Quite often you can hear the mantra sounding something like fashion tends to repeat itself from time to time. It seems, that the best evidence to that is the designers collecting inspiration from previous generations by adapting their looks to the present ones. And one of the most powerful inspirational sources here is deriving from various youth subcultures.
The definition of subculture
Starting with the definition of subculture itself, it can be referred to “a cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture” (Oxford Reference). It also always has a limited lifespan. Nowadays, subcultures practically don’t even get a chance to exist. Sadly, but it seems that they have given the floor to fashion trends instead. Moreover, they are being embedded within consumerism and social media where they essentially become just a part of a larger culture.
Nevertheless, analyzing previous subcultures are very useful and inspiring. Subcultures help to understand current waves of fashion, music, visual arts, etc. from various perspectives. Each subculture has its own social beliefs and values, as well as an influential artist or even a few of them, whose appearance usually serves as one of the main tools to make a statement.
By introducing mod subculture, it is important to mention that it was a youth subculture born in post-war Britain in the early 60s. During the early stages of economic booming, mods were independent and self-maintained teens. They wanted to distance themselves from the way their parents had lived and rejected the “old-fashioned” British and class system culture, which they were surrounded by.
Music and club culture
Music and club culture were very influential on mods, as regards both their mental, as well as visual attitudes, and self-expression. The term Modernist derives from Modern Jazz – the music of choice for the early mods. However, besides Modern Jazz, the music scene of mods also consisted of R&B, psychedelic rock, and soul. Black American servicemen, stationed in Britain during the early part of the Cold War, brought over R&B and soul records, which had been unavailable in Britain before. In the mid-sixties, bands, such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who, The Small Faces, which in the United Kingdom was the so-called “British invasion”, played a major role in mods subculture.
The clubbing culture was very much on hype too. The youth used to gather at all-night clubs to hear the latest records and show off their dance moves. With all-night dances at clubs, a notable part of the mod subculture was addicted to the recreational amphetamine usage. Drugs were still legal in Britain in the early 1960s.
Against gender norms
Style of mods and their appearance became the symbol of their social beliefs and mirrored the changing Britain. In the 60s, during the mods period, London was basically the center of fashion. Many designers settled their boutiques in London, either in Carnaby Street or King’s Road districts. Mods were obsessed with fashion. Despite the fact that the majority of mods were youth, the expenditure on clothes was very high. Mods were the first ones to bring consumerism amongst younger audiences. The main accents in mods fashion were well-tailored slim-fit suits and sophisticated looks. Vespa’s scooters – super popular, because they were a symbol of Italian style. A lot of attention was paid to color blocking, in contrast to black, white, red, or blue colors. Geometric patterns and a combination of lines similar to the English flag, as well as optical illusions in clothes, were also on the go.
Male and female mods often went against gender norms. Some male mods were doing that by using eyeshadow, eye-pencil, or a lipstick. Female mods – by wearing straight-silhouette short dresses or even male pants and shirts. Females liked short haircuts and little makeup only highlighting their eyes. Model Twiggy was seen as mods’ style icon in those days. As for males, the members of The Who band were the main dictators of style.
All in all, mods subculture brought fashion as a crucial driving force for the younger audiences, liberated androgynous looks, and destroyed the British class system culture through black American music and lifestyle. Mods lifestyle and appearance soon spread all over the world. Even in today’s fashion, we can recognize looks inspired by the mods subculture.