Not quite sure about what the difference between Mods and Scooter Boys is? No need to worry. As always, you can count on the reliable advice of our style guides. By the time we’re done, you’ll know how to dress like proper Scooter Boys.
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Today we’ll be exploring yet another fundamental subculture of the British cultural landscape: Scooter Boys. If you’re wondering how this movement came about and you’re dying to borrow some of its style staples, look no further. You’ll probably end up finding out that you’ve been taking on some of their fashion moves without even realising it. There’s a reason why those bomber jackets look so cool these days. Ready to find out more?
How to dress like Scooter Boys is no easy task. Being a Scooter Boy isn’t just about clothes and aesthetics, it’s a way of life. Scooter Boys, also known as The Parkers, take their name after their obsession for 1980s scooters, especially for made in Italy ones such as Vespa and Lambretta. Originating in the UK during the 1960s, they are regarded as a transitional species of British subculture, the cultural halfway point between Mods and Skinheads. They all had one thing in common though. That’s right: scooters.
Scooter Boys – 1980
It goes without saying that music and fashion often go hand in hand. Following the release of The Who’s sixth studio album, Quadrophenia, Pete Townshend and fellow bandmates not only created their second rock opera based on it, but turned their latest creative output into a successful film of the same name for which they also composed the music. That way they managed to create a visual and musical narrative that resonated with the youth of the time.
Released in 1979, the film was an ode to the Mod and Scooter Boy revival of the late 70s. It was an homage to the Mods’ lifestyle but the film also shows that the life of a Scooter Boy isn’t always all that great. They were often involved in street fighting and responsible for disturbances in different cities in the UK, especially seaside locations such as Brighton and because of that they had constant trouble with the authorities. But that’s a price they were more than ready to pay.
Jimmy Cooper, Quadrophenia’s protagonist, can give us a hand at unveiling the true essence of Scooter Boys and Mods:
Look, I don’t wanna be the same as everybody else. That’s why I’m a Mod, see? I mean, you gotta be somebody, ain’t ya, or you might as well jump in the sea and drown
Right, Jimmy went a bit far there. That’s some passion right there. Let’s have a look at the key elements of Scooter Boys’ wardrobe – something Jimmy would happily die for.
Scooter Boys Clothing
Once again we can’t talk about Scooter Boys’ clothing and imagery without starting with The Who. They adopted the Royal Air Force roundel as their band logo which not only became their trademark but also the flag of a generation. That way, The Who represented the gateway to the subculture for many Mods to be and what became known as the ‘mod target’ can be found on their clothing and scooters. Brands such as Merc and Lambretta have also incorporated the ‘mod target’ in their product establishing a direct link with their customers.
Scooter lovers used to gather at rallies where they’d also attend gigs and take part in all the classic recreational activities of the 80s. Scooter Boys weren’t as strict about dress code as Mods and Skinheads might have been. Their style can come across as quite low-key. Instead of suits, Scooter Boys preferred MA-1 bomber jackets, leather or denim jackets and oversized military parkas. They chose outfits that would naturally suit their life on scooters.
Mods were the godfathers of Scooter Boys of the mid and late 80s. But what does it mean to be a Mod exactly? Mods is simply the short for of the movements’ original name: the Modernists. That’s a bit of a mouthful so Mods stuck instead – no surprise there. Although, Pete Townshend believed Mod was short for so much more than that: Mod is shorter word for young, beautiful and stupid. And how right he was about those fascinating boys and girls.
Mods are possibly the most smartly dressed subculture in Britain with the most subversive results. They were big fans of tailored clothing and their messy and thick fringes were a symbol of classy rebellion. Descending from the Teddy Boys of the 50s and 60s, Mods created a more evolved and artsy aesthetic and embraced a variety of musical genres such as soul, ska, jazz, blues and R&B.
As part of London’s young jazz scene of the time, Mods drew inspiration from musicians such as Miles Davis and Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. Part of their look was also influenced by the all-American Ivy League wardrobe which contributed to the creation of a more sophisticated and preppy look.
Ian Page, singer in Mod band Secret Affair, commentary on what Mods represented and were trying to achieve is exemplary:
I think it’s quite subversive for kids who haven’t got a lot of money to dress up in a suit and look twice as good as someone who’s got three times as much money. It’s a social comment
In a total disruption of fashion and social canons, Mods flipped the working-class look over its head. And what a makeover that was. Let’s have a look at how to look stylish as hell in true mod fashion.
If you consider yourself to be a nostalgic with the constant desire to have lived in a different era from yours, the 70s represent an enviable time period for fashion choices. Some of them were pretty horrible, it wasn’t all a bed of roses. Blame the drugs or a turbulent political landscape coated with rebellious rage and working class struggles for those poor fashion statements. But when it comes to Mod clothing, it makes one interesting and elegant repertoire.
Mods’ influence has been strong throughout the evolving British subcultures of the following generations. For instance, Britpop owes its fur trimmed, fishtail parkas and scruffy hairstyles to the Mods. Those are cardinal elements that the likes of Noel Gallagher still show off with panache. Mod iconography and music taste also influenced subsequent musical genres such as Acid Jazz. One way or another, there’s a bit of Mod in all of us.
Mods were the hipsters of the 60s. Anything that was remotely alternative and cool would attract Mods without fail. Hanging out in Carnaby Street and King’s Road, they were constantly after the most fashionable pieces of clothing. That way, they officially became the first generation with a mild shopping addiction.
Mod Scooter Jackets
Mod Scooter jackets and military bomber jackets are one of the elements from Mod subculture that have passed the test of time. The huge popularity of Alpha Industries bomber jackets are the perfect example of that trend which we have to thank the Mods for.
Original 60s Mods loved a well tailored suit, usually pinstriped and accompanied by an almost inseparable vest and patent lace-up shoes. A suit is also the wardrobe element through which Mods could play around with different fabrics, showing their passion for checkered suits. Try wearing your suit with a turtleneck underneath to channel the original beatnik vibe of the movement.
It’s with suits and shirts combinations that Mods were at their dandiest. Oscar Wilde would be undoubtedly proud of them. Mods had a predilection for buttoned-down shirts with high necks. Don’t forgert to be daring with patterns. Eccentricity is key – they were the 60s after all.
Most Notable Mod Bands
Shouldn’t come as a surprise that the aforementioned leader of British rock band The Who, Pete Townshend is a pillar of Mod subculture. Not only he provided this tribe with a phenomenal soundtrack, but he also influenced its appearance and took it to the mainstream.
With a collection of incredible hits like Sunny Afternoon, All Day and All of the Night and You Really Got Me to mention a few, you can borrow some of The Kinks’ fashion tricks whilst listening to an excellent soundtrack. It’ll be like you were always meant to be a child of the 60s.
Having a massive influence on 1990s Britpop, Small Faces had a short-lived music career and have only existed in its original formation from 1965 until 1969. Nevertheless, they had a huge impact on British music and Mod subculture. In addition, their musical output was one of the most psychedelic of all.
Paul Weller and The Jam are the prime Mod revivalists. Inspired by the 60s bands mentioned above, they worked on the original foundations of Mod subculture with the added value of their contemporary music scene which included punk rock and new wave. They surely knew how to pull of a black suit with skinny tie.
Mods hairstyles were deeply influenced by the popularity enjoyed by French New Wave cinema within British subcultures. Whether you like a good Caesar Cut or prefer the French Cut variation with a longer feathered fringe, Mods have a bank of haircuts for you to play with in full Swinging London style.
Mods v Rockers
Mods and Rockers never got along. As Noel Gallagher