair of tapered trousers.

This is one principle I struggle with from time to time. What can I say, I hang around 12 year old kids all week long. It's hard for me to take the conservative route and tone down my look. When you hit the 4-0 mark, maybe it's time to hang that purple sharkskin suit.

2) Less is more

Mea Culpa. Guilty as charged. Lock me in and throw away the key. I have to admit, I'm all about "attention to detail" but I have come to realize that you don't need to pile on the details. It's not a contest on how many details or features you can fit in one outfit. It's more important to concentrate on the quality of the fabric or a well-made cut than the fact that you have covered buttons.

Over folded pocket squares is a perfect example of how you don't need to over complicate things.   When we see 18 points sticking out of your breast pocket, you might consider toning it down a bit.   If you need an origami class to fold your pocket square, take it from me, you have gone overboard. You should look like you have put thought into your outfit but in a carefree, effortless manner. That  is the essence of cool.

The first one in the top left corner is all you need.

3) The cult of the Parka

Have you ever noticed that although this blog bares the name "Parka Avenue", in more than 175 posts, I haven't done a single one about the infamous American army coat. Don't get me wrong, I own two M-51, a pristine M-65 and a warm and comfortable Lambretta brand M-51 replica. I seldom wear them. They serve their utilitarian purpose on occasion when I take the Vespa or Lambretta out for a spin but if I have a choice between a nice pea coat or a classy crombie, guess which one I'll pick?

If I remember correctly, this was taken at the intersection of Parka Avenue.

4) Jimmy Cooper is not a fashion icon

Although we have tried to mimic him when we were teenagers, it's time to move on. Wearing desert boots with a suit, I have been guilty of and even alluded to it on this very blog (Please keep the tomato throwing to a minimum) but Clarks' should be worn casually.

The Ace Face seems to be the only who got his shoes right even if his trousers are a bit too long for my taste.
Steve McQueen can never do wrong. Wearing a tweed jacket, black turtle neck and desert boots works for me.
Casual perfection from Daniel Craig
Unlike Jimmy, I like to dress for the occasion. I don't remember the last time I wore a suit to a beach fight.

5) The Mod Revival days are over

Can you believe that we used to sew bar towels to our parkas back in the 80s? How about the dreaded white socks? Some of us like to hold on to the past. It's time to turn the page.

My early Mod days

The scooter rally is the place those atrocities are still being committed on a regular basis. I can understand that you don't want to wear an expensive cashmere v-neck to a weekend spend in a tent but surely you can find an alternative to an unwashed bomber jacket full of patches. If you find that acceptable, here's a reality check for you. You are not a Mod. You are a Scooter Boy.

If you're going to a Specials, Madness or Selecter concert, you don't have to wear a piece of clothing that has a 2-Tone checkered pattern all over it.

At a Specials concert in London in 2009

6) Keep the Mod imagery to a minimum

Mod targets, Union Jacks, rally patches, badges, pins by the dozen are not what makes you Mod. When I was a teenager, I had to tell the world I was a Mod. I guess it's all part of growing up and forging your identity. Although I don't shy away from saying that I am one, I don't feel the need to shout it from the rooftops or advertising it all over my clothes.

On the train (the 5:15?) to London for the first time. Notice the small Canadian flag pin on my Fred Perry collar. I blame it on the innocence of youth.
I have to admit, I used to wear an enamel Mod roundel on my suit lapel on occasion. I have since stop doing that. I'll sometimes have a pin or two on my jean jacket but that is usually it.

Enjoying a sun filled day in a cafe somewhere in the French Quarter of New Orleans

7) Invest in quality instead of quantity

The word "invest" might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about clothes but it applies nonetheless. A well fitted bespoke suit will last you a lifetime compared to an off-the-rack mass produced cheap version. Stick with the classics and you can't go wrong. The same goes with shoes.

8) Choose the proper shoe

For the longest time, I would only have Dr. Martens on my feet. Let's face it, the UK-made version are comfortable and can outlast any other brand I know. I still wear them on a regular basis at school. Being surrounded by elementary school kids every day, it's a sensible choice.

One thing I have stopped doing is wear my Dr. Martens boots with a suit. What was I thinking? Might have been acceptable during the Revival but this is the 21st century. I should know better.

9) Don't be a slave to the brand

Remember when Ben Sherman used to make quality shirts and had a wide selection of cool patterns? Now you can buy this for £135 or 225$.

If you think that by wearing a Fred Perry you're a Mod then you are sadly mistaken. I truly love the brand but I'm very selective about what I buy.

10) Don't dress like this guy, buster!

Bad Manners front man Buster Bloodvessel is quite the showman but a style icon he is not. Whenever you are staring at your closet wondering what to wear for a night out on the town, just ask yourself this question: "Would Buster wear this?" If the answer is yes, then put it back in the closet immediately. Simple as that. Come to think about it. Cut the clothes in little pieces and use them as rags to clean the Vespa.

In the end, if there's one thing you need to take away from this post is simply to be true to yourself. I certainly am! I don't always fit in the neat mold that some Mods want to squeeze me in. I don't care. I take chances. I make mistakes. And I love it!


  1. This is so brilliant thanks for the inspiration :)

  2. FAB as a 40 something revivalist, so much to take away here - mostly stay true to yourself, I've maintained that with the exception growing a beard ( I know, weird - seems old mods never die they tend to grow beards!)

  3. Well said the whole lot of it stand out from the crowd look like class not a mod starter kit

  4. i find it funny as you critique all these thing yet you are from canada since when could you be a mod in canada

    1. What? Since when can you be Mod in Canada? Are you serious? Mod has been a global movement for decades now! I've been a Mod myself for almost 30 years now. Have you looked at the photos of me in this post? I even have a friend, that has been living in Canada all his life, that was a Mod in the sixties.

      Feel free to check out photos of him in 1965 in a blog post I wrote.


      Canadian mods exist! tis British north American after all!

    3. This comment about, Canadian's not being mod is the most anti-mod comment you could make. Its about MOVING FORWARD you wanker. If anything, Canadians are even more adapt at maintaining the mod aesthetic because we have to do so in such extreme weather. Mod is a philosophy and melting pot of culture that has been used to signify and challenge socially constructed ideals of class systems. If you can't understand that, than you are not a mod. You are a poser. End of.

  5. Hallulah! My thoughts exactly :)

  6. Best thing is the self depreciation. Great job Patrick, learn from mistakes and grow :)

  7. I can underline every word. Being 40+ I say: "less Steve Marriott and more Don Draper"...

  8. Now this is the kind of article I like to read - informative and witty. True that about Ben Sherman... Though I've seen some decent stuff recently. And it's good that you mentioned white socks, 'cause to be honest, I had some doubts as a 29 year old Mod in Serbia. Fortunately I didn't wear them and never will. :D

  9. Made me happy to read this, it's all the stuff I already do. Most of my better dressed friends are Suedeheads, so i'm no stranger to a four button jacket with eight buttons on the sleeves. I've always seen it (mod) like the music. Punk, Ska (especially two tone), Oi, are all jumpy, loud. And although there are some jumpy, 'mod' belters, what i've heard fits well with the clothes- understated, but to the right eye, the sharpest thing you'll see (or hear) all day. It's just clean and cool, no unnecessary flares. At least this is my impression.

  10. Ah Patrick, as a 64 year-old (born 1950) I grew up in 60's Germany, Colchester (Essex) then Liverpool before joining the Royal Air Force. I tried a central parting, back-combing, fringe but never got it right. I had (allegedly) rhino-skin, chisel-toed, hooked lace-up shoes.

    Then a plain black suit but with a Lord Snowdon roll-neck shirt when in Liverpool. Before moving onto a crew-neck jumper, paisley scarf, boots and a wide belt hanging loosely around my hips.

    I finished the 60s with short hair (courtesy of the Royal Air Force) but with a matching Levi beige short jacket and jeans.

    I never thought of myself as being 'fashion aware' back then, but now I ache for e Vespa/Lambretta, a parka to wear whilst I ride it and a good quality slim-fit suit with great shirt, tie, shoes and socks to set it all off.

    It will happen. I'm 6ft, 32 inch waist with access to blogs by great guys like you and shops on the Internet.

    Wish me luck :-)


    1. I don't think you need luck Tom. You seem to know exactly what you want and that's half the battle. You're part of us. :)

  11. Being honest,I find all things about what you are supposed to wear and don't wear as a Mod,a bit baffling.I was caught up in the Mod revival times,and I did originally fall into all the standard expectations of Mod dress,and used to take alot of fashion inspiration from Paul Weller.However,being not exactly flushed with money,and often feeling a bit out of place amongst the more wealthy,as well as having alot of skinhead friends,and liking the smarter skinhead look, shorter hair,and a lot of the music,I readily wore both skinhead and Mod clothing,which as we know is from the same origins in alot of ways.The point I am trying to make..I am not really sure..but no offence..I am a Mod..not because of the way I dress,but because it is in my heart.I admit that the scene does cheese me off with some of the snobbery that exists,as it did in the 60s..but the original Mod scene was not filled with people who could afford to dress in the best clobber,and just wore the standards when needed.Mod,to me is a way of life,not really about having to break the bank.I wear docs,check shirts,Ben Shermans etc..and try to adhere to a smart/casual look,for me ..that is a Mod..

  12. The future cannot exist without the past, and to say that the revival is over is just naive, get over yourself, it seems like you conduct yourself on this blog as you do when you are stood in front of your class, I've never felt so patronised! Parkas are timeless and what's wrong with a few well placed pins?, but the music is what it's all about! Half of British indie bands and dance acts are still caught up in the mod ethos, inspiring, you're a ticket!

  13. "Get over yourself"? Where did that come from? Patronized? I don't think these comments are warranted.

    To quote myself in this post: "I don't pretend to be an expert on the matter. I might have chosen to be a teacher as a career but when it comes to clothes, I still consider myself a student." "I'm guilty of many transgressions over the years and I felt the need to confess my sins. I'm turning the mirror on myself and exposing the ugly truth."

    About the Mod Revival. Are you saying that you're still wearing white socks in a suit? That was my point. I suggest you read it again.

    And since when was I against pins? Again, quoting the post: "I'll sometimes have a pin or two on my jean jacket..."

    And where did you get the impression that I thought parkas weren't timeless? "Don't get me wrong, I own two M-51, a pristine M-65 and a warm and comfortable Lambretta brand M-51 replica. I seldom wear them. They serve their utilitarian purpose on occasion when I take the Vespa or Lambretta out for a spin..."

    Wow! I need to rethink about writing a blog post about admitting my faults and being vulnerable. I guess that people think that is an invitation for personal attacks.