Do you know how rough it was growing up with parents who lived through the sixties? Parents who constantly had to rub it in your face just how great their youth was. My mom was more mellow about it, but my father would go on and on about the British Invasion, the Chicano movement, Bob Dylan, the socio-economic changes occurring at the time, blah, bleh, blah, bluh. Man, as a kid, all I wanted was to be left alone with my Transformers cartoons (which could never stand up to the cartoons they had growing up), my G.I. Joe action figures (not as cool as their G.I. Joe action figures), and my own music (my Top 40 could never match their Top 40).
And you know the worst part? They were totally right. Sure, it took me some time, and early on it did bother me to admit that, yes, The Who were totally amazing and that, yes, Bob Dylan was worth raving about. Heck, even my favorite Mad Magazine issues were from the 1960s!
But when I first got into the Mod thing, it wasn't necessarily built on an appreciation of 'the sixties'. That developed over time. For me, at first, it was just the general idea of 'rebelling' against 'society' by walking around in sharp suits no one else was wearing. But, in time, this began to center so much more around a 'sixties' look and lead to an obsession with sixties music, style, culture, and history.
In fact, there was a period when my friends and I were so obsessed with the sixties that we wanted to get all the details right in our clothing. "Well, they didn't really wear their trousers like that in the sixties, it was more like this." Or, "Hmm... that shirt's too 1968 for me. I think I'll pass." We were obsessive kids, but we were also learning the roots of our look (and the differences between what actual 'Mods' wore and what Carnaby Street shoppers wore). Truth be told, we were kinda more into the colorful, patterned Carnaby Street garb.
|My crew and I, circa 1995-96. (Imagine the photo in 'Carnaby color'!)|
And that brings me to the big question people often throw around: "Isn't Mod about moving forward? Why are you still into all that retro sixties stuff? That's not modern."
And that's not a bad question. In fact, if you have a copy of the third issue of Sussed, Noel Kavanagh actually addresses this topic in the article, Post Modernist Mods. But here's my take on why so many of us still can't let 'the sixties' go.
|Have you ordered your copy of Sussed yet?|
But can you blame them?! Look what they were moving forward and away from:
|Image of Teddy Boys taken from The Nifty Fifties website.|
Here's the problem though. What happened in the 1960s (starting in the late '50s really) was revolutionary in terms of design, fashion, music, art, and literature. That post-World War II boom led to so many changes in how people viewed the world. Heck, not to bring it back to that, but look at the show Mad Men (which I am finally caught up on!). From season to season, you can see how the characters' attitudes change in response to their social environment as it evolves.
We really haven't seen a rapid cultural shift like that since then. You can spot the major differences in a person's dress from 1964 to 1968. I challenge you to spot as marked a difference in a person's dress from 2004 to 2008. Heck, if I was watching the 1990s show Friends today for the first time, I wouldn't see that much difference in many people's dress today. (Granted, it could just be an ironic hipster thing.)
|Have mainstream styles really changed much in the last decade?|
The Sixties raised the bar on Western culture to a pretty high level. And it's why so many of us continue to look back to those designs, which have become timeless. Unlike original 1960s Mods who wanted to move away from an era of food rationing and grey hand-me-downs, many of us look back to an era of colorful styles and sleek, sharp designs that have stood the test of time. Some of us are obsessed with Eames, Saraarinen, and Noguchi furnishings or John Stephen, Mary Quant, and Courrèges stylings. And let's not get into the '50s-'60s music we can't get enough of. Yeah, it might be 'vintage' but I think most of us hunt that stuff down because of the beautiful designs, not so much its retro-ness.
|Just a few designers who helped shape the mid-century look that remains coveted today.|
Look, I'm all about moving forward and all that, but it's hard to move forward from a look that was done so well the first time around. Sure, we can add a twist here and there to put a check mark in the 'modern' box, but nothing beats a vintage, slim-fitting, tailored 3-button suit; nothing beats a mid-century Tulip Chair; and nothing but nothing beats a tender 1960s Otis Redding vocal.
I'm pretty comfortable with where I'm at, aesthetic-wise. I mix in vintage with some modern and I'm okay with that. I like a lot of contemporary things including clothes from Ted Baker (a little out of my price range, granted) and Thomas Pink. I even like some contemporary (probably non-Mod-approved) songs, like that new Justin Timberlake track (after the 0:45 mark, that is), which ain't half bad.
But I'm not scrambling to find something 'modern' for the sake of its 'modern'-ness. I don't care to have any tattoos etched into my skin, even though everyone and their moms are doing it today. I don't need to like the new Daft Punk CD just because it's modern music. And if I was a scooter guy, you better believe I'd be hunting down a classic, vintage bike instead of a modern one (can't beat that design!).
After all, like Dobie Gray once sang, 'the originals are still the greatest.'