Youth Fashion And The Mods

Mod Beginnings

The teen population in England hit at an all-time high in the late '50s and early '60s due to the baby boom that followed WWII. And since the culture of rationing that was part of the war had been over for a long time, young people did not feel guilt over extravagances like clothing for the sake of fashion instead of necessity. So while older adults of the 1950s embraced conformity, two youth fashion movements rose up to counteract this dreariness. Teds, or Teddy boys, paired narrow trousers with waist coats in a nod to the Edwardian era. Beatniks, inspired by the French, did black turtlenecks with berets and narrow trousers. These two groups made fashion an acceptable hobby for young, heterosexual Englishmen, so as these trends faded out the super-chic "mods" (short for modernists) were able to take the London's fashion forefront.

Influences on Mod Fashion

  • Italian Men's Style: white or brightly-colored suits with narrow lapels and highly-stylized motor scooters.
  • French Cinema: short, neat hair styles.
  • Teds: a late 1950s movement of young men who wore Edwardian-inspired waist coats and narrow trousers. Teddy boys had brought men's fashion into the mainstream when it had formerly been seen as a singularly homosexual interest.
  • Beatniks: hung out late at coffee bars in the famous black-turtleneck-with-beret look.


Young, middle class men and women had monotonous jobs, most often in offices or shops, that kept them financially secure but bored. To counteract the drabness, young people adopted creative, mix-and-match forms of dressing that defied social norms of the era. Skirts got shorter, pants tighter, colors brighter and haircuts more stylized. The 9-to-5's that these teens held left plenty of time for shopping, listening to records and night-time clubbing. And amphetamines, which were still legal at the time, were often used to aid this after-hours life style.

Mod Clothing Styles

  • Mini skirts
  • Drainpipe Pants - Like skinny jeans but straight through the ankle instead of tapered
  • Flats
  • Oxfords
  • Winklepickers - boot or shoe with long, exaggeratedly-pointed toe (inspired by medieval footwear)
  • Bright colors and patterns
  • PVC or silver space-age inspired clothing/accessories
  • White suits with narrow lapels
  • Button-down collared shirts
  • Skinny neckties
  • Mohair - a type of angora

Economic Factors

Teens during this time period had more disposable income than those from previous decades because the middle class was more affluent (and existent) now than it had ever been. This meant that young people who still lived with their parents could spend the extra money they earned as they pleased instead of contributing to family necessities. The increase of women in the work place meant more young women had their own money to spend on clothing that was stylish but also functional enough to work in. And now that man-made materials like polyester and rayon were available, clothing was more affordable for everyone.

Mod People, Places and Entertainment

  • Jean Shrimpton, one of the first "super"models
  • Twiggy, supermodel who made the stick-thin, glamorous-waif look
  • Mary Quant, designer who coined the term "mini skirt" and was instrumental to rising hemlines
  • Biba, mod clothing store founded by designer Barbara Hulanicki
  • King's Road, London shopping street that runs through Chelsea and Fulham
  • Carnaby Street, London shopping street that runs through Soho
  • Ready, Steady, Go! rock/pop music TV show that was more youth-oriented than it's rival Top of Pops. Cathy McGowan, one of the most famous presenters, was known for her mod style

The End of Mods

By 1965 the once-underground mod culture had been appropriated by the upper classes. Disappointed by the commercialization of their movement, many of the original mods moved into the hippie culture that took hold later in the 1960s.