Fashion & Culture: The Mods - Where Did They Come From?
by Kane Western
Far apart from the golden age of 1950's America, 1950's Britain was still on rations, and struggling to get over the devastation suffered in World War II. However, for the British youth a new dawn was rising. Thanks to full employment and hire purchase and a new found freedom from National Service, the British youth was on their own two feet with money in their pocket and they wanted everybody to know about. A new movement known as the "teddy boys" was emerging across the UK, influenced by American Rock ‘n’ Roll and as Bill Haley's cult movie "Rock Around The Clock" premiered in the Trocadero in London's Elephant and Castle followed by outrage from the British establishment and joyous riots from the youths, the Ted movement was now alive and kicking.
Ever eager for a scoop, the press did not fail to capitalise on this new front page fodder. Soon the violence, and imminent danger that the Teddy Boys posed to British society was all over the front pages. From the prime minister to the archbishop, the British establishment was in turmoil as they watched their once dutiful youths turn into unruly wild cats. Whether much of this was by natural progression or greatly fuelled by the press, the outcome was a rough, dangerous youth movement that was loving every minute in the limelight and indeed acting up to it.
The teddy boys were here and soon the music makers and fashion retailers caught on to a new and untapped market. Very soon, commercial Rock’n’Roll was being slopped out and Teddy Boy fashions were on the high street and every kid wanted a quiff and a flick-knife. Thus, almost as quick as they had come, they were burnt out by their own famed notoriety and at now at odds with themselves for becoming everything they despised, just another high street fad, the Teds were gone.
By late 1950’s the original teddy boys were no more, broken up into various sub cultures, most fell by the wayside but two major groups remained and grew from the ruins of what was once the Teddy Boys to become the “Ton Up Boys” and the “Coffee Bar Cats”:-
The “Ton Up Boys”, were those teddies that had held the motorcycle and American Rock’n’Roll as their foundations and now wore leather, big boots and rode British machines to and from various road side cafés.
The “Coffee Bar Cats” aspired to a more Latin look, and their neo Italian style appreciated modern jazz, ventless thin lapelled box suit jackets and they chose Italian scooters as the superior mode of transport for such well dressed Cats…
It’s not hard to figure how these late 50’s early 60’s sub culture’s and indeed underground fashions grew into the Mods and Rockers of the mid 60’s.
The Coffee Bar Cats felt they were the modern movement and the Ton Up Boys represented all that was gone and should remain buried in a pile of dirty bikes and dirty leathers. Hence as they grew and needed to encompass all their new members, they eventually termed themselves the Modernists and the Mods were born.
The “Ton Up Boys”, enjoying the same growth in numbers and being known for their love of Rock ‘n Roll found themselves becoming the Rockers.
Unsurprisingly the Rockers did not agree with the Modernist view of themselves as outdated and somehow lower class. They saw the Mods with their dandy dress, penchant for wearing eye-liner and popping pills at every opportunity as an insult to all that is British and macho.
The Rockers did not like the Mods and the Mods did not like the Rockers. The lines were drawn…..
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You can read more about British Pop Culture here.