The “mod” movement of the 1960s was not just a fashion or a type of music, but a lifestyle. Short for “modernist,” mod clothing was characterized by very bold and bright fashions. The mod movement began in Britain, where the mod style was first a subculture developed by teenagers. Rebelling against stiff and formal styles from the 1940s and 1950s that were still being worn by their parents, Britain’s teenagers wanted a new image and a break from tradition.
The mod subculture began in the late 1950s as the “teddy boys,” who were influenced by the rock and roll music becoming popular in the United States. These teens created a style based on being hip, sharp dressers, with streamlined clothing in solid colors. Their mod clothing could be described as “dandy;” even men in this style were known for their fashion sense and their immense spending on clothing. The mod style was embraced by young men and women who wanted a youth-centric style rather than the “boring” styles worn by their parents.
In Europe, the mod style included not only mod clothing but also a lifestyle choice. The mods met at coffee shops and all-night clubs, and rode around on Vespa scooters. Mod style is also known for pop music bands such as the Beatles, who helped to popularize mod styles in the United States. The mod lifestyle was centered on both fashion and music. Considered an urban style, the mods often fought against the rockers, a rougher youth-centric group with roots in rural areas of Britain, known for wearing leather and riding motorcycles rather than colorful Italian scooters.
As the mod style grew in popularity, many other groups picked it up, sparking the mod movement which peaked in the mid 1960s. At its height in popularity, mod clothing could be seen on supermodels, musicians, and everyone else, young to old, not just teenagers. However, because it started as a counterculture movement, its popularity led to its downfall, as those who started the trend abandoned it because it had become too popular. It was no longer a rebellious subculture because too many people were wearing mod clothing. By about 1967, the mod style was replaced by hippie, bohemian, and psychedelic styles. After its mid 1960s heyday, mod clothing styles were revived several times, most notably in Britain in the late 1970s and in the United States in the early 1980s.
Mod clothing is typified by very bright colors, geometric and color block prints, and short hemlines seen in mini skirts or shift dresses. Miniskirts, developed in 1963 and 1964 and growing ever shorter over the next few years, allowed young women following the mod trends to push the boundaries of tolerance. Men wore tailored suits and button-down shirts with skinny ties. The mod movement has been described as streamlined, narcissistic, and androgynous. Many styles were influenced by Italian fashions and pop art. As the mod movement became more commercial, it was seen on models, especially Twiggy, helping to spread it further away from its London origins.