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60 Second Guide - The Parka Jacket


The parka jacket is both a subculture classic and a winter wardrobe staple. It first appeared on British shores when the Mods reclaimed them from army surplus stores in the 1950s – but the origins of the jacket can be traced back much further.

The first parka came from Canada. Invented by the native Caribou Inuit, it was originally crafted from the oiled skins of seal or reindeer. The hood of the jacket – one of its key features – helped to protect the wearer’s face from the freezing winter winds and sub-zero temperatures.

Later, the basic parka jacket style was adopted by the American Military, who used it to combat the freezing weather conditions faced by the US army in the Korean War of 1951. Taking reference from the Inuits’ version, it evolved into the more familiar fishtail parka, which is the shape that modern day variations are still based on.

There were four main styles of fishtail parka; the EX-48, M-48, M-51 and the M-65 (the M standing for military). The EX-48 and M-48 jackets were of extremely high quality and their high cost meant that they were only in production for about a year.

The M-51 is the classic fishtail parka jacket, and the shape that still inspires most versions today. It’s an iconic piece of outerwear, and key features that still appear on modern interpretations include a detachable lining, a fur-trim detachable hood and a long ‘fishtail at the back – hence the name.

Nobody knows exactly why this technical military jacket became adopted by the British Mod movement in the late 1950s and early 60s, but there are many theories. The most likely seems to be that the jacket was actually very practical for riding scooters. Available at a cheap price from army surplus stores, the M-51 parka jacket was an exceptionally high-quality jacket, designed to brave the elements. 

Another major appeal in the M-51 Parka was that they were worn by nobody else. Image was integral to the Mod movement, and wearing something entirely different from the crowd held strong appeal.

The jackets quickly became customised – Union Jack flags, scooter-club patches and badges, music references and RAF targets were pinned, stitched and ironed on. Stamping a very British element to a military piece evolved the parka into a subculture staple.

The jacket is an iconic piece of Mod uniform, gaining notoriety after the news reports of the infamous seaside riots of 1964, and then later appearing on the cover of The Who’s defining ‘Quadrophenia’ album and the classic British film of the same name.


Image above - still from "Quadrophenia"

The parka remains a winter wardrobe staple to this day and remains a key shape throughout our own jacket collection this season. 

Thanks to Alain Bibal

Quadrophenia: A Way of Life (Inside the Making of Britain’s Greatest Youth Film)

"Look, I don't wanna be the same as everybody else. That's why I'm a mod, see? I mean, you gotta be somebody, ain't ya, or you might as well jump in the sea and drown."

It’s 35 years since Quadrophenia, the iconic Mod cult film, hit the world’s cinema screens. The film follows the story of Jimmy Cooper, a London Mod, disillusioned by his parents and his job as a post room boy in an advertising firm. Jimmy’s search for identity is portrayed against the backdrop of 60s Brighton and the May Bank Holiday riots, as the film perfectly captures teenage angst and the need to belong and identify with your peers.

By late 1978, a new generation had become bored with the punk explosion. The commercialisation of its original ideals, along with the failure of second-generation punk bands, all contributed to the decline of punk.  A fresh approach was needed, and British youth looked back to the 60s for inspiration. The late 70s saw The Jam emerge onto the scene. Paul Weller, the suit-wearing, self-confessed Mod who played fast and furious 60s style rock fused with Punk ethos and edge.

The Who’s 1973 album Quadrophenia got the ball rolling with the Mod Revival, but the film (released in 1979) caught the imagination of British youth. Quadrophenia made the Mod scene more accessible and exciting to a new generation of British kids. Considered wardrobes and dance moves, pushing slashed trousers, pins and zip addenda aside. That was then, this is now: Modernism future focused and refreshed. With Jimmy, the film’s protagonist wearing the Fred Perry shirt in the film, the pure and minimalist shirt naturally became a core part of the Mod revival wardrobe.

As the Mod Revival progressed into the 80s it receded and went underground. All-nighters, scooters and amphetamines became a way of life in the harsh environment of the early 80s post-industrial Britain. As mainstream music labels looked to cash in on the ‘scene’, the Mods looked back to music with meaning. Soul music started to return to record collections, with bands such as Secret Affair covering old Soul records such as “Going to a Go-Go” by Smokey Robinson.

The Mod Revival was mutating and splintering – like all true British Subcultures. Just as it was acknowledged by the mainstream, it altered and changed its appearance and approach. The unique chameleon ability of British youth, to look the establishment square in the eye and subvert it.

The movement now embraced a variety of influences, alongside its obsession with sharp clothes and 60s style. Giving working class youth an opportunity to make a statement about their self-belief. The revivalist Mods, and the Quadrophenia film, redefined a culture that lives on today. Clean living in difficult circumstances.

Published by Countdown Books earlier this year, Quadrophenia: A Way of Life explores the making of the cult mod flick and its subsequent influence on popular culture. The book features interviews with principal cast members, along with director Franc Roddam, scriptwriter Martin Stellman and other involved in the creation of the film, it is the definitive account of Britain’s greatest cult movie, as well as the embodiment of the 70s Mod Revival.

You can order Simon Wells' "Quadrophenia: A Way of Life" from Countdown Books, along with their other excellent titles dealing with British Subcultures of the Twentieth Century.

Images: (Top) We are the Mods - Toyah Wilcox, Sting, Phil Daniels and Leslie Ash in the iconic Mods and Rockers stand-off. (Middle) Cameras and crew brave the waves to shoot the infamous Bank Holiday Riot scene. (Bottom) Director Franc Rodddam on set.

All images courtesy of Countdown Books.

A 60 Second Guide To: Cycling Jerseys

Originally designed as a piece of performance wear, the humble cycling jersey has grown to represent over a century of stories and tales. 

The designs symbolise a moment in time - a particular team, a significant race, an epic battle, a sporting hero. Some jerseys become iconic and sought after pieces of memorabilia, earning themselves a place in the 'hall of design classics'.

Jersey design has continuously developed over the years, team sponsorship alongside technological advances in materials have both played a part in the evolution - however some features remain unchanged.

Contrast Panel Cycling Shirt - Bradley Wiggins AW13 Collection

Typically the back hem is scooped, to help keep the rider's back covered whilst bent over in racing position. The back of the shirt also features a combination of fastened and open pockets - it would be no good having them on the front of the body as the contents would fall out mid-ride. A long zip fastening to the front can be opened to allow for ventilation.  

The cuts are traditionally slim and long, helping to reduce air resistance and allowing the fabric to 'perform'; wicking the moisture it needs to sit close to the skin. Sponsors will use a combination of print, embroidery or applique to showcase their names - colours, panels and tipping combinations become synonymous with specific teams.

Contrast Sleeve Cycling Shirt - Bradley Wiggins AW13 Collection 
During the late 1950s, jerseys worn by road riding style icons such as Tom Simpson and Jacques Anquetil made their way from performance wear to streetwear. Slim fitting and full of continental allure, the designs held huge appeal for the jazz loving modernists of that time. The fact that many of the shirts were crafted in merino wool was an added bonus – the breathable fabric was perfect for keeping fresh after a spot of all night dancing. Designs from this period have long continued to be a mainstay of the mod casual wardrobe.

This season's Bradley Wiggins Collection characteristically references jerseys from the Golden Age of cycling. Elements of vintage shirts are explored and blended with signature Fred Perry details, twin tipping colours lifted into colour block panels, a champion inspired stripe knitted into cuffs. Bradley has been involved in each and every stage of the design process, bringing his own ideas, inspirations and style and in turn, each shirt in the collection comes to to tell a story. 

See this season's Bradley Wiggins Collection online and in shops now.