Quadrophenia; a way of life?

It may be obvious from my lack of entries that I have been less than inspired recently and my fashion radar is way off. So, I turned to one of my fave flicks I knew was sure to get me back on form and buzzing about British fashion! The film I am referring to is Quadrophenia, portraying the clash of two rival youth cults - the mods and the rockers - and set against the backdrop of riots in 60s Brighton and a soundrack courtesy of The Who. The film shows how, at that moment in time, teenagers felt the need to belong and identify with their peers. One way of doing so was through fashion.

Mod fashion started in the 60s, young men and women started to look to French and Italian cool, combined with American Ivy League styling, creating a new and unique fashion for British youth. These 'Modernists' listened to Modern Jazz and rejected any other prevailing trends.

Mod fashion was very much influenced by pop art. Many of the iconic images of The Who are of Pete and the gang wearing shirts with simple abstract logos of dots and arrows, or the Union Jack. The idea of this is that outside its normal use, even a street sign can be art. The patriotism of British youth in the 60's is shown in the adaptation of the Union Jack and British Air Force symbols as motifs. Also popular were air force medallions and patches covering the front of a military shirt or jumper.

Hairstyles were also strait out of Warhol's Factory. The hairstyles were generally short and in a dishevelled fashion with fringes either swept to the sides or cut strait across the forehead. Alternatively, a mod in Colin MacInnes's mod novel Absolute beginners has a "College-boy smooth crop hair with burned in part." While there was an American pop-art influence, there was also a very strong Italian design influence. Scooter boy fashion had a tremendous affect on mod fashion. This can be seen in tight-fitting shirts and trousers with simple stripes and numbers adorning them. Of course it also helps to have the most important Italian designed accessory - a motor scooter.

The third element of mod fashion is taken from the R&B days, when mods would try to dress like those sharp Americans in their two-piece suits singing soul numbers. They, of course, didn't look the same on the Londoners. Popular for the Brits were slim-fitting black or grey suits with a lighter coloured shirt underneath and a tight, half-Windsored dark tie.

Girls donned homemade shift dresses and ankle socks or coloured tights and straight skirts with short, boxy jackets, herringbone and pinstripe no less. The trousers were usually borrowed from boys and nylon macs and 3/4 length suede and leather coats were all the rage. Girls cut their hair to chin length and wore it super straight in a middle parting with deep, thick fringes. The look was accessorised with small earrings and BEA flight bags, the make-up was light and the eyes black and heavy, false eyelashes were pasted on and lower-lid lashes painted. A coating of white lipstick was also bravely adorned. This is of course, only a general overview, every individual had their own spin on the look yet still managed to unite and create a sub culture amongst their peers. Look to Twiggy for inspiration.

It was the Mod culture that helped launched the career and extend the legacy of popular British labels such as Ben Sherman and Fred Perry.

The more recent "Indie scene" can be perceived as an adaption of the Mod culture, drawing certain aspects and turning them into fads which people from across all cultures have been indulging in. An example of this can be seen from edgy catwalk model Agynes Deyn and musician Pete Doherty. The sentiment and belief may not be the same but it is safe to say that the kids of the 60s and 70s have had a great influence on our generation. I often wonder how the current generation will inspire others with a borrowed style and a poor adaption of other innovative trendsetters.

One thing that is clear from watching Quadrophenia is that these people did not just wear these clothes and adapt their style because they seen it in the latest magazine or on their favourite celeb, it was their generations way of life, a social status and identity. A fair reflection of a retro Britain but why now, is fashion merely a disposable image?

"its's a dream mixed with nostalgia"
Tales From The Riverbank


  1. I love The Who, because they play good music and they're fashionable. And I want to form a band playing punk rock while wearing black slim fit suits.

  2. Actually the soundtrack was not courtesy of The Who. Pete Townshend of The Who came up with the entire story, wrote all the lyrics for the songs, and the music himself. The film is actually based around the album, with the story written years earlier by Townshend. Just listening to the album is amazing.

  3. The 70's were a great time to be a teenager in the UK, the Mod/Suedehead culture was still going strong in working class areas, Lambretta's, Crombie's, Fishtail Parka's, Doc Martin's and Ben Shermans were the rage, it was good to look smart and ride a cool scooter.