Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mods, parkas and pins

Pins have adorned many parkas over the years. They range from music labels, favorite bands, cult movies, scooter models, Mod icons, every design of the Mod target possible to your preferred brand of 2-stroke oil. This phenomenon seems to have been most popular during the Mod Revival of the eighties. I did not live through the original movement of the sixties so it’s hard for me to judge how prevalent that fashion statement actually was. From what I can tell of the many photos I have seen, pins or badges were not a widespread convention. The only person from that era that might have influenced that trend was Pete Townsend from The Who. But when the Mod Revival hit, watch out, pin overload!

The Mod target, also referred to as the roundel, is the Mod symbol by excellence. It first symbolized the British Air Force and aside from its apparent and indistinguishable appearance, that’s where the similarities end. The Mod target is more of a Pop Art symbol than anything else. Keith Moon, of the band The Who, claimed that he was the first to introduce the roundel in popular culture.

Another common figure to grace numerous suit lapels is Walt Jabsco, better known simply as the Rude Boy or the Ska Man. He entered the collective consciousness with the arrival of the 2-Tone ska label. Horace Panter, original bass player for The Specials, talks about the origins of Walt in his book Ska’d for Life: “This was a caricature of Peter Tosh taken from an early photo of The Wailers. It was a brilliant image. Simple, which said everything about us in a three-inch circle of paper. Those four years at art college were not wasted! The 2-Tone man was, somewhere along the line, given the name Walt Jabsco. This was the name on the back of a bowling shirt Jerry had picked up somewhere.”

His girlfriend, the Ska Girl, later accompanied him. Also known as the Beat Girl, she first appeared on The Beat album I just Can’t Stop It. Hunt Emerson was credited for coming up with the iconic image. She was based on a sixties photo of a girl dancing with the ska forefather Prince Buster.

 Her image might be just a notch above a stick figure drawing but I still think she is sexy as hell.

My most prized pin is of Walt and her on a Mod scooter. I bought it when I was in high school in Toronto. It came from a small shop on Yonge Street. Not only was it pretty cool but also very rare. I’ve been going to ska shows for over 20 years now and I never came across someone who had one. Every once in a while, somebody comes up to me and offers to buy it from me.

As a matter of fact, a few years ago, The Beat was in town. They were playing the Café Campus on a Tuesday night. I decided to show up early to buy tickets before I went to have dinner on Prince Arthur Street. The ticket booth was closed so I decided to walk upstairs to the third floor where the show was being held. That’s when I came face to face with Dave Wakeling, legendary front man for The Beat.

This is how the conversation went:

- Dave: Can I help you guys?

- Me: I hope so. I came to buy tickets to come and see you.

- Oh cool! Why don’t you give me your names and I’ll put you on my guest list.

That’s when he noticed the Walt and Beat Girl pin I had on my Harrington.

- Dave: Wow! You have that pin! That one’s pretty rare. I’ll give you my email so you can send me a picture. I want to start a website on rare pins.

As he was saying that, I unhooked the pin from my Harrington and handed it to him.

- No, I can’t accept that. Are you sure?

- It’s the least I can do. You put me on YOUR guest list. Besides you’ve given me so much over the years. I couldn’t think of a more deserving person.

He smiled, thanked me and asked me for my email so that he can send me the link once the website would be up. I have no regrets about giving him my most cherished pin. I eventually found another one on eBay and paid a pretty penny for it. The thing is Mr. Dave Wakeling, I never received that email. No need to worry, I have no ill will towards you. I would even go as far as thanking you. You were a huge inspiration in starting this blog. So here it is… The pin not only has a premiere spot on my parka but now also has a well-deserved place in the blog universe.


  1. I had that pin!! Had the whole collection and, in a classic Mom gaffe, she "cleaned out my room" and got rid of the whole lot. That one was my prize, however. Thanks for the articles on the pins - this is the only place online that even recognizes them. And thanks for keeping the Mod flame alive.

    - Brian from Los Angeles ('74 Rally 200)

  2. Ha! Good ol' mom! We all have a story like that. My mother got ride of my hockey card collection. In it was THE Wayne Gretzky rookie card that was worth around 250$. Being from LA, you probably know how important Gretzky is!

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Keep on keepin' on!

  3. Okay, funny note here. As I just read further down the same page as the above-mentioned post I noticed a Bangles reference. Crazy, because I remember seeing them in '82-ish when they were a really Mod bunch of girls called "The Bangs" opening for The Three O'Clock at my brother's college dorm. They all rode up on scooters and I flipped my lid. Cut to this year and my 6 year old daughter is friends with Debi, the drummer. She comes to my house to bring her daughter for a "play date," spots my Rickenbacker 330 and we hit it off big time. Talking Mod and soul with a legit player. Yeah they went bubblegum, but made a pretty good living so who am I to judge, right?

  4. Wow Brian! Great story! Didn't know that. I guess you learn something new every day. Do you know if they ever recorded as The Bangs?

  5. I'll ask her. I seem to remember a single or two. I know the first album - around '82 or so - said (next to their name) "formerly The Bangs." I've since lost my vinyl but all hail YouTube - check out the link below. Another song from that album of note is "The Real World." You can get a sense of their Mod / go-go sensibilities. The whole scene here was known as "The Los Angeles Paisley Underground" but given all of our scooters outside the shows (our sister scooter club in Orange County was featured in The Three O'Clock's video) it was pure Mod.