Browsing Tag Modernist

Mod Girl Fashion 3

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Fashion Scene 1

Mod’s most influential women

Men have mostly turned to musicians, be it Marriott or Paul Weller, for their fashion direction. Both the so-called ‘Modfather’ and his 60’s forebears were quite blatant about their mod credentials, so it was easy for men to cotton-onto and copy their style.

For women, the net had to be cast a little wider. For the so-called second generation mods like myself, the 1979 cult film, Quadrophenia film left few clues on what to wear. The female lead role – ‘Steph,’ with her Farah Fawcett-style hair and long leather coat, was no mod icon in the way that Jimmy was for the boys.

Similarly the early mod girls simply copied the boys with their paired down androgynous look. It must have been a relief, when mods became more mainstream in the mid 60s, to be able to feminise their look with minis, handbags and make-up.

Mod girls of the 60s and those that have followed in their footsteps however have always tended to take their style cues from quite a small and select select group of fashion icons – the likes of Twiggy, Quant, Shrimpton, Hepburn and McGowan crop up time and time again. We take a look at what is it about these particular women that evokes such adoration among mods.

Twiggy: Probably the number one mod girl icon. Twiggy combined that androgyny that has always been a part of the mod look for women with a girlish femininity. Her short pixie cut and boyish frame suited the clean lines of her clothes. She was almost doll-like but not at all passive  n the her modelling – her shoots were full of character and that’s why we love her.

Mary Quant: Any lover of 60s fashion is hugely indebted to Mary Quant for her wonderful designs. Her pop-culture clothes came in strong silhouettes and bright and bold hues. She was also practical and her many innovations as well as the mini-skirt, included waterproof mascara and tights for mini skirts and she was also one of the first designers to use PVC.

Jean Shrimpton: Long and lean and lovely – that was ‘the Shrimp’. She managed to convey an air of innocence with just the right amount of haughtiness in her look. Famously photographed by David Bailey, her style was British with a beatnik twist. Again she liked to put her own slant on an outfit and in 1965 to much consternation, turned up at the Victoria Derby in Melbourne in Australia wearing a white shift dress, no hat or gloves and a man’s watch!

Hepburn: There’s isn’t much you can say about Hepburn that does her justice. Her looks were quite unique. Again, her form was gamine compared to the voluptuous beauties of the 50s. Her style was effortless and paired down to key pieces. She knew what suited her.

Cathy McGowan: The presenter of the 60s show Ready Steady Go was often dubbed, “Queen of the Mods” Twiggy even cited her as one of her role models saying she was: “one of us” Her attitude chimed with the youth of the day and so did her clothes. She was often seen wearing Biba and Quant and her eye-skimming fringe was heavy eye-make-up was copied by girls everywhere. She was the first real ‘it-girl’.

Who inspires you?

Karla Milton, singer with the Karla Milton Collective: “I get influenced by quite a lot, but I think Emma Peel’s style in the Avengers was fab along with Mary Quant, also Audrey Hepburn in ‘Two for the Road’. I like to mix things up though and not copy just one style. If I like something I’ll go for it.”

Midlands mod Jayne Kelly Norris: “Vidal Sassoon and his five point haircut, it was so short sharp and classy. Its a timeless classic that can be reinvented to suit all generations of mod. Mary Quant’s classic style influenced me a young 15 year-old mod in the 80’s. I loved her drop waist dresses and  kick pleats always worn with flat shoes. The zips the patterns and the colours were all so different from the awful fashions of the 80s. I moved on from there to low cut classic tailor made hipsters, chisel toe shoes and button down shirts this style was influenced by the mod scene exploding in Birmingham and London in the 80’s. As a mature mod now I like to mix up my style but everything I wear stems from my roots growing up within the mod culture.”

Maria Veall, original 60s mod: “I was a young teenage mod in the 60s. Twiggy was my icon and Mary Quant. We wore the shortest mini skirts and dresses and tights were a godsend as we had to wear stockings before that. Now I like the classic 60s styles that Jackie O (Kennedy) wore. In the 60s we were dolly birds and wouldn’t be seen dead in the clothes our Mums wore. Now I wish my Mum had saved all her clothes from then so I could wear them now.”

Sue Littler, I am a Mary Quant fan and collector: “Since I was a little girl I have loved Mary Quant. Her designs are so simple, yet so stylish. I love the handbags and the clothes. I have lots of her things – including boots from the 60’s and even a headboard!”

