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What is the Mod Subculture?

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  • 0:03 The Subculture of Modernism
  • 1:06 History of the Mod Subculture
  • 2:45 Mod Party Scene & Music
  • 4:03 Modern & Sophisticated Fashon
  • 5:20 Mods vs Rockers
  • 5:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

In this lesson you'll learn the definition, history, activities, music preference, and style of dress of the mod subculture. You will also learn about the clash of mod and rocker subcultures.

The Subculture of Modernism

Modern. Cosmopolitan. Cool. Popular. These are some words that characterize the mod subculture, which was a youth subculture established post World War II in London, England. It was comprised of teens from working-class families who were trying to transcend the mundane, traditional, old-fashioned customs of the 1950s and adopt a more exciting, expensive, fashionable, and social lifestyle.

These nonconformist youth were jaded about strict moral, gender and behavioral norms and rules. The mod scene was a way for them to escape, rebel, and exert their independence from older generations and family obligations.

Because of the economic prosperity of England after the war, many youth of working-class families no longer needed to contribute their earnings to the household income. Mods used this disposable income to buy some of the iconic components of the subculture: fashionable, tailor-made suits, amphetamines (or speed), and Italian scooters.

History of the Mod Subculture

As the first industrialized nation of the world, it is fitting that Britain was the birthplace of this modern subculture. It emerged in the late 1950s, but peaked in the 1960s with youth of working-class families tired of the discriminatory class system in Britain and trying to escape factory life.

The youth wanted to give off the impression of sophistication by wearing expensive clothing. They valued leisure over work and enjoyed clubbing and doing drugs. In 1963, the hit British show Ready Steady Go! was popular amongst mods, as it featured popular musicians. In 1966, a club called 'Tiles' became known as the official mod club.

There was a distinct decline of the mod scene in 1966 due to commercialization. Mods valued uniqueness and individuality, and the growing popularity made it more mainstream and less cool. In addition, many former mods joined the rock and hippie scenes in the 70s. The Who, a band that started off as mod, changed their musical approach more towards rock. The original generation of mods were getting married and having babies and did not have the time or money for the lifestyle they once enjoyed.

There were several mod revivals in the past few decades. One was in 1979 with the film Quadrophenia (inspired by The Who's 6th studio album), and by mod bands like Secret Affair, Purple Hearts, and The Chords. In the early 1980s, there was a mod revival in the United States influenced by bands such as The Untouchables. There was notable mod influence on bands such as The Verve and Oasis in the British pop scene in the 1990s.

Mod Party Scene & Music

Mods enjoyed a heavy social and party life. They congregated in coffee shops that were open all night long. These coffee shops had jukeboxes for dancing to jazz, blues, and R&B music. Amphetamines were the drug of choice.

Cars were expensive for these working-class youth, so mods rode sophisticated, Italian-made scooters, such as Vespas or Lambrettas. These scooters also gave mods independence from their parents. When England passed a law mandating that scooters have at least one mirror so that the driver could see behind them, mods added multiple mirrors and lights to their scooters to embellish and accessorize.

Mods enjoyed popular music. They gravitated away from 1950s music of artists such as Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. They were attracted to modern jazz. Key mod musicians were David Bowie, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. The Who was one of the most famous mod bands. Small Faces was a mod band established in 1965. They were heavily influenced by American R & B.

Hard mods, or skinheads, were mods with shaved heads that grew up in poor neighborhoods among black youth in South London. They enjoyed emulating the African-American culture and listening to early reggae, Jamaican ska, and soul music.

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