Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Monday, January 13, 2014

An office for the mature and sophisticated Mod

The title should suggest more of a goal than the actual result. Me, mature? Maybe not. Sophisticated? I like to pretend that I am! But I certainly like to think outside the box and this is the end result of my vivid imagination.

When you want to add a touch of Mod to your decor, a room doesn't need to be filled with targets, Union Jack's and posters of Keith Moon. Unless you still live in your parent's basement. You can still show your Mod affiliations without turning it into a cliché. Subtlety and a keen eye for the finer details is the name of the game.

That is what I attempted to do when I converted my former bedroom into an office. To see what  became of my new bedroom, have a look at this postObjective Mature and Sophisticated Mod is now in progress. The challenge for me is always to restrain myself. I tend to go overboard. Luckily, I have the perfect wife. She gives me carte blanche on all things decor related but she'll put on the brakes when we start missing space.

In an industrial loft, can you think of anything better then a tanker desk to help you plan world domination? Total cost of this one? Around 20$ for paint supplies to redo the desktop. The metal desk was found abandoned behind a Second World War era warehouse. A little elbow grease to wax it and remove the snails stuck to the bottom and here you have it.

The budget was instead put in this original vintage padded Eames office chair.

A red rotary phone is the only possible means of communication that can get you a direct line with the President. I might be busy hatching up plans to conquer the world but I always have time to chat with the Prez.

This Tron-Tek answering machine is indispensable when I want to make sure not to miss a phone call from my Angels.

What Mod doesn't need a good ol' fashion steamer truck for his suits when traveling across the Atlantic on a passenger liner? See! This is where the "sophisticated" part kicks in.  This particular model was usually tailor made for the business man because of an interesting feature. The grey storage compartment seen in this photo can serve as extra storage for the shoes and can also be turned into a briefcase or used as a writing desk when resting on your lap. 

I find it very practical to store some of my favorite suits and the small drawers are the perfect size for socks.

This old Canadian postal box has been conveniently converted to a clothes hamper. Drop your dirty Fred Perry's in the chute and collect them at the bottom when you're ready for a wash!

I covered the exiting closet doors with steel plates with rivets in order to recreate the type of fire doors you would find in a lot of factories of the era. The door to the room is a reclaimed 2 panel wooden door that I sanded down and re-stained. I took the top panel out and replaced it with a rippled opaque window. I then hired an artisan that has been doing commercial hand lettering for the past 40+ years. I had him paint "Entrepôt Chocolat" (Chocolate Warehouse) on the glass since the building had served as a cookie factory for more than a century. Period hardware completed the look of the door.

On the left of the door, I installed a 50s era X-Ray viewer that I use to display travel photos that I transfer to acetate. The beauty of this idea is that you can change photos in a pinch for next to nothing. It also doubles as mood lighting that manages to bring out the wonderful colours of the photos. Under it, there's a rack that holds boxes of overflow 45 records. I'm sure that many Mods out there can relate.

On the walls, you'll find some of my favorite collectibles and art. This piece of movie memorabilia will never leave my home. Show me one Mod that hasn't, at one point in his life, secretly wished that he was in James Bond's immaculate shoes. This genuine movie prop was part of the set of The World Is Not Enough. It's one of the 4 Top Secret files seen on screen when 007 receives his orders. Like any typical office file, you can clearly see who took it out last. You guessed it, it was JB himself. When I bought it, it came with 3 letters, one from Money Penny, one from M and one from Q. My favorite is by far the letter from Q. He warns 007 to be careful with the new BMW and directs him to bring it back in one piece. I plan to frame that one separately one day.

This CIA classified file was part of the The Bourne Supremacy movie set. Not as unique as the James Bond prop, it did come with a photo of Jason Bourne in it.

This limited edition serigraph of renown artist Shag is another of my prized possessions. I find it fits very well with my spy theme memorabilia. You can read all about this print in this post.

To take advantage of the almost 13' high ceilings of the loft, I had to find something large that would fill the space. This London bus destination blind, that I bought online, is the perfect solution. Again, a nod to Mod without being overly obvious. On it, you'll find some of my favorite and most recognizable spots like King's Cross, Camden Town and Abbey Road.

