Mod is a subculture that began in London in 1958 and spread throughout Great Britain and elsewhere, eventually influencing fashions and trends in other countries, and continues today on a smaller scale. Focused on music and fashion, the subculture has its roots in a small group of stylish London-based young men in the late 1950s who were termed modernists because they listened to modern jazz.
Significant elements of the mod subculture include fashion (often tailor-made suits); music (including soul, ska, and R&B); and motor scooters (usually Lambretta or Vespa). The original mod scene was associated with amphetamine-fuelled all-night dancing at clubs.
During the early to mid 1960s, as mod grew and spread throughout England, certain elements of the mod scene became engaged in well-publicized clashes with members of rival subculture, rockers. The mods and rockers conflict led sociologist Stanley Cohen to use the term “moral panic” in his study about the two youth subcultures, which examined media coverage of the mod and rocker riots in the 1960s.
By 1965, conflicts between mods and rockers began to subside and mods increasingly gravitated towards pop art and psychedelia. London became synonymous with fashion, music, and pop culture in these years, a period often referred to as “Swinging London.” During this time, mod fashions spread to other countries and became popular in the United States and elsewhere—with mod now viewed less as an isolated subculture, but emblematic of the larger youth culture of the era.
As mod became more cosmopolitan during the “Swinging London” period, some working class “street mods” splintered off, forming other groups such as what eventually became known as skinheads. There was a mod revival in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s, which attempted to replicate the “scooter” period look and styles of the early to mid 1960s. It was followed by a similar mod revival in North America in the early 1980s, particularly in southern California, Vancouver, and Toronto.
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