It’s A Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod Boomer World

The Mods, a subculture that took its name from a shortened form of Moderns, appeared in Great Britain around 1958. This group of young people adopted the title because they listened to modern jazz (and in the ’60s, psychedelic rock, soul and R&B), and adopted a fastidious mode of modern dress that bordered on the obsessive. Members were known to be club go-ers, often attending three or more nights per week, and identified as dressing with crisp lines, bold colors and impeccable cleanliness. They often were retail clerks and the like by day — working class people — and Mods by night.

Mod men began tailoring their Italian and French suits, which began with the garments’ modern style and thin lapels, to individualize their style. Many mods were either tailors, or had tailors in their families or circle of friends, so the modifications were available and affordable. Women also adopted this style, giving Mod fashion a more androgynous look with pants, shorter hair and dresses that did not stress body shape. In the early 1960s, the Mods hung out at selected clubs, including those on Carnaby Street in London. Fashion boutiques quickly sprouted up in the three block area in the late fifties and early sixties, inspired by these fashion dandies. Mary Quant became known as a chief designer of Mod fashions, which led to the popularization of the mini skirt by 1965. Though not the inventor of the mini skirt, it was her designs that entered the public realm. Top models of the day, Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton, exemplified the Mod style in magazines and on the runways. Mod fashion was also influenced by Op and Pop Art of the day.

Bands of the era began playing the clubs, and shopping the fashions in and around Carnaby Street. Early adopters of Mod fashions were Small Faces, The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five, The Who and The Rolling Stones — check out photos of the era and you’ll see band members decked out in thin lapel or lapel-less suits, bob-cut hair, checks, polka dots, tailored velvet jackets and pants, and shirts with pointed collars, chest and cuff ruffles. Very probably it was these British Invasion bands that brought Mod style to the attention of the American boomer population. It also didn’t hurt that the bright colors and bold geometrics of the style were perfect for a TV industry beginning to broadcast every program in color.

Interestingly enough, The Beatles started out dressing as Rockers, which was a second subculture group that took their style of dress from movies like The Wild One, with denim pants and leather jackets being their primary influence. Photos of the band before they hit American shores show the group playing onstage wearing jeans and leather jackets, or leather jackets and leather pants. Somewhere before their American tour in 1964, the band shifted to Mod style. More than one music historian claims the shift was for the American audience, since the Rocker style was associated with juvenile delinquents and miscreants throughout the fifties by the uptight Americans. Judging by the reaction they got from older folks regarding their hairstyles and higher-heeled boots when they did arrive in 1964, the sartorial change may have been best for their career in America.

Contrast the style of the Beatles circa 1962 and then in 1964, on their first Ed Sullivan appearance:

By 1967, elements of psychedelic and bohemian fashion blended with the Mod and Rockers style to produce the eclectic fashions of the late 1960s. Mod as a singular fashion moment was all but over. The Beatles had popularized an Eastern aesthetic and the Nehru jacket that year, and men’s hair became longer and facial hair was back in vogue.

Mister Boomer flirted with Mod style when he was able to, within the constraints of his parochial school. Throughout the early sixties, even though his parents had the final say on his clothing purchases, he favored brightly colored shirts, but took the plunge himself in 1967 with his first Mod-like flowered print shirt. He wore it on occasion into the 1970s. He has had several polka-dot and flower prints since that time.

Today Mod-inspired fashions are back in the sotres, updated for current tastes. This is most apparent in the polka-dot and flower print shirts and dresses now available through retail outlets.

How about you, boomers? Was your early wardrobe influenced by the Mod style?

Leave It To Mister Boomer

Mister Boomer envisioned a lost episode of Leave It To Beaver this past week. It centered around the Beaver tearing a hole in his jeans:

Leave It To Beaver: The Lost Episode

The Beaver walks up to his home. June Cleaver spots him coming and, wiping her hands on her apron, immediately meets him on the porch.

June: Theodore, what happened? You have a tear in your pants!

The Beaver: Oh, it’s nothing. I was playing on the school monkey bars and got caught on one of the bolts. I hardly bled at all.

June: Look at that tear! Come on, I’ll sew it up before supper.

