Thursday, June 6, 2013

What's In A Name? (10 Reasons Why I'm NOT a Mod)

Y'know, judging by the amount of times I use the term "mod" in this blog, you would think I walk around all day constantly calling myself a 'mod' in real life. You'd think I'm one of those people who uses the term 'mod' every chance I get:

"Hey guys, I'll catch you later... I'm about to mod up." "Y'know, as a mod, I don't really like those skeletoe shoes of yours." "Ohhh, the life of a mod is so Mod-darn hard, I just want to mod mod mod off into the sunset."

GAH! You say a word enough times and it just starts to lose meaning to you.

You're not going to believe this but I don't really refer to myself as a 'mod' in real-world away-from-the-computer conversations. Oh, I know what I'm into and all, and I identify with it, but I don't go around being all explicit about it.

Yeah, I know... based on the fact that the 'M,' 'O,' and 'D' buttons on my keyboard are worn away to nubs, you'd think otherwise. Look at the title of this blog, for heaven's sake! Heck, I use the word 'mod' so often on this blog, Paolo Hewitt's probably getting ready to cash in on the royalties he thinks I owe.

But, in real life, people know what I'm into, I know what I'm into, and that's pretty much all that's needed. I don't need to emphasize any label with people. In fact, in general, when people have asked me what I'm about or what I am, I don't think I've ever really answered, "I'm a mod." At most, I'd tell them, "Oh, you know, I'm into moddish stuff." Or, "Y'know, the sixties." Because, really, who wants to get stuck in that conversation?

Others are different. They love the label and want others to recognize that they fit within that label. Some people go so far as to use other labels/names like 'tickets,' 'faces,' 'ace-faces,' 'modettes,' 'numbers,' blah blah blah. Man... what's the point?

Although I love the culture and what the term itself stands for, I don't peg my existence on it. My decisions aren't based on 'What would mods do?" In fact, there are probably a ton of you who think I'm NOT a mod at all, for various reasons.

And who am I to argue? Heck, I'll even go ahead and give you the Top 10 Reasons Why I'm NOT A mod:
  1. I don't wear a Target, Union Jack, or Mod lapel pin. Sorry. I don't really care if strangers know what I'm about or not. What ever happened to subtlety? These days, many mod types feel they need that final lapel pin to confirm that, yes, they're mods. Heck, if I go that route, maybe I should add lapel pins that say, "Mexican," "Short Guy," or "Batman Fan." Or, maybe I should just drop the essence of the look and walk out in flip-flops and a roundel tank top with a mod pin to confirm that, yes, 'Mod!' despite what you see.
  2. I don't ride a scooter. I admit it. For years, I've been the running joke amongst my friends because of this. I bought my first Vespa when I was about 18 years old. It was basically a scooter frame with a burnt-out engine and my friend convinced me to buy it because, y'know, mod. Unfortunately, I bought it at a time when all of my spare change money was going toward school. I could barely afford a meal, so how was I going to be able to afford a new scooter engine? Over time, I sold that scooter to a friend who, within hours it seemed, made it look like a piece of art... that also ran.

