Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Italian Knit - When Mod Goes Casual

When the suit and tie stays in the closet, the knit comes out. I couldn't think of another piece of clothing that can make a statement without being too formal. It can be worn with a simple pair of jeans, some smart Sta-Prest's or classy dress trousers. Your imagination is your only limit. It's versatile to say the least.

The Small Faces looking at knitwear on Carnaby Street. Photo by Tony Gale

The title of this post says "Italian Knit" but in reality, this fully buttoned shirt is as much an American thing as a continental European design. Since the 60s, it has adorned Jazz and Soul musicians, Ivy Leagers and Mods alike.

Stevie Wonder's trombone player sure knows how to jazz up an outfit.

The choice of colours and the variety of stripes and patterns is what makes it so appealing. I could include all types of knits and fabrics in this post but I'll focus on a certain look. Yes, a 3 or 4 button shirt could be considered a Mod knit, like this perfect example worn by Steve Marriott, but I'll put the accent on the collared cardigan type knitwear like the one above.

In the last 10 years, we have seen the resurgence of these bold and vibrant examples. You want to be a true modernist and only wear something new? You will be well served. Retailers like Gabicci,  David WattsArt Gallery, Jump The Gun offer a range of knitwear that will suit your fancy.

Eric, on the right, is wearing a soft Merino knit from Art Gallery

Shops like Mendoza also sell some high quality knitwear but you can expect to pay a premium. You may have to pay more but you can be assured that you won't show up at a Sunday afternoon scooter ride with someone wearing the same cardigan as you. They have a very limited run of each of their designs.

Quality is synonymous with Mendoza.

The new player on the scene is Connection Knitwear and Accessories. Run by my mate Daniele, I  have very high hopes for his future collections. As soon as I saw this one, I bought it before they ran out. Take it from me, this is well made.

When I asked Daniele to describe his knits, this is what he had to say: "The inspiration is clearly derived from 1950s and 1960s Italian knitwear. We wanted not only to reproduce a style we've always been fond of, but give it our personal touch, adding a twist via the color schemes, the quality of materials and the care of details. The same attention to quality and style will guide us in the development of the next collections."

Eric's bold choice of socks makes the colours of his Connection knit pop even more.

It's no secret, I love vintage clothes. This applies to knitwear too. 

Scan from the King-Size catalog - Summer '65

The only true way to have something unique that nobody else has, is to go down the second-hand route. For this, you need a lot of patience, a discerning eye and luck.

I don't mind paying the same price for a vintage piece as I would for a new one, as long as it's deadstock or in a pristine condition. Be selective and you will be rewarded in the long run.

I found this one on the net in an unworn condition. It was worth every penny. Make sure you know your measurements well before making a purchase. These vintage knits were customarily  shorter compared to the contemporary versions.

Etsy, eBay and Facebook are some the best places to find vintage knits online. Watch the Cloth Moth is one of my favorite places to go on Facebook. Brands like Campus and Towncraft by JC Penneys were popular brands in the 60s. You might want to use these words in your searches.

A nice example of a vintage Towncraft.

Parka Avenue's tip of the day: A lot of these knits are also popular with Rockabillies. Don't be afraid and use it as a tag for your searches on eBay and Etsy. I won't tell anyone.

Long sleeves, short sleeves, heavy wool, Merino, acrylic ; you'll find a version of these Mod essentials for every season.

When a Mod goes casual, it doesn't mean he pays any less attention to his appearance. He will put as much thought and effort in his choice of shirt, accessories, shoes, all the way down to his socks, whether he wears these types of knits or not. That's just what a Mod is.

George Best in 1966
The Impressions
Mel Carter in 1966
I want to thank the very talented and professional photographer Simon Laroche for most of the photos seen in this post. Not only did he manage to make us look decent (not an easy task!) but he was a pleasure to work with. You can see more of his work in the post I wrote about spending the day with 6 beautiful pin-up models. You can get in touch with him through his Facebook page here.


  1. Isn't Connection knitwear made from a 50/50 cotton/poly mix? Rather than a quality cotton?

    1. I asked Daniele from Connection and here's his response: "Our knits are made of a 50/50 cotton/acrylic because a percentage of synthetic helps to give more rigidity, crispness, wrinkle resistance and durability to the fabric, expecially when we put different textures on the same shirt (like in The Vanguard) and especially when there's a lot of tailoring and sewing involved (again the Vanguard is a fitting example).

      The Autumn/Winter knits will be in 100% merino wool because different styles require different material and different making processes to grant the best results."

    2. Thanks, think I'll stick to Sea Island cotton knits though. Wash and dry Smedleys properly and you never get problems. Theres cheap cotton and theres good cotton, they should have put a little bit of silk in the mix. I'll keep an eye out for their 100 wool stuff.

  2. Great post, brother! Excellent photos. Thanks for sharing!


    1. It's a vintage piece. Your best bet would be eBay or Etsy. Good luck.

  4. Dear Patrick,

    We looking for several of these knitwear that is posted above in this page of your blog. can you please please please assistt as to where we can purchase them. I will really appreacite your assistance.

    1. I will have to simply quote this very article and say: "Etsy, eBay and Facebook are some the best places to find vintage knits online. Watch the Cloth Moth is one of my favorite places to go on Facebook. Brands like Campus and Towncraft by JC Penneys were popular brands in the 60s. You might want to use these words in your searches."

  5. Hey Patrick, What exactly should I search for on Ebay to find this style of knit? I tried searching Italian Knit, but nothing related came up.

    1. Hi Anthony! Like I mentioned in the post, a tip is to put "Rockabilly" in your search. If not, patience is the rule of law. Putting "50s", "60s", "Mad Men", "Rat Pack" can help too. JC Penny also made many of these knits. Once you found one you like, take note of the maker and use the name in the search. Hope this helps. Good luck!