Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Sunday, May 26, 2013

This city's got Soul! A Mod's weekend in Boston

Every time I'm asked to be part of the DJ line-up at the weekly Soulelujah night in Cambridge, Massachusetts just outside Boston, I feel honoured. A six hour drive is not enough to keep me away. Not only do I get to rub elbows with some of the best American DJs like Ty Jesso, Josh Styles and Sean Quinn but the crowd is like no other. 

How many world class cities can boast having its most popular club night being a 60s Soul night? After the recent tragic events the city has endured, I'm humbled to see how its residents have carried on and continued to support the restaurants and the nightlife. I love this city!

New York's DJ Josh Styles

I rarely get to DJ where there's a line-up to get in and a fully packed dance floor starting at 11 pm. I can safely say that it's one of the highlights of my DJ career. For a sample of my playlist, I invite you to have a listen at the latest Parka Avenue podcast on Mixcloud.

A Mod's way to show support for a city is pretty straight forward... You shop! I didn't spend a lot of time digging for vinyl because I spent all my record allowance on a single 45 that my mate Ty was ready to part with. Frankie Beverly and The Butlers - If That's What You Wanted had been at the top of my want list forever! If you don't already know this Northern Soul classic then it's about time you get acquainted with this brilliant dancer. To say that this one is rare is an understatement and to have it on the original 60s Greek label Top Tunes makes it even more special. Only a few copies are known to exist.

The rest of my travelling budget was spent in a few local shops that were recommended by my adopted Boston family. How great it is to have a few Mod friends that are willing to share with you some of their secret spots. Oops! I guess they're not a secret anymore. And to do it all on a Vespa, well, that's priceless!

A little rain won't stop us!
Just a block away from my mate's Eric's place in Allston is the Urban Renewals thrift shop. Just like any thrift store, it's always hit or miss but when you hit gold, the rewards are worth it. In this case, I picked up two, practically brand new, button down Brooks Brothers shirts for 9$. That's what I call a steal!

Next was Store 54 on Harvard Avenue. This place has it all. Local art, records, collectibles, a few antiques and some great pieces of vintage clothing. 

Once you have gotten over the initial shock of seeing an "art sculpture" made of 45s, you head downstairs in  Ali Baba's cavern.

I managed to find a couple of cheap 45s to give to friends, a 45 record box (can't have enough of those!) and some really nice vintage slim ties that were very reasonably priced. The best part of this shopping experience has to be the friendly owner. A real nice gent and a welcomed change from my last encounters I had with record shop owners.

Truly the friendliest place in town

Our next destination was this little vintage jewelry shop called Twentieth Century Limited. It's the type of place that only a local lad would know about. Even if I had a tire blowout in the pouring rain on the way there (thanks Eric for taking care of the flat tire!) it was worth seeking out.

Once you have passed the front door, go directly to the back where you'll find the cufflinks and tie bar counter. If you don't find what you're looking for there, then you might as well give up on your search for the perfect pair of vintage cufflinks. I have never seen a better organized place. They are all orderly stored in labelled trays, by colour, theme or type of material.

I have long been searching for a decent pair of wraparound cufflinks and their selection was impressive. The find of the day has to be these deadstock links that are made to transform your ordinary pair into some classy wraparounds. Ingenious! Not bad for 12$.

Our last stop was a place I had been before on my last visit. The Garment District should be visited on a regular basis. You never know what you'll end up leaving with. 

A shame these weren't in my size
This time I put my hands on a handful of brand new 60s ties (still had the cardboard inside) and a dress for the lovely wife back at home. The best part about this place is that your girlfriend will think that you spent a fortune on her when in fact you'll probably receive some change on a 20$ bill. But don't worry, the secret is safe with me!

I don't how when I'll be back in Boston but I'm already looking forward to visiting again really soon. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pop Shop and Teen Beat - Mod Fashion for Teens

There's no aspect of Mod I will not seek out and explore. I'll go to any lenghts to unearth those little gems that give me a glimpse of a bygone era and that inspire me in the here and now. Sometimes it gives a perpective from within the scene, sometimes it's a view from outsiders. No mather where it came from, I always find it relevent because it helps me forge my own identity.

Let me take you back to January 1966 when the term Mod was on everyone's lips. Pop Shop is another one of those British teen magazines that used the word Mod indiscriminately and repeatedly (not too disimilar to this blog but for different reasons).

Pop Shop front cover

Pop Shop back cover

Miranda Ward wrote a typical teenage editorial sharing gossip and idle chitchat about how cute some certain band members are. I did find this excerpt interesting and worth a read.