    Well, since I was living in the Bay Area, I was able to walk anywhere I pretty much wanted. My life wasn't dependent upon a set of wheels, although I still did want them. I bought my next scooter, a Vespa Rally, completely functional with a nice paint job. I even learned how to ride it... briefly. Of course, I learned how to ride it at a time in my life when I was much more aware of my own mortality. I knew friends who had gotten into accidents and that pretty much bummed out my own confidence in scooter-riding. These days, my scooter is in the garage and whenever we need to get anywhere, my wife's Mini is always there. So, yeah, I don't ride a scooter. Someday, though, I'll build up my confidence and get that thing running again! Until then... I guess that's another mod demerit for me.
  3. I like rock'n'roll music. Uh-huh, you bet! I don't collect 1950s rock'n'roll, but man I do dig me some Elvis (especially his 'Comeback'-era output), Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, and Chuck Berry. I even like some Rockabilly music. Heck, I like some straight-up rock! Bands like MC5, Free, and Blue Cheer will always be welcome on my turntable. It may sound cliche, but, well, some of my best friends are rockers. So, yeah, I love me some good rock'n'roll. But that's okay... YOU probably like Oasis. Pssh! (Oh, and here's a secret for you: when 'Freebird' comes up on the radio... I keep it on!)*
  4. I'm old. Listen, there's nothing wrong with being old. I admit that I am. And I like it. For me, being old means that I've made it this far. It means that, hopefully, I've gained some wisdom, learned some lessons, and have matured, even if just a tiny bit, by this point in my life. I like being old. However, many people feel that the mod subculture is a 'youth' subculture. I would agree with that. I think that this is something you get into when you're young, looking for an identity, and trying to figure out what you're about. By the time you're my age, you should already know who you are, for the most part. You've already been shaped by life's experiences and should have, hopefully, overcome that desire to 'fit in' with a particular group. Some people see the mod thing as a phase which some young people go through. They think that this is something you 'grow out of' as you age. Maybe they're right, too, but why grow out of something that looks so damn good?
  5. I'm not British. Yup, some people believe that you have to be British in order to be a mod. I don't know, maybe it's something in the water out there. The funny thing about this is that so many British mods are into American culture. Many British kids have formed bands playing music that stemmed from an American experience (i.e., blues, soul, jazz). Some of the mod 'look' is highly influenced by American styles (i.e., Ivy league, Levi's jeans). But, let's accept it... if you're not British, you can't be a mod. And that's okay. My nationality is American and my ethnicity is Mexican. I'm so far away from being British, that I can't even fake a British accent. (The closest I can do is imitating the father who asks, "What's for tea, daughter?" in The Who's 'Heinz Baked Beans'.) My only consolation for not being British is that I can find great Mexican food out where I live. And I don't need to tan.
  6. I wasn't 'born Mod.' You ever hear this one? "I was born mod and I'm gonna die a mod." NEWSFLASH: I wasn't born a mod. Nope, I actually had a childhood that didn't involve pocket squares, cufflinks, or trouser hem widths. In fact, my interest in clothes took a backseat to my interest in Star Wars figures and Transformers toys. Before the sta-prest, chisel-toe shoes, and tailored suits, I was walking around in Toughskins, velcro sneakers, and an Admiral Ackbar t-shirt. Heck, I even wore shorts! And you think I was always into soul 45s? Well, you would have been surprised to find the 'Theme to Rocky' 7-inch, an 'Amazing Spider-Man and Friends' LP, and various Peter Pan 45s in my collection back then. However, although I didn't come out of the womb crying for my first tab-collar shirt, I did have strong opinions on personal style, even as a kid. I hated tank top shirts, muscle shirts, baggy trousers, or hi-top sneakers. Maybe this is why the mod look was so attractive to me early on. But no, I wasn't born mod. And chances are, neither were you
  7. I don't live in the 1960s. Some people probably think that the whole mod thing really only exists as a snapshot of a long-gone era in British culture. And really, who am I to disagree? I didn't live back then. I didn't go through those experiences that led to the formation of that culture. Some 1960s originals probably think that their youth was co-opted by later generations, and they might be right. Maybe Ian Page was on to something by trying to create a whole new label for post-1960s mods.

