Tuesday, January 02, 2007

In the beginning… by Robert Cassidy, London

Like most, I got into fashion as a teenager, hitting the jackpot by landing a job at the Village Gate considered by my friends to be the citadel of London’s men’s fashion and the best place to buy Mod clothing and owned by Jeff Kwintner.

During an edition of Desert Island Discs in the 1990’s, Sir Ernest Hall, the Lancashire-born pianist, textile magnate and champion of the arts, was discussing the retail menswear business of the late 60s and early 70s. "The king then", he said, 'was a man called Jeff Kwintner", and he went on to explain that at the height of its success Jeff's chain of sixteen Village Gate clothes shops had sold three thousand suits a week. That, by anyone's standards, is a remarkable achievement and, of course, a man selling three thousand suits a week can indulge his passions. In Jeff's case that passion was for books and jazz.

“Does ‘I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up’ mean anything to you” was the first thing Jeff ever said to me the lowly “Saturday Boy” and shop gofer.

“Only that you might be going On the Road” I replied and he was delighted to learn that I was a fan of Kerouac but dazzled when I told him that I almost preferred Neal Cassady’s The First Third especially since we shared the same last name.

This he saw as an omen and I was transferred to The Village Bookshop the intellectual hub of his business.


Friday, December 29, 2006

In London...

Mods began “in a world of smoky jazz clubs, coffee bars and hip hang-outs in the centre of London's emerging youth culture, the young and restless - the Absolute Beginners - were creating a world as different as they dared from the traditional image of England's green and pleasant land”.
Absolute Beginners...

The novel describes the rise of a bohemian, style-conscious youth culture, a culture that would become the Mod movement, as seen through the eyes of a nineteen year-old scooter riding teenager who freelances as a photographer. It also describes the fomenting racial tensions of the time in Notting Hill and the methods of commercial developers in the gentrification process that later swept large areas of London.

Originally the term mods was used to describe fans of modern jazz music, as opposed to the trads, fans of traditional jazz. After a while, the meaning was expanded beyond the musical tastes, eventually including other fashion and lifestyle elements associated with the original mods, such as continental clothes, scooters and to a lesser degree a taste for pop art, French Nouvelle Vague films and existentialist philosophy.

The Music...

As the lifestyle developed and was adopted by English teenagers of all economic strata, mods expanded their musical tastes beyond jazz and R&B, to also embrace soul (particularly Motown), Jamaican ska and bluebeat. They also developed a distinct brand of British beat music and R&B, exemplified by bands such as the Small Faces, The Who and The Yardbirds. Lesser-known British bands associated with the mod scene include The Action, The Creation, and John's Children.

Mods would gather at all-night clubs such as the Twisted Wheel Club to show off their clothes and dance moves.

The Style Council - You're The Best Thing

Cultural Centre...

Carnaby Street was made popular by followers of the Mod style in the 1960s, and became closely associated with the Swinging Sixties, when many independent music shops, fashion boutiques, and designers such as Mary Quant were located there.

Many London male teenagers growing up in the 1960’s who wanted to dress Mod also shopped at the Squire Shop or The Village Gate in Soho or Cassidy’s (in the Kings Road, Chelsea). Or if the lived in the suburbs and could not get into town they might ware Ben Sherman's famous Oxford-style button-down shirt.

Transport: Lambrettas...

They would typically use scooters as their mode of transportation, either Lambretta or Vespa. One reason for this is that public transit stopped relatively early, and scooters were cheaper than cars.

After a law was passed requiring at least one mirror be attached to every motorbike, many mods added 4, 10, or even 32 mirrors to their scooters as a mockery of the new law. This can be seen in the cover for The Who's album, Quadrophenia, which depicts the main character, Jimmy, on his scooter looking into his four rear-view mirrors.Classic Mod a la Quadrophenia…his Lambretta Scooter is a 1962…
and he is a member of a 20 man touring Scooter Club
who drive from Bar Italia in Soho, London to Brighton once a month

Paul Weller Interview 1991 "I'll always be a Mod"

Mod Variations...

She identified herself as a Mod and him as a Skin. Although, after talking to him for a while I would technically identify him as what was starting to be called a “hard mod” by the mid-sixties, which in turn morphed into what became known as Suedeheads as the fashion conscious skinheads started to let their hair grow out, at least long enough to pull a comb through it. Later on they became known as “Smooths”.

"Hi there
the pics are of me and my b/f paul, thanks for all your lovely comments, we'd both had no sleep that day and were in a silly mood messing about down carnaby street, whenever we go I always ask him to chase me down carnaby street as the road was well known in the late 70's and 80's as a hangout for mods and skins (who at the time hated each other) and paul has the scars to prove it! altho i was too young at the time so missed out,in fact paul was a mod until age about 15 when he got fed up with being beaten up by skins so took a pair of dog clippers to his head and bought a pair of doc martins and has been a skinhead since,but the scene is so small now that we all have to be friends! nice to meet you and your friend robert... keep the faith... ;-)"

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

News reel: Mods & Rockers clashing...