Before I all but f.f.faded away (!) I went up to the "Glad Rag Ball" at the Empire Pool, Wembley. This all night rave is organised by the Students Union at London University and it is in aid of various charitites, Like Oxfam. Anyway, back to the point... up there I met the fabulous... guess who?... yes, The Who. I think the stuttering that Roger Daltrey does on their latest disc My Generation is great... it's a real raver. Their first LP is too. It has the same title as the single and I first heard it about three weeks ago before it was released, Keith Moon, their knockout drummer, put it on the turntable in their dressing-room up at Wembley... that was at 3 a.m. and I thought it wild. Since then I have heard it in the cold light of day and I still think it was wild... though it appears that they are none too happy with it. My two fave tracks are The Kids Are Alright and It's Not True, they are both a rave... but then in my opinion the whole LP is, so it is rather trying to choose a fave track.

The Ivy League

The Yardbirds

In The London Scene column, part of it refers to how Boutiques are popping up everywhere. It's interesting to note that in the sixties the word Mod was often used as an adjective rather than a noun. You had Mod clothes or Mod music but you were often refered too as part of the "in-crowd" or in this case the "with-its". In this article, I counted the term being used no less then 18 times! No grey area here, you were either a "with-its" or "without-its". Here's a passage I found compeling.

What has all this got to do with you poor readers who have lashed out half-a-crown for the goodies the mag contains and are having to sit there being lectured by me on the inequities of the "with-its"? Only this. It takes as much hard work, business acumen and plain common sense to run a "with-it" Boutique as it does to run a butcher's shop successfully or, for that matter a betting shop. So if you are contemplating opening one. DON'T unless you really do know how. This only applies to the few - we get two or three letters a week asking advice on opening Boutiques - to the many who just want to be customers - it can affect you in this way. Three years ago you couldn't buy "Mod" clothes over the counter... if you wanted to be way ahead in the movement you had to either make your own or have them made for you. At last manufacturers are starting to turn out the sort of clothes YOU want to buy... They are also beginning to wonder whether it is really worth the bother.

Well, let me tell you Miranda. It is always worth the bother.

Enough small talk, lets see what the fuss is all about. Let me step aside and give the fashion the centre stage.

Not sure about the tie...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lessons in style by the master behind DNA Groove, Claudio De Rossi

The title of Ace Face is not something I throw around lightly. But when I think of Claudio De Rossi, the top brass behind the DNA Groove clothing line, I couldn't imagine someone more deserving of that title. He lives, breathes and exudes style. His passion undeniably translates into his creations.

I can't believe it took me this long before buying my first piece from DNA Groove. I have to admit that I have long been inspired by many of the details seen on his clothes when came time to have my own suits tailor-made. Isn't imitation the most sincere form of flattery?

So it was only a matter of time before I made the plunge. I suspect that, like many of my mates, I will become a long time customer. I recently bought this burnt burgundy herringbone pattern jacket.

This heavy wool fabric might not be ideal for the upcoming summer months but for a late scooter strole during spring time in Canada, I couldn't think of a classier way to do it.

DNA Groove Chianti60 jacket, white bespoke button-down shirt, 50s deadstock slim tie, 60s deadstock trousers,  burgundy Bass Weejuns, Lambretta watch

Although I have never met Claudio in person, we have exchanged pleasantries on many occasions in this ultra-exclusive, VIP only, secret Facebook group about Mod fashion. (Sorry guys, invitation only) So this goes to show how much this man loves clothes. He will exchange on the subject on his own time! You can also find him periodically on the DNA Groove YouTube channel, giving sage advice on how to skillfully combine what I call the 4 S (shirts, suits socks and shoes).

Aside from his incredible eye for detail, his search for the highest quality fabrics, I think what sets this man apart is his customer service. This is personalized service at its best. He even texted me while on vacation! You don't believe me? I will stake my reputation on it.

So what an honor to have him answer a few questions for the Parka Avenue readers.

Tell us how you got involved in the garment industry.

I was going to older tailors getting stuff made as Mods usually do ... that and deadstock items at shops. After I bought out an existing vintage clothes store (DNA), customers wanted to know where I got the clothes I usually wore. Vicenza and the Veneto region are the manufacturing centers of Italy (Diesel, Bottega Veneta, GAS jeans, Pal Zileri to name a few) so it was easy enough to approach local makers (who work for the big boys) to have small runs made up. Hipster trouser and shirts were the first to be made at the tail end of 1999 and sold as DNA GROOVE to distinguish the new lines from the other vintage clothes I still sold.

Where do you get your inspiration when you decide to design a new clothing line? 