    Original mods grew up in a post-war economic boom. I grew up in a post-1970s economic fizzle. My experience was totally different than those originals. Heck, my experience was differant than the '79 revival guys, too. But when I discovered this thing, it had nothing to do with a time-frame, a protest against punk, or being a fan of The Who or The Jam. It had to do with the attitudes toward style. If you want to say that mod only existed from this year to that, fine. But, somehow, reading about it and learning about it had enough of an effect on my life and the lives of others that we've incorporated elements of that culture into our own aesthetic today. And, for the sake of convenience, maybe that term 'mod' just makes it easy to describe. 
  8. I don't listen to trip-hop or rave music. One of those guys from Menswear once said, "The true mods are the ravers, the people who are into jungle and music that sounds futuristic." He's not the only one who believes this. Over the years, I've heard how the 'new mods' are into rave or house music or trip-hop or whatever else just happens to exist at the moment. After all, 'mod' is short for 'modern,' right? Isn't that what people like to say? How can you be a mod and not be into contemporary music (or styles)? Hey, if you are into contemporary music, ain't nothin' wrong with that (see #10 below), but no need to use it to justify your 'modness.'

    Style-wise, I'm a bit more 'old-fashioned.' I know the 'mod' look when I see it and there's a lot of new fashion out there that I just don't see as 'mod.' But maybe that's just me. After all, some people think the 'new mods' are guys walking around in Oasis-looking baggy trousers and tennis shoes (trainers). Heck, maybe the 'new mods' are those fellas struttin' down the street in skinny jeans, mod tattoos, and listening to Daft Punk? Why not? They're 'modern,' after all. Well, if that is the case, then... any rockers out there have room for another?
  9. My circumstances aren't as 'difficult' as they used to be. These days, life ain't so bad. I have a job I'm happy with, steady income, a wife who indulges (and shares) my obsession with mod-oriented culture, and the free time to spend on updating this blog. Things weren't always this way... I've lived through my share of poverty.

    There were days when I had a choice between spending money on a solid meal or spending money on a way home from school. But even during those days, I made sure I was decked out in my vintage Towncraft shirts, 3-button jackets, tapered sta-prest, and Chelsea boots (with the heel worn down from all the walking I had to do). But thanks to those hard times, I have a larger appreciation for the good things in life today. Sorry to disappoint you, Pete Meaden, but life doesn't have to be difficult to enjoy this stuff.
  10. I like some mainstream pop music. Listen, I don't live my life judging music by what position it holds in the Billboard Top 40. If a song's good, it's good. For instance, I quite like songs like 'Beautiful', 'Dog Days Are Over''Hey Ya!', and 'Rolling in the Deep'. They're just well-crafted pop songs.

    I know, I know, according to all the history books, original mods disdained the pop charts. If a song was popular, they dropped it for something more obscure. YAWN... Hey, I used to be like that when I was younger. I know how it goes. If I saw any of the 'underground' music I loved getting popular with the 'mainstream,' I'd lose interest.

    Silly now that I look back on that way of thinking because the music itself didn't change. It didn't get any less good because more people liked it. Besides, these days, could you imagine judging music based on how popular it is? I might as well dump all my mod/soul records, considering how (deservedly) popular they've become! And let's be honest with ourselves. The 'underground' hasn't been underground for quite some time now.
So there you have it... the many reasons why I might fall out of the mod definition. I just don't live my life through a 'mod' prism. My decisions or interests aren't based on what is or isn't 'mod.'

See, I don't like soul music, 3-button jackets, chisel-toe shoes, and vintage scooters because I'm a mod, but rather, maybe, just maybe, I'm a mod because I like all those things. I don't know and it really doesn't matter. You can call me a 'mod,' you can call me a retro guy, or you can call me a doofus for all I care. Whatever you call me, whatever I call myself, none of it changes or affects my aesthetic or list of interests.

And that's why being called a mod isn't as important to me. I still dig it and will continue to exploit use the term on this blog, for the ease of discussion. Heck, I'll even be protective of it when I see some bunk stuff out there using the term. I love what the term represents, but I don't limit myself with it. Hey, like the proverb says, 'Know thyself.' Me, I know who I am regardless of the label.

Whew... now that I got that outta my system, I feel so much more liberated. Now I think I'll go put on a Howard Tate LP, iron up my tab-collar shirt, and go downstairs to pay my old scooter a visit. And after that, who knows? Maybe I'll go hang out with some rockers.