The History of Mods & Skinheads

Topics: Skinhead, Mod revival, Punk rock Pages: 14 (5695 words) Published: February 6, 2006
In the late 1950s in Post-War Britain, life for the average teenager was somewhat bleak. The rationed mind-set of the WWII generation was still a part of the social consciousness by the mid 50s, and the economy was slow to bounce back from the ravages of the war. Unlike America at the time, few people in Britain had the freedom for social pursuits or the lifestyle of leisure,(a phenomenon enjoyed mainly in the United States), and, especially if you were "working-class", your choices were much narrower.

The first Mods, were not technically called Mods, but they were the first to carry-on in a manner that would later befit the ideals of the Mods in Britain. They weren't regents, but did come from middle-class new money; they were the young adult sons of largely Jewish garment manufacturers, (which explains their affinity for, and obsession with clothing.) Many of these stylists had relatives in the U.S. or would visit America frequently to bring back the latest merchandise, which, most importantly were Modern-Jazz or Be-Bop records by artists of the time such as Dave Brubeck, or Miles Davis. At that time, few people in Britain had been exposed to this new form of Jazz.

In accordance with the cliché that gay men make for good dressers, so too was the case with this early group of mods. A large percentage of these young men were finding out that they were homosexuals and were likewise frequenting gay haunts around town. Carnaby Street in London was a small avenue where odd clothing shops existed to cater to the needs of those who worked in theatre, and for the flamboyantly gay dresser. However, this group was not flamboyant, and, probably, due to the nature of British society at the time, and the prestigious affiliations held by their families, they were largely closeted homosexuals. Fashion-wise, they were more the progenitors of Beau Brummel than Lord Byron, whereby every subtle detail of the outfit was accounted for, but not in the sense that it would make them stick out like a sore-thumb. In the larger society there was something different about this set, and people took notice. They became a sort of underground phenomenon loosely known or referred to as "stylists", and they lived mainly in and around London.

At the same time, running parallel to this, if not a few years later, and the real source of the mod phenomenon were some of the changes occurring within British working-class society. Proletarian sons and daughters who were entering adolescence at the time had little or no memory of the war. They seemed ready to move past it, by at least pondering to effect change within their limited social environment. Pop-culture, as it was in America at the time was nearly non-existent in Britain. By the late 50s working-class teenagers were eager for something new. But, where was it, and who would provide it?

For the most part, Mod came about independently and organically, emerging from a local grass-roots base in a few different places in England. This, of course, is debatable depending on whom you ask, as the old-notion held assumed that the phenomenon began in the capital city and spread outward. However, many historians have neglected to include the port city of Liverpool as a crucial hotbed for the new phenomenon. As it was at the time, and still sometimes is today, Liverpool is a great asset to England, dealing in commerce shipped to Britain from all over the world each and every day. Shelagh Delaney's play "A Taste of Honey" details the vibrancy of the city well at the time, where many different types of people mixed and intermingled impressing upon each other new ways of thought and trends in fashion, art, and music. Sailors would bring records from America on a regular basis, and there's no debating the fact that in the late 50s/early 60s record shops in Liverpool had by far the best selection in all kinds of American music. One could infer that the Merseybeat explosion was solely...
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