Usually items I want for myself I put on the ‘to – make’ list. Can be pictures I see online or books, films, or something that is out there but not *exactly* like I would do it, so I make my own version. Or just stuff that I want but cannot find in my size, I make my version of it. It’s always items that have been made over the years so not really inventing or *designing* anything (that is why I really do not consider myself a designer). I’ve had a thing for clothes since I was very young so it’s natural for me to look at people and examine them, especially when they are wearing something that appeals to me in a new, different way (rather than the standard look I already wear and like most). This always gives me food for thought. I never limit myself to the ‘standards’,  both in the ‘high street’ way or the Modernist way. 

I went through a psychedelic faze in the late 90s which too was stimulating and was helpful to keep my outlook open and receptive (not to mention I was playing in a psych band so style and music went hand in hand). Now musically and stylistically I dig even further back, 1920’s America mainly, but any 20s – 50s style is very *do-able* and can be tweaked to suit my usual range.

You seem to invest a lot of time and effort in choosing your fabrics. How important is that to you?

When I see a garment, I automatically look at it and touch it. It is very important for me that I feel the fabric which will then be made into a garment, its fundamental that I *click* with it. I already picture it made into a specific garment and with this all possible matches start jumping out into my head.  I think that a garment not only needs to fit right, sit and look right, it definitely needs to feel right. Also colours, texture and weight are all important and all have their place to fill in what is the overall picture.

How do you explain Mods being such a loyal clientele?

I must say that not all my customers are Mods but surely most are in or around that scene. Mods are the best dressed people around (mostly), so I think it’s only natural that they see an attraction in well-made, quality clothes that are made by someone which has been and still is in ‘The Scene’. I still go to clubs and play the music. I still love the clothes I have always loved. I am part of it all and so have a clear idea of what we/they want and are after.

Also, the clothes are made in such small quantities that it will be extremely hard to find someone else wearing the same garment. Exclusivity and individuality are ever so important to us, and this is what I offer.

Lastly, the Mod scene has always been somewhat ‘intellectual’, in the sense that they love being informed musically, stylistically, scooters, fabrics, shoes, film, history (after all its been over 50 years since it all began), thus many are also receptive to the more ethical aspects of consumption. Many do look at the ‘Made in .. ‘ aspect and appreciate the fact that DNA clothes are made in Italy by small Italian family run companies, artisanship that is so rare to find nowadays, especially at this accessible price range.

Also, many appreciate the fact that a lot of effort is put into keeping unnecessary waste to a minimum, recycling is constant and this shows right through to the recent decision to use left over cloths from production for packaging the items. This is, dare I say, a first in the fashion world. Each item is sold in a hand sewn cloth bag made from left-overs, that you can then use for travel or storage. With DNA, esthetics and ethics go hand in hand and this is something your average mod approves of. Not to mention the lack of visible labels. Again, dare I say, a first in the fashion world? This is something very Mod in my opinion.

Mods are all about attention to details. Is that a priority for you?

Attention to detail is important as is attention to individuality, exclusivity and fit. A jacket needs to have a perfect lapel roll or the right shaped shoulder, sleeve length or trouser length. These are the details I feel are important, along with the limited availability of a particular garment, rather than a cool accessory or style (stepped trouser or fold-back suit sleeve for example) on an ill fitting garment.
Most Mods pride themselves in being staunch individualists in their fashion sense and don't like being told what they can and cannot wear. Some of us do make mistakes. What are a few fashion faux pas we should avoid?

Rather than say what one should not do or wear, I would rather say that one needs to wear something suitable for his or her frame and age. Keep it simple at first and then once the basics are taken care of, it can be upped a step. Quality always needs to come first and rather save to buy something decent than spend on something badly made (and thus usually cheap). Also be comfortable with your outfit or don’t wear it. That being said, my pet peeves style wise would be elongated shoes, long suit sleeves, long trouser hems, most pleated trousers and the colour black.

Any exclusive upcoming scoops you want to share with the Parka Avenue readers?

I am making a 3-piece suit which I am excited about. It's a mix between early and mid 20th Century. New kangaroo basket weave patterns for shoes and working on a fur collar coat for the winter. Oh, I'm also excited about the incoming paisley silk ties.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Profiles of some of the best 60s / Mod DJs in North America - Part V

This is the 5th installement of Profiles of some of the best 60s / Mod DJs in North America. (Maybe I should start Parka Avenue trading cards...) This goes to show that we have quite the deep pool of commited and accomplished wax spinners here. From my experience, the majority of them are open, friendly and love to share their passion for music. I haven't encountered many that will hide the record label of their rare Soul find in order to keep the exclusivity of the track. Some of them are like that you know! This is not the case for the first-class DJs featured here.

- Your name / DJ name

Guillermo Alfaro Jr. / Go-Go-Guillermo

- City

San Diego, California

- How would you describe your musical style?

My musical style ranges from Garage, Northern Soul, Psyche, French/Spanish/Turkish/Thai, Ska and Reggae.