On the opposite wall, a painting that depicts the obsession of many Mods and above it, a nondescript vintage guitar that I bought at a garage sale for 35$.

A pair of mid-century modern wall sconces adorn the outside wall. If you're looking to decorate your walls on a budget with cool images, may I suggest these vinyl album frames that you can find without too much effort. I like to change the album from time to time.

This is it, fellow Mods. I hope this post will serve as inspiration to spice things up on the home decor front. I want to thank Katia Provencher for taking some of the professional looking photos, like the first two. Want to hire her? You are but one click away.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Why Every Mod Should Own A Tweed Jacket

Good news! Tweed jackets are not just made for professors. Mods can wear them too! Luckily, I am both a Mod and a teacher. With cold weather upon us, it's the perfect time to take them out of the cedar chest and check for moth holes.

We are all familiar with the rough, closely woven wool but I was curious to know how prevalent and popular tweed was with the original 60s Mods. So I started my own little investigation. Without saying that tweed jackets were widespread, some adopted the look and that was confirmed by a few comments I got from first generation Mods on Facebook.

This photo was taken in July 1964 at The Scene Club in London. Is this original Mod dancing his heart out doing The Monkey wearing tweed? Some might argue that he is, although July might be a tad warm to wear tweed.

Take original Mod Del Evans for instance. He had this suit custom made in 1964 and according to his wife Gil: 
"In general in Birmingham there weren't a lot of Mods wearing tweed. Del was able to have all his clothes tailor made as he had a well paid job and so he could go with the more unusual. Del also had a Hardy Amies Black Irish Tweed Ghillie Collar jacket as worn by John Steed in The Avengers. "

How much more debonair can you be? Del is wearing a perfectly fitted tailor made 4-button suit and a walking stick to add some panache.

This photo of Dell was taken in 1963 when he was 17. Gill explains:

"We had been to France and Italy as we took our fashion inspiration from them, that is why we called ourselves Continentalists. 
We noticed that there was tweed and lambswool being worn and we asked about it. They said they liked the Britishness about it. Del is wearing black and white tweed trousers which were part of a suit that he designed and had made-to-mesure. The tailored jacket had black leather on the upper part of the collar. The tailor tought it was very avant-garde. We don't have a photo unfortunately.
The jumper is lambswool in light grey marl worn with a black and white gingham shirt. The cuff links are Georg Jensen. I had bought them for his birthday and he still has them."
But Continentalist men were not the only ones wearing tweed. Women were too. Trend setter Gill was not about to be outshined by her husband. This photo was taken in 1965. Gill has designed the suit herself. Here is how she describes it.

"It was Harris Tweed and when I bought the fabric, it came with a Harris Tweed label to sew into it. The jacket was a dusky lilac plain knobbly tweed and the skirt and lapels on the jacket were a flatter wave tweed in a slightly deeper lilac with a deeper pinky purple outline check."

"Back in the Original Mod days, it was important to have the perfect accessories with the suit. I had a purple skinny ribbed sweater, a black pill-box hat and black patent shoes. I also had black keyhole gloves that I am not wearing in the photo.
I had another Harris Tweed suit in 1963 but I do not have a photo of it. That one was a knobbly tweed in a deep mulberry and black mix. It had a long-line jacket with a high lapel and 4 buttons. The skirt was a straight A-line."

"In this photo, I'm wearing a suit I designed in tweed. It was a deep clover pink and had a straight A-line skirt. The jacket was a longer line and quite fitted with a stand up collar. It fastened with loops and high-ball covered buttons. I wore it with a black skinny rib jumper and black patent shoes."
Robert Nicholls, a London Mod in the 60s, mentions wearing tweed blazers in a very informative article on the Mod Generation website. "I often wore linen or tweed sports jackets with deep vents, and shirts with Nehru collars, light woollen Fred Perry shirts, and lightweight sweaters." It's worth having a read at the full piece. You can find it here.

Scan for the 60s Carnaby Street shop The Modern Man catalog. A tweed jacket with detachable epaulettes?  That might be too much, even for me.

