Despite it’s status as a ‘youth cult’, the average age of the Mod scene has never been higher than it is today. The ‘over 30s’ are returning in their droves. Claudia Elliott asks ‘can you be too old to be a mod?’
Did anyone think they were going to be a mod in their 30s?
I didn’t. When asked, I often say ‘I don’t call myself a mod any more’ because I know there’s something slightly sad about clinging to a youth culture when I’m no longer a youth.
But the embarrassment doesn’t stop me and many others, wearing the clothes, going to clubs and buying the music.
Just when you think it’s all over, the ‘dirty 30s brigade’ have been returning to the scene in droves. Cute snapshots of the kids on Dad’s Lammy have replaced the pics of readers’ girlfriends in Scootering magazine. And, contrary to its ‘moddy boy’ image, The Merc’s core customer is between 30 and 40 years old.
It’s part of the 21st century phenomenon of extended youth. If you’d been around in the Sixties, by the time you were 30 your life would have been over. You would have been considered hopelessly square and certainly too old to set foot in a club. And if you were female, chances are you would have been too busy running around after your teenage kids to go anywhere.
The fear of being laughed at by younger mods assumes paranoid proportions, not least because I remember what a little snit I was at that age. As a 17-year-old mod, my biggest fear was ending up like ‘Les’. This poor unfortunate had been a mod since the 1964 bank holiday riots and doggedly remained one right through the Seventies, while all his mates grew out of it, got married and did grown up things like strimming the lawn on Sundays. Les, meanwhile, clung to his parka and beret and stayed at home with his mum, which is where he was at age 29 when Cambridge fanzine editor Paul Sawtell discovered him in the mid-Eighties. I’m ashamed to say that among our merciless clique the name ‘Les’ became a byword for ‘sad old loser’.
A selective memory is, therefore, an essential part of being a Third Age mod. This enables us to stand around in clubs carping that it’s not as good as it used to be.
Many would argue that the mod look as we knew it has all but vanished and been replaced by ‘Austin Powers’ gladrags. Certainly, in my day, if you’d turned up at a mod allnighter wearing hot pants or a polyester mini dress you would have been the scorn of the girls’ loos for being so tacky and obvious.
In the Eighties, mods stood out against the Kajagoogoo lookalikes and Tears for Fears dross that was in the charts. Today mod is in the public domain like never before: Jamie Oliver’s scooter, the Lock Stock lads with their ‘suited and booted’ look. I spotted a shop in Covent Garden, appropriately named Dupe, flogging button-round ‘Mod’ shirts for 85 quid. I’m quite confident they wouldn’t know a mod if one bit them on the backside.
But it’s easy to get carried away by the good old days and overlook the low points of the Eighties – Mod Aid, Eleanor Rigby, the violent split with scooterists.
The internet has given the scene a new lease of life and somehow it keeps evolving.
Some of us worry about how much longer we’ll be able to carry on as mods without ending up like Teds on their rock’n’roll weekends. So, for ageing scenesters everywhere, here’s a consoling thought: Paul Weller will always be older than any of us.