Wally and Eddie Haskell walk up and listen to the conversation, while at the same time Ward Cleaver pulls into the driveway, home from a long day at work. All three converge on the porch with the Beaver and June.

The Beaver: I was thinking, mom, maybe you could just leave it the way it is.

June: What! Whatever do you mean, Theodore?

The Beaver: Well, Wally was saying how some of the cool kids at school have holes in their jeans. Right, Wally?

Wally: Hey, leave me out of it, Beav.

Eddie Haskell: Yeah, Wally doesn’t know anything about what is cool! Hey, Beaver, when we were your age, our dungarees were made of strong stuff. We couldn’t punch a hole in them if we wanted to! What are yours made of, two-ply?

June (bewildered, but ignoring Eddie): So you think you want to be like the cool kids and have a hole in your jeans?

The Beaver: Well, with a face like this, I can only be so cool, so yeah, why not?

June: WHY NOT??!!?? Just because other misguided children want to walk around with holes in their jeans doesn’t mean you have to do it, too! If they wanted to jump off a bridge, would you want to do that, too?

Ward comes over and wraps an arm around her shoulder and gently nudges the now trembling Mrs. Cleaver to the front door.

Ward to Eddie: Will you be staying for supper, Eddie?

Eddie Haskell: No thanks, Mr. Cleaver. I got to be going. See you tomorrow, Wally!

Eddie leaves as the Cleaver family enters the house. Ward sits June in a chair in his den, her eyes glazed over and holding back sobs.

Ward addresses the Beaver: You know, being cool isn’t all its made out to be. I was young once, too, you know. All my friends had zoot suits, but you know what I did? I refrained from buying one. It wasn’t really for me, now was it, Theodore?

Ward lights his pipe that he pulled from his jacket pocket.

Ward: Did you stop to consider what other people would think of your mother, letting you walk around with a hole in your jeans? This is the 1960s, Theodore. People fought for our freedom to create the kind of life where people wouldn’t have to walk around with holes in their jeans. Would you want people to think your mother wasn’t doing her duty? Do you understand, now, Theodore?

The Beaver:: Yes, sir. I guess so.

June makes a remarkable recovery and pops up out of the chair.

June: Wally, take Theodore upstairs and pour hydrogen peroxide and some mercurochrome on his bloody knee. Theodore, change those pants and you boys wash up for supper. I’ll mend them after I do the dishes.

June exits for the kitchen as Ward sits in his chair to read the newspaper.

Wally: Come on, Beav. What were you thinking?

The boys walk up the stairs. Roll credits.

The situation that prompted this hallucinogenic flashback was a tear Mister B has in the knee of his jeans. Mister B had written before about the trend of torn jeans (see: Boomers and Torn Jeans: The Evolution from Time-to-Replace to High Fashion). But this was different; it happened to him! One day, out of the blue, as he bent, the fabric flexed over his knee and split horizontally in two places.

At first, Mister Boomer thought maybe he’d just go with the flow. No one would give him a second look, with the proliferation of torn denim parading around the streets these days. After only one wearing, though, the tears grew wider, exposing his entire knee to the elements. This was not the season for exposed knees, so Mister Boomer did the only thing he thought he could do: he grabbed needle and thread and attempted to mend the tears.

Despite his rudimentary sewing skills (Mister B never took Home Ec), he was able to stitch the fabric in a manner that reminded him of scars on Frankenstein’s monster. “Maybe I’ll start a new trend,” he thought, admiring his amateur repair.

When the time came to rotate from one pair of jeans to another, Mister B put on his Frankenstein jeans. Within an hour, the fabric tore, not along the hastily sewn stitches, but directly above and below the thread line; the repair thread was stronger than the fabric.

Mister B is befuddled, now. If men his age are out in public with torn jeans, people will feel sorry for the old man on a fixed income who can’t afford a new pair of jeans. So much for being cool. What is maddening, though, is the jeans were a major brand name. The fabric obviously is not of the strength and durability we remember in our boomer days. Just what are they made out of, two-ply?

What have you done about torn jeans at your age, boomers? Or are you sitting at the cool kids’ table, sporting your designer tears?