Rod "The Mod" Stewart has alluded to wearing tweed in a retrospective interview for the BBC in 2013. He said: "Me mom and dad burnt me beatnik outfit so I became a Mod. [...] I like tweed, you know, the country gentleman appearance appeals to me a lot."

Now, if you're looking for THE brand that is synonymous with tweed, than you need to remember but one name: Harris.

Eaton catalog 1965 summer collection
Eaton catalog 1967 summer collection
On the Harris Tweed website I found an interesting quote: "Come the 1960s even the less business like youth look it to heart, Mods on their Vespa scooters, wearing the jacket with jeans and boots to buck tradition and re-appropriate a fabric that was reserved primarily for the most respectable members of society and by the 70s and 80s its place in the lexicon of style was assured, a must-have staple for any man worth his salt."

Sean Connery wearing a tweed herringbone jacket in the movie Marnie

Did you know that there's only around 130 weavers in the world that are trained to produce Harris Tweed? Made in the Outer Herbrides of Scotland, despite all of today's technological advances, it's still made by hand. That's true artisanal craftsmanship if you ask me. 

1968 Eaton catalog

The strict guidelines that dictate the production is even protected by the Harris Tweed Act of Parliament of 1993. So the next time you slip into that Harris Tweed jacket, you will realize just how special it is.

Mod favourite brands like Fred Perry, Baracuta, Gloverall, Clarks and Dr. Marten have also capitalized on Harris Tweed's sudden resurgence in popularity. In my opinion, the results have been mixed.

I find this modern take on the classic Harrington quite refreshing.

The classic Duffle coat, praised by many Modernists has also been subjected to the Harris treatment. I find the updated look quite interesting.

But when it comes to incorporating tweed in footwear, I'm sorry but I'll pass.

Some of my contemporaries find the look a bit too "agricultural". I, on the other hand, like it. For many it's too closely associated with fishing, hunting or shooting. I see it as a classic, timeless piece that should be in any gentleman's wardrobe. It has long been established that the Mod look has sourced a lot of its inspiration from the Ivy League style. And how much more Ivy can you get than tweed?

King-Size 1965 summer catalog
The beauty of a tweed jacket is that it can be worn casually with jeans, an open button-down shirt and desert boots or you can opt for a more dressed up, formal look with a tie and a pair of pressed wool trousers.

Eaton 1968 summer catalog

If you're in the market for a vintage jacket that has a classic Mod cut, you can scour the Internet or visit your local second hand shops in the hopes of finding that needle in the hay stack. Putting your hands on a 3-button jacket with small lapels that fits well is not an easy task. Don't despair, your efforts will be rewarded.

Summer 1965 collection

If I was going for a 2-button number, this jacket found on Etsy would probably be the one. Obvious tag aside, the great blending of colours is enough to sway the most die hard of Mods.

If your search turns up empty, you can always turn to the new. But expect to pay a pretty penny. They do not come cheap. This Harris tweed jacket from Gibson of London has some nice features like patch pockets and cuff straps. It can be worn as a 60s 3-button single breasted blazer or fastened to the top and worn as a 5-button military style jacket. You'll find a few designs on the Atom Retro website.

Now feast your eyes on these beauties! These one-offs are the creations of Claudio De Rossi from DNA Groove. If you want to put your hands on one, you better act quickly because they are going to fly off the rack.

Rust brown herringbone patterned heavy weight tweed made by Magee from luxury house Comeliani
Brown, burgundy and green large multi check - Heavy weight tweed made by Magee from luxury house Comeliani
Beige with sky blue Prince of Wales check - Soft tweed made by Magee from luxury house Comeliani

The choice of colour blends of tweed are quasi limitless. Patterns vary between the popular herringbone, the widespread windowpane, classic houndstooth, basic twill and traditional tartan. Here are a few examples from my wardrobe.

Well, that's all the arguments I could come up with to persuade you that every Mod should own a tweed jacket. Convinced yet?

I want to thank Gill Evans for her insight and the permission to use her photos. Make sure to pay her a visit on the ModTogs Facebook page.