I discovered the mod subculture back in 2006, when I was still in junior year of high school. Owning a sharp suit and wearing it on a daily basis was the best dream for the 16-year-old me – at least, back then.
Years passed; I left high school and went to college, got my undergraduate degree, and landed my first job. Along the way, I discovered that dressing like a mod was not only wearing a suit jacket, dress shirt, and trousers matched with a proper necktie. There were a lot of other looks that fit the mod style perfectly!
I managed to build up my current wardrobe in time—based on some key mod pieces. Interestingly, my father and I almost have the same fashion sense. I get a shirt or a pair of pants that Dad used to own, but no longer fits him anymore. Today’s post features eight key wardrobe pieces in the mod wardrobe.
The checkered (check) shirt takes its design from the tartan patterns seen in the kilts of Scotsmen. A similar design can be found in madras shirts, which are made from lighter fabric. Outside the United Kingdom, the checkered flannel shirt is a favorite of American woodcutters and outdoorsmen. The check shirt is part of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s casual yet no-nonsense look: paired off with khakis or jeans and slip-on loafers. The button-down variant is a mod and skinhead favorite, with brands like Ben Sherman still making them up until today.
What started out as a tennis garment made popular by Frenchman René Lacoste has earned a special place in the hearts of mods everywhere. He designed the polo shirt after feeling frustrated by the stiffness of the tennis uniform back in the day. Facilitating easy movement, the polo shirt is perfect for those who want to go casual – yet still retain an air of formality. The iconic Fred Perry buttoned-up polo, jeans, and trainers look has been a trademark for mods who want to keep it simple.
Cheap, practical, and available: these three words describe the Model 1951 fishtail parka favored by mods who rode Vespa and Lambretta scooters. They could be purchased at army surplus shops and customized by simply sewing patches on them. It was large enough to be worn over a suit, and reliable enough to protect against dirt and cold. In his work Folk Devils and Moral Panics, sociologist Stanley Cohen mentioned that the image of someone wearing a fur-trimmed anorak (another name for the parka) riding an Italian scooter elicited negative reactions.
Named after Rodney Harrington from the American soap opera Peyton Place, this jacket’s influence goes beyond the United States. Famous wearers include James Dean, Steve McQueen, and Daniel Craig among others—elevating it to a signature piece that any man should have. Skinheads, which are later offshoots of the mod culture, appear to favor this jacket. Harringtons also figure in the Shane Meadows film This Is England, set in the United Kingdom during the 1980s.
Originally worn by cowboys and miners in the Old West, Levi Strauss would be glad to know that the trousers made of denim fabric he conceptualized is now a symbol of everyday utilitarian wear. Its popularity and ubiquity is proven in how it matches with various tops and outerwear. Mods and skinheads lean towards slim-cut and skinny jeans, pairing them with desert boots or Dr. Marten’s work boots. The cuffs are usually folded or “turned up” to expose socks in contrasting colors.
Khaki pants take their name from the Urdu word for soil. Consequently, the British used it as a uniform for the native Indian regiments – thus its roots from the military. American troops brought the style home from the Spanish-American War, but named differently as chinos. These are prevalently seen with a front crease and turned-up hems. Khakis, being colored with earth tones, match a lot of other colors—making it a versatile piece for any mod outfit.
The desert boot traces its history to Clarks, a British cordwainer (shoemaker). It was based on suede boots worn by British officers assigned in the hot deserts of Egypt, which was also modeled from veldskoen footwear used by Boers in South Africa. The boots slowly saw action from the fields of Africa to the streets of London. The movie Quadrophenia, which shows the mods and rockers conflict, captures desert boot-wearing mods during the 1960s beach-side riots.
Dr. Marten’s boots
German doctor Klaus Märtens was the genius behind this boot, after suffering an ankle injury. Seeing that the army boots of his time did not take too kindly of his sprain, he improved on the design to make it more comfortable. Ever since that, many from all walks of life have worn this pair—from blue-collar workers to punk enthusiasts. A steel-toe version, often called a bovver boot, was a favorite of football hooligans. Both Trojan (non-racist) and white power skinheads wear these boots with slim pants, cuffs turned up to expose the footwear’s entirety.
To sum up, let me just say that no one is required to buy all of these just to have a mod wardrobe. Many people may have all of this, and in a similar manner, many only have one or two pieces from this list. But that’s the good thing about it – mods of yesteryears mixed and matched their clothes, and still pulled off a sharp look at the end of the day.
Until the next post, keep the faith!