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How the Mods modelled the world: Part one

Rob Stares

From music to race, the mods paved the way for big changes in Britain. Find out how below...

Bradley Wiggins
Arise Sir Bradley? ...Wiggins is bound to be in contention for a knighthood. Photo: Brendan Ryan

TOUR de France champion and self-confessed ‘mod’ Bradley Wiggins has claimed the gold medal for Team GB in the cycling time trial - but what is a ‘mod’? GB Mag is here to show you five moments that revolutionised the sixties:


The mod (meaning ‘modernist’) subculture emerged in London in the late 1950’s, before exploding across the UK and beyond throughout the 60’s. With a heavy reliance on music, fashion, motor scooters (and to a lesser extent, drugs – usually amphetamines to keep them dancing), young mods were some of the first teenagers the world had seen – before then, you were either a child or an adult.


Less than a decade after the end of World War II, Britain was prospering again. The teenage mods were some of the first young adults to have money to spend on leisure activities, with the mods taking their stylish influences from dandies, beatnicks and teddy boys in the UK and French and Italian tailoring from further afield.

The Who - I Can't Explain

Check out the dress code in the video for early mod and beatnick clothing. Beatnicks were known for their turtleneck shirts and berets.

Specialist boutique shops opened in Kings Road and Carnaby Street in London, paving the way for revolutionary changes in clothing. Male mods were also more accepting of gender equality, with women given far more freedom to express themselves. The mod age saw the birth of the mini-skirt by Mary Quant, while a few men and women were happy to experiment with different hair and make-up routines (including big sideburns like Wiggo’s), much to their parents’ horror (especially if they were male).

Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner and Matt Helders have adopted a fashion style that mimics the 'teddy boy' look and the 1950's American 'greaser', as seen in R U Mine?

The men wore skinny ties, sharp suits, cashmere sweaters and pointed ‘winkle picker’ shoes and shopped for British labels such as Ben Sherman and Fred Perry. The women had iconic models such as Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy to look up to for their fashion fantasies.

Shrimpton (left) is regarded as the world's first supermodel, while Twiggy (right) became the face of a generation. Photos: James Vaughan, Laura Loveday


Another key piece of any discerning mod’s wardrobe was the parka jacket – an essential piece of kit when riding around on Vespa or Lambretta scooters.  It kept their bodies warm, and their clothes pristine.

Mods loved these scooters because they were cheap, stylish and clean – unlike motorbikes, the entire engine is covered, meaning that their trendy new clothes wouldn’t get covered in oil and grease!

More importantly, it gave young boys and girls a newfound independence, meaning that they could travel where they liked, when they liked. Cars were still an expensive purchase, so scooters were ideal.

It’s easy to spot a traditional mod scooter due to all of the mirrors attached to it! The Government made it a legal requirement for scooters to be fitted with one mirror. With that in mind, the mods went mirror mad – it wasn’t uncommon to see scooters whizzing along with 30 mirrors bolted to the front.

Click here for our final piece on all things mod.

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