As part of an almost an inevitable backlash given the pre-eminence of baggy and grunge in the early part of the decade, the pendulum swung again as British youth rediscovered the ideologies of modernism. The watershed event will most likely be remembered as being Blur’s release of Modern Life Is Rubbish, an album that signalled a change of direction away from the prevalent Shaun Ryderisms and more towards the legacies of Ray Davies, Steve Marriott, and Paul Weller. However, the 90s also brought along a new mod reality that was quite different from the more copycat nature of the 1970s revival (although, as in 1979, there was the luxury of having a readily available and exciting new wave of bands that were likely provide quality music for a good number of years). Fuelled by the idea that, to achieve anything stylistically the old influences must be respected but taken in new directions, the locals at clubs such as Camden’s Blow Up distinguished themselves by a liberal fusion of traditional mod and contemporary elements taken largely from the world of sportswear. A white jacket and Fred Perry with Converse, or feathered hair with a vintage 1970s Adidas tracksuit top.
This new mod was not defined by the obsessive detail and oneupmaship of the original but was instead a broad embracing of everything from Adidas punks to Acid Jazzuals. All this is mod as in modern–moving things forward by seeking out the new and the stylish in Britain. To quote members of the band Mantaray: “Mod shouldn’t be about reviving anything, it should be about what’s happening now”. Of course, such definitions raise more problems than they solve, perhaps the most obvious being whether a those subscribing to the new paradigm should really be classified by the same term used for a visibly different group. It’s an issue that hasn’t really been decided to the satisfaction of the hard-core traditionalists or the (usually) younger types (who have coined new words and phrases intermixing mod and casual to describe their particular fashion style). It’s really only history repeating itself-back in the 1960s the more purist of the early modernists also didn’t approve of the widening of the style as it expanded from suits to other casualwear, arguing that it would get diluted and lose its sophistication.
Arguing about these trends has perhaps already become irrelevant, since the demise of this particular mod resurgence was clearly signalled by the increased mainstream-media coverage of the past year. Most repellent in this regard is probably U.S. MTV’s Giving The Nod To The Mod, a set of adverts mindlessly grouping various bands whose only commonality lay in a British origin and, ironically/tragically, general lack of airplay on that same channel. Given that the industry cash-in is occurring at this very moment, the best thing to do might be to lay low and stock up on the occasional nuggets that might be produced in the avalanche of trend-oriented material. After the masses once again discard modernism to make way for the next fad, both the traditional and newer symbols will undoubtedly be useful for sorting out those in the know from the rest of the crowd.