Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mods and Fred Perry: A long lasting love affair

When I was 16, I had a “clothes allowance”. I don’t remember how much it was in 1987 but it was enough to buy your average, off the rack, big mall, plain clothes. But at least I had freedom. I didn’t need my parent’s approval. I could make my own choices and start to forge my own sense of style. That was a great feeling.

Designer labels were pretty much out of my price range. That was until I got my first job working at McDonald’s after school and on weekends. It might have been minimum wage but at least I could start to afford the clothes that I really wanted. I was bringing home an average of around $120 every two weeks.

This is when I first met Fred. Fred Perry that is! I had seen Jimmy Cooper, in the film Quadrophenia, wearing the classic white, 2 button, pique polo with the blue piping around the sleeves and on the collar. Your classic Fred Perry look, a staple in any mod wardrobe. Quality wear made in England.

The shirt that started it all for me
My first Fred Perry - 1987
Most of you probably came accross the shirt countless times but for a young French Canadian living in Toronto in the 80s, finding a Fred Perry polo was harder than finding the Holy Grail. In 1987, you couldn’t simply Google Fred Perry on your computer. Finding the elusive shirt was more of a treasure hunt. It was thrilling and the reward would be that you had something unique and exclusive.

In the 80’s, Ralph Lauren and Lacoste were the labels you wanted to be seen in. Pastel colors were all the rage and you had to wear your shirt wide open, with your collar up in the air. I went against the tide with my shirt buttoned up and my collar firmly pressed. I didn’t care. I knew I was cool. I was in an army of one. I was a Mod.

I had found two small shops in Toronto who sold a very limited selection of the coveted shirt. One was on Queen Street West. I can't remember the name but that's where you found your basic Mod revival wardrobe.  You had a few Harrington’s, James Jacket's in black and red, your popular Bomber jacket, a rather large selection of Doc Martens and your imported and sought after Fred Perry's. I must have walked in the shop a dozen times to stare at my favorite piece of cloth before I actually bought my first Fred Perry. Today, you will find a store called Modraphelia on Queen Street West but I can't positively say it's the same store.

Another store, that I was aware of, carried the object of my desire. Situated on Yonge Street a few blocks south of Bloor, it was your typical cheap souvenir / concert t-shirt / rock poster / patches and pins shop. For some reason, it had a small section dedicated to really cool Mod clothes. Limited to only a few racks, this is where I also bought my first black gingham Ben Sherman button down. It was also the only place that you could find Carnaby Cavern clothes.

My father and I somewhere in Spain in 1988. I'm wearing my favorite Fred Perry at the time.

From that moment on, I never looked back. Fred has been part of my life ever since. Pieces from the latest collections, Japanese imports, limited edition shirts, special collaborations and 60s original pieces all rub shoulders in my closet.


  1. Merci d'avoir partagé ces mémoires Patrick, j'ai bien apprécié! Je ne savais pas que tu avais habité à Toronto. Peut-être que tu pourras m'en raconter un peu plus à notre prochaine rencontre:)

  2. Cool blog, I think the store you're thinking of on Queen St was called IXL. I remember being around 12 or 13 and buying my first pair of Doc Martins. Years later, I remember there was an anti racist rally in front of the store, because there was a rumour that the store was owned by some racist guy. The store on Yonge St was probably Rocks Variety. There was also another store called Hollywood Headlines where you could also buy Freds, Bennys and James Jacket. It had the 2-tone checkered board pattern on the window.

  3. Thanks so much Vince! I knew somebody would remember. I haven't been to Toronto in years and a visit is long overdue. Fred Perry has now a flagship store in Toronto at 964 Queen St West. You can also follow Fred Perry Toronto on Twitter (FPTO).

  4. Great piece. My first Fred Perry's came from an outlet store in 1987 or so in hideous colors/patterns!

  5. LOL! We are definitely part of the same generation...

  6. Nice read although the FP your wearing is not one of the classics that you talk about :P the true Italian mods new what fashion was about. Ask me :)

  7. Love the blog. Do you know where to buy regular Fred Perry polos in Montreal? The Bay had them at the beginning of summer, but sold out fast. I'm kicking myself for not buying a second (or third!) one...

    1. You can find them here.

      They're friends. Tell them I sent you!

  8. My parents owned Hollywood Headlines. Thanks for the throwback to my childhood 2nd home.

  9. Hi!
    I was Mod back in late 1980's - 1995. I there was places sale did Mod clothing's, I remember Hollywood Headlines lot. My Uncle really did work for Hollywood Headlines, I did buy Mod patches, my fishtail green parka, Dr. Martens at Hollywood Headlines in Toronto, I did buy IXL too for more Dr. Martens, IXL was on Yonge Street & on Queen Street too, I knew owner Hollywood Headlines & owner at IXL too. I was teenager when I was Mod. I did buy Harrington Jackets at Hollywood Headlines. I did wear Bowler hat , I only Mod in Durham Region have British flag on my Dr. Martens, I use umbrella for walking cane. I have lot of stories when I was Mod when I was teenager, I still Mod, I still wear my fishtail green parka, my Dr. Martens.