- What is your “go to” track? The one you will likely never get tired of spinning?

Sweet Sweet Sadie by The Teardrops is my go to track. (Thanks Tony The Tyger)

- Regardless of price, name THE record that is missing from your collection.

No single track in particular is missing from my selection, just new ones I have never heard of. I'm always looking to discover that "New" song that will get the crowd going into a frenzy.

- Where can we see you spin on a regular basis? Tell us about the night or an event you would like to promote.

Because of my busy work schedule, it's hard to have a regular gig, although I am not opposed to traveling to spin at a new place. I love to promote Las Vegas High Rollers and Tijuana Au-Go-Go in Mexico. Always fun spinning in Mexico.

- Is vinyl the only acceptable format for playing your style of music?

Vinyl is the only acceptable form of djing for me unless it's at a lonely bar with a bunch of drunkards and you need to hear something desperately, you break down and plug in your iPhone.

What is your favorite place to buy records?

Amoeba Records, estate sales as well as thrift stores are great for buying records. Swap meets are a hidden gem sometimes.

Photo by Tony Lofi

- Your name / DJ name

DJ Michel Alario

- City

Sherbrooke, Canada

- How would you describe your musical style?

I play 60s garage, Soul, R&B, instrumental Soul-Jazz and a lot of Frenchie-A-Go-Go from Quebec and France. Sometimes a bit of 70s PowerPop.

- What is your “go to” track? The one you will likely never get tired of spinning?

Since I'm a bilingual DJ I will give you two! On the anglo side I will always spin Don't knock it by Sinner Strong! Always love that song since I first heard it on the T-Bird party comp more than a
decade ago.

On the franco side, I will always play La génération d'aujourd'hui by Les Chanceliers and Je cherche by Les Lutins  Oops that's three!

- Regardless of price, name THE record that is missing from your collection.

The Alarm Clocks - Yeah/No reason to complain 45.

- Where can we see you spin on a regular basis? Tell us about the night or an event you would like to promote.

I don't have a regular night. I spin when and where I'm asked. So far I did Sherbrooke, Montreal, Quebec, New York. I will try to set a steady night in my home town of Sherbrooke, but it's pretty hard to find a bar or a space for that.

- Is vinyl the only acceptable format for playing your style of music?

Yes! Mostly 45s and some LPs if I still don't have the track on a 45.

What is your favorite place to buy records?

Sherbrooke didn't have a used record store for a while, but we have one now. It's called Musique Cité. No 45s in the store yet, but the owner gave me permission to pick in his 45s stock in his warehouse.   Usually I go to Montreal for my fix. Le Pick-up is my favorite spot! After that I really like Sonik and Le Beatnick. Besides that, it's records shows in Montreal and eBay.

- Your name / DJ

Celeste Gascoigne / Lady Celeste

- City

Long Beach, California

- How would you describe your musical style?

Up tempo Northern Soul with a splash of R&B.

- What is your “go to” track? The one you will likely never get tired of spinning?

Tina Britt - The Real Thing and Valerie & Nick - Don't You Feel Sorry.

- Regardless of price, name THE record that is missing from your collection.

The Counts - Peaches Baby

- What is the weirdest request you ever got?

While in the middle of playing I Can Tell by Bo Diddley I was asked by a guy if I could "play something more black". The requestor was a college age caucasian!

- Where can we see you spin on a regular basis? Tell us about the night or an event you would like to promote.

The last few months I've been djing for Marv Mack at Soul Side. He's the one that gave me the name Lady Celeste but occasionally I'm a guest at SpinOut and Sophisticated Boom Boom! In the past I've spun at Santa Ana DownTown Soul, High Rollers Weekend in Las Vegas and Tijuana A Go-Go in Mexico.

- Is vinyl the only acceptable format for playing your style of music?

YES! Original, vinyl 45s are the only thing I will dj now, but to be honest I did start out with CDs because my mentor, veteran rockabilly DJ Tom Ingram said once, "a dancer has no idea what format the music is on". Lately I've been collecting LPs for home listening on a vintage Marantz stereo.

- What is your favorite place to buy records?

I've looked for records all of the ways. Yard sale, record store, record swap, auction but these days I typically discover a song or an artist through research and then go looking for it. Lately I've been buying from veteran DJs. They hear my sound and then play for me cuts I may be interested in. One of the veterans has a table at a monthly record swap. He has the top shelf cuts in a box, under the table. I've discovered some new sounds that way! There's always eBay as well. The hunt isn't as thrilling as digging through crates but it can still be exciting when a 2 year old saved search finally produces a long, sought after 45! I've even discovered new sounds on eBay when a "suggested 45" pops up and the label or title catches my eye.