Claire Mahoney

At the age of 13 mod made perfect sense to me. I liked the look and the attitude - but most of all I liked the music. Secret Affair was my entry point, but they were soon playing second fiddle in my affections to The Jam. Paul Weller, of course, proceeded to break mine and many others hearts in 1982, when he put an end to that particular musical roller coaster – but what it meant was that, uninterested in anything else that was happening in music at the time, I had to look back. I was lucky enough to be given two plastic bags full of 60s 45s by my uncle who used to stock the jukeboxes back in the day. Their contents included a number of Stax originals, plus the Who and the Small Faces, as well as Motown classics from The Four Tops and the Supremes. So, when Phil Collins charted in the mid 80s with 'You Can't Hurry Love' it was nice to be able to say: “I've got the original of that!” It became quite an irritating habit of mine over the years. These days I still enjoy discovering new, old music, be it soul, rnb or jazz, as well as witnessing mod taken another turn among today's youth with bands like The Strypes. My day job as a journalist means I am lucky enough to be able to write about music and modernism now and again. Other than that you'll find me mostly on the dance floor or on eBay still looking for that perfect A line dress.

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March 7, 2014 By : Category : Fashion Front Page Style Tags:, , , , , ,
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Book & Mags Reviews – Nov 2013 (Part 1)

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Book Reviews

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess

Published in 1962 it is becoming increasingly difficult to ascertain whether the literary masterpiece that is Anthony Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’ has had the impact on youth (sub)cultures that many proclaim it has, or indeed whether it is Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 cinematic portrayal with it’s heavily modern/pop art influenced stylising, fashions, sets and architecture. A portrayal quoted by Burgess as being “badly flawed”. Kubrick’s film was interestingly the second adaptation of the book – the first being the little known ‘Vinyl’ directed by one Andy Warhol.

Due to the conflicts of aesthetics between the two one could strongly argue the latter – its main participants being dressed in black with waistcoats and cravats. A far cry to the visually aped-by-many attire of the young Malcolm McDowell .

Having first read A Clockwork Orange during the early 1990’s, at a time when Kubrick’s film was still officially banned in the UK, I was immediately thrown and confused, yet enamoured, to the (I now see) wondrous use of’‘nadsa’ – the street tongue dialect of our antihero, Alex and his wily gang of cohorts, affectionately and tribally referred to as his ‘droogs’.

Set against a dystopian and futuristic backdrop, Alex is the atypical 15 year old young man, whose desire and pursuits in life firmly revolve around the satisfaction of desire – be it sexually, violently, psychotropically or aurally – through his passionate desire for the music of Beethoven, whose music makes Alex stir, feel moved, driven and alive – a comparison easily levied against most or all sub-cultures since their post-war emergence with the Teddy Boys and Mods.

Set in three parts, each detailing a significant and specific part of Alex’s life, part one begins at the Korova Milk Bar, where our gang of unruly droogs sit drinking the establishments finest Milk Plus – a little concoction made of milk and laced with whatever chemical stimulant one requires – whilst plotting their nights activities. A night which invariably will encounter the vilest of antisocial behaviour from rape to theft to gang warfare to senseless and opportunistic violence on whomever crosses their paths.

Burgess perfectly portrays young Alex as the iconic face of anti-establishment, the ultimate anarchist, the cock sured teenager with an answer for everything and not a jot of remorse for his actions and who they effect. The literary genius of Burgess now comes into play as the figure you feel you should revile, despise and hate throughout the books 200 or so pages very quickly becomes ‘your’ hero in the tale as he takes on the system in his determined battle to exercise his own thought and his freewill.

Ultimately, and not surprisingly caught out in his activities, the second and third parts all revolve around Alex’s time spent with the authorities – his gang of droogs having deserted him – and the innovative aversion therapy used to kerb his desires, triggered by the sounds of his beloved Wolfgang Amadeus.

Initially published with twenty-one chapters, the UK release of the book saw the omission of the final chapter in which Alex realises the error of his ways and ultimately that all he thought was right was wrong. Now available in either format the omission or inclusion of this concluding chapter has both its faults and merits, and that is ultimately a matter for the reader to decide.

What A Clockwork Orange in it’s literary form has done more than anything is to shape and influence all those who come into contact with it. Be it Warhol’s surreal adaptation or Kubrick’s iconic visualisation or the sensibilities of all youth cultures that followed, with its scripture of being accepted, of being part of the tribe and fervently adhering to the principles and uniform of whichever one you choose. Life choices that we all make in the bloom of our adolescence.

