Royal Air Force roundels

Mod (from modernist) is a subculture that originated in London in the late 1950s and peaked in the early-to-mid 1960s. Significant elements include: fashion (often tailor-made suits), pop music (including African American soul, Jamaican ska, and British beat music and R&B), and Italian motor scooters.

The original scene was also associated with amphetamine-fueled all-night dancing at clubs. From the mid-to-late 1960s onwards, the mass media often used the term in a wider sense to describe anything that was believed to be popular, fashionable, or modern. There was a mod revival in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s, which was followed by a mod revival in North America in the early 1980s, particularly in Southern California.

The term ‘mod’ was first used in the 1950s to describe modern jazz musicians and fans, and to differentiate it from ‘trad,’ which described traditional jazz. The 1959 novel ‘Absolute Beginners’ by Colin MacInnes describes as a modernist, a young modern jazz fan who dresses in sharp modern Italian clothes. The book may be one of the earliest written examples of the term modernist being used to describe young British style-conscious modern jazz fans.

Coffee bars were attractive to mods, because in contrast to typical British pubs, which closed at about 11 pm, they were open until the early hours of the morning. Coffee bars had jukeboxes, which in some cases reserved some of the space in the machines for the students’ own records. In the late 1950s, coffee bars were associated with jazz and blues, but in the early 1960s, they began playing more R&B music.


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