Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mod Gone Wrong: 'Austin Powers' Costume

One day, back in 1997, I was wasting time in the school's computer lab searching for random information on either Infoseek or Netscape (Google before there was Google, for those too young to remember). Somehow, I came across a news story that Mike Myers of Wayne's World was working on a film set in 1960s Carnaby Street. I couldn't believe it! Myers, who was comedy gold back then, was actually going to spend time, money, and energy on a Mod film! I got home and shared the news with my friends. We wondered if this film would get people excited about sixties Mod fashions and start a(nother) new... mod revival.

I'll never forget the day the film opened. I went to check it out with work friends and, despite the fact that it was a slapstick comedy, really dug it. Sure it was making fun of the sixties, but I thought it did that pretty well. No, this wouldn't be starting revivals of any sort, but it was great to see a period of Mod history I loved so much as the backdrop of a major film. Even if that whole scene lasted less than 5 minutes.

But then something strange happened. As I walked out of the theater, laughing with my friends, I started to notice people whispering and pointing at me. I didn't get it... was there something on me? Did I have popcorn in my hair? Was it... something... I was... wearing... ?

Oh no... it hit me. People thought I was dressed up for the film. They thought I was a part of the show. Little did I know, this was just the beginning of Austin Powers jokes to haunt me and my kind for years to come.

Thanks to this film and its sequel (which I'm proud to say I've NEVER seen), the phrases "Groovy, baby" and "Oh, behave!" would be heard over and over again. Local '60s dance clubs would be filled with brit-pop types, skinheads, Mods, and, yes, people dressed up as Austin Powers complete with fake teeth. Whenever I was cornered by someone not in the know and forced to explain what I was into, the response was generally, "Oh, like Austin Powers!"

And now, Austin Powers costumes are here to stay. For ever:
Relive the 1997 Halloween trend and go dressed as once-funny super spy Austin Powers.

The funny thing is that several years later I started noticing some Mods at world-wide events dressing in similar outfits.

Was it art imitating life or life imitating art? Whatever the answer, I just hope the fake teeth and "Shagadelic" phrases are left at home.


  1. I hated this film because I purchased a pair of Zyloware black framed glasses a few months before it came out and everyone everywhere was calling me Austin Powers. I think Eddie Piller once quipped "I hate those 60's nights with all those Austin Powers mods.....". Let's face it, those flicks have done more damage to modernism, esp. the more mid/late 60's styled slanted types than 100 "Quadrophenia"'s, and worst of all, Myers claims he was a mod once! "Was?".

  2. I liked the movie too, and I thought it portrayed the swinging London "mod" culture of Carnaby Street well. But to me that isn't Mod. The term "mod" was co-opted by the media in the mid-60s to describe the trendy London scene. But by then real Mods didn't go to Carnaby Street anymore, right? I also find it funny that Mods at festivals now dress like that, when 60s Mods never wore long velvet jackets, frilly shirts, etc. But that's not to say its wrong to wear that. I love those looks and Mods shouldn't have to strictly copy the original Mod look. It's all fair

  3. I can't even begin to tell you how awesome it was to work with Alec Palao during Halloween time when all the jerks would ask for this costume. He'd get all ballistic and I'd laugh.

    God, 1997 was a looong time ago now!

  4. Erm, I'm pretty sure Austin Powers had absolutely no connection to any later 60s/dandy slant that the European mod scene took in the late 90s>. Not wanting to labor an uninteresting/irrelevant-to-this-post point, but that all came organically from the club-goers weekly, changing styles as mods around them had new items made etc and as new records were being broken. Things may have gone too far, but it was a relevant progression to a relevant mod scene, as apposed to any uniform-wearing mods- all while Eddie Piller was knocking about in shorts and sandals ;)

  5. I remember seeing fly posters around Van Ness in SF months prior to the movies release and being seriously intrigued. I think it was a great comedy; Mike Myers was very respectful of the scene and genre in general (it was an homage to his passed-away Father) and all the backlash is just par for the course when dealing with Pop Culture.

    I would name drop Peewee Herman as more of a 'fly-in-the-ointment' of Mods everywhere for my generation then Austin Powers ever was.

    The good thing is people have short attention spans. I doubt anyone rents Austin Powers costumes anymore.