So, what’s it going to be then eh?

Publisher: Penguin; Re-issue edition (7 April 2011) ISBN-13: 978-0241951446 BUY HERE!

Absolute Beginners

nm_nov_2013_review_absolute_beginners

Absolute BeginnersColin MacInnes

Colin MacInnes’ Absolute Beginners is the book, more so than any other, which has stamped its place well and truly in the annals of modernist history. Though heavily referenced and recognised to this day, I am very surprised by the amount of people I meet who have never indulged in the pages of this landmark novel set in Soho (amongst other notable locations) in the summer of 1958 at the birth of the movement.

Like many, I was never eager to read the book myself – having seen the somewhat neon glow and wooden cinematic portrayal of the story starring David Bowie, Ray Davies and Patsy Kensit, amongst other celebrities of the early eighties. However, with my own tastes and styles edging more towards the late 50’s and modern jazz as a musical genre, thought it about time I did.

Arguably containing the first cultural reference to mod culture – describing young style obsessed, Modern-Jazz loving Brits with a passion for smoky clubs and coffee bars as ‘Modernists’ – Absolute Beginners is the tale of the nameless narrator and central character’s quest to living his life on his own terms. Striving to stay a step ahead of others in terms of wit, mentality and most of all, style. Whilst avoiding the pitfalls of the post-war adult generation that surrounds him, our narrator makes a living as a freelance photographer to the straight, the crooked and the seedy of London.

MacInnes captures the essence of the period detailing the birth of the ‘teenager’ and the struggles they face, which makes one realise that though times, politics, cultures and fashions have developed, Absolute Beginners is as relevant today as when it was first published.

Though not a book that is truly defined as having any great and gripping story, its main and central theme appears to be the narrator’s wish for us to view his life, his eclectic friends and aesthetic surroundings through his own eyes. The references to Jazz are many and one can sense the passion our narrator has for music – a theme that has stuck firm throughout the history of mod and its many incarnations and generations that followed.

Of what plot there is in Absolute Beginners is the peppering throughout of the narrators ongoing desire and attempts to rekindle his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Suzette, who is on the verge of entering into a marriage of convenience with her boss.

What is most striking and defining and ultimately special about the book however, is its portrayal and literary visualization of a piece of London’s past that has remained paramount to the foundations of a youth culture that has endured half a century. The snapshot created whilst reading of this now semi-mythical view of the smoky streets of Soho only serves to clarify the visions dreamt up in the mind of the birth of Mod, before its explosion into mass consciousness via the media in 1964 – a period of the movement that has been rarely captured on camera.

Though not filled with the kind of references one is so used to in a book with mod as it’s central subject, there can be no doubt that Absolute Beginners was not only a manuscript that detailed the birth of a movement from the eyes of a protagonist, but was, and has remained the original style guide for modernists for well over five decades.

‘College-boy smooth crop hair with burned in parting, neat white Italian rounded-collared shirt, short Roman jacket very tailored (two little vents, three buttons), no turn-up narrow trousers with 17-inch bottoms absolute maximum, pointed toe shoes and a white mac lying folded by his side.’

As a document that gave us everything else to come, Absolute Beginners has stayed the test of time for good reason. We should all own it.

Publisher: ALLISON & BUSBY (13 Jun 2011) ISBN-13: 978-0749009984
BUY HERE!

Lord Savage

Bitten by the bug as a child in 1981 after being fed a mix of his fathers rock n'roll and his brothers 2 Tone records, David became involved in the Mod scene through a healthy diet of the revival, the Buzzcocks and Dexys Midnight Runners. Having first attended the Mousetrap in 1997 and spending time at both the New Untouchables and, the now defunct, Untouchables events he took a period of scene paternity leave in 2003 to rejoin again and find things as healthy, diverse and as vibrant as his obsession with hair straighteners. Now proud to be in the NUTs fold, David began working as the New Untouchables Social Media Manager in September 2012 and can generally be found chasing people around the depths of the Mousetrap with his dodgy pink camera. Crate digger, OCD hooverer, vintage shop raider, jazz listener, scooter tinkerer, wine drinker and cheese enthusiast. Sums it up nicely!

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November 13, 2013 By : Category : Front Page Literature Reviews Tags:, , , , , , , , ,
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