Feature: Mods will always be with us

by Modculture 19 October, 2011

Martin Freeman

Martin Freeman

In an article that first appeared in the Independent newspaper and reproduced with the author’s permission, Dom Phillips argues that mod styling is everywhere – and can still look the part as you advance in years.

The mid-life crisis has hit my friend Dean in an unusual way. Dean is a photographer in his late thirties working for glossy magazines and broadsheets. But now he is spending his spare time on a personal style project, photographing ageing mods.

Dean has always dressed well, but his current look, a kind of upmarket 1970s suede-head thing with pronounced sideburns, harks back to his past as part of the 1980s mod scene in Swindon. The subjects he’s photographing now were all mods – his pictures aim to illustrate how this influences the way they dress today.

Forget the fishtail parka and scooter clichs. Mod is about well- styled, working-class aspiration with an obsessive attention to detail: the right shoes, records, shirts, everything. Dean finds mods everywhere. On assignment in LA once, he ended up at a dinner at Laurence Fishburne’s house and discovered that the Hollywood icon had ridden a scooter in his youth in an LA mod crew.

It could be that Dean is part of a wider trend – one that an article on Modculture dubs ‘third age mods’. Mods in their thirties are returning to the scene in droves, part of a wider phenomenon called ‘extended youth’. On the Modculture website, third age mods can even find mod holidays, such as renting an original Airstream caravan in France. How mod is that?

The wider argument is that British youth culture from the 1960s until today divides into two schools of thought. On one side, scruffy hippies with their overtly emotional records’ on the other, crisply attired mods with sharp, no-nonsense music. Coldplay are hippies, the Arctic Monkeys are mods.

Mod style is everywhere – look at Jamie Oliver with his camper van and scooter, or Preston from the Ordinary Boys. You can see it in this summer’s polo shirt epidemic and the Fred Perry revival. A wink of mod style works well for men in their thirties and forties, as Robert Elms or Martin Freeman (pictured) demonstrate. Just think detail not fishtail and you’ll be right on target.

Dom Phillips is creative consultant for oki-ni.com.