Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Sunday, March 13, 2016

When Mod Fashion Was Introduced To America

Some will say that the true spirit of Mod was dead by 1966. But if you stop and think about it, if it wasn't for an article published in May 1966, the Mod movement would probably not be the global phenomenon that we know today. There's no denying the impact the British Invasion had on the American continent but Mod fashion might not have had this much of a lasting effect if it hadn't been for this 6 page article in Life magazine. 

Am I overstating things a little? Maybe I am. Still, in 1966, Life was one of the most successful weekly publications around. The readership was in the millions. So to have four Chicago students in full Mod gear on the cover, with the title Face It! Revolution in Male Clothes, was a big deal.

In my humble opinion, there's as much inspiration to be drawn from those 6 pages than what you'll get from some of the photos you'll see in the seminal book Mods. You won't find any of the models posing on a Vespa and you won't hear about any of their musical preferences. It's all about the threads. This post will reveal them to you.

Revolt in men's wear - gaudy and very gear: The Guys Go All-out To Get Gawked At. Quite a bold title, isn't it? The first sentence of the article is as assertive. "The sartorial sights one sees on the cover of this issue, and on these pages, are the rakish, thin-shanked, high-heel booted, broad-belted, narrow-hipped and epauletted variations of attire that constitutes a brash change in clothes which, for the first time since the more subtle take-over of the Ivy League style, is invading the fashion habits of the U.S. male."

I might not be a big fan of epaulettes but for a major publication, I like the sound of that quote. Mind you, this is the description of the more mainstream Carnaby Street Mod of the mid-sixties and less of the underground London pioneers of the early 60s. But that's splitting well coiffed hair. All incarnations of the Mod movement from the early Modernists to the more casual Britpop look of the 90s have merit. The only thing I would like to erase from my memory are those white socks I would wear during the Mod Revival.

The article puts John Stephen at the centre of the Carnaby Street led revolution. Here you have him (first from right)  leaning on his Cadillac in front of one of his many shops. It's hard to believe that at only 29 years old he was already putting on a fashion show in New York.

One American company that followed John Stephen's lead and was heavily influenced by the Carnaby Street style was giant clothes maker McGregor-Doniger.

It's hard to find those high-rising collars on shirt these days. It was quite unusual for the day.

Another McGregor shirt, sold for $5, with contrasting cuffs and collar.

Avant-garde couturier Pierre Cardin was also cited as a major player in male fashion. You can unmistakably see the influence of the tightly fitted jackets and trousers.

Young Parisians in a cafe
Actor Horst Buchholz trying a light wool Cardin suit and his wife dressed in Courrèges
A perfect example of Edwardian influenced style done right.

Wherever your fashion sense lies on the wide Mod style spectrum, it's always good to revisit our roots and get some cues from the forward thinking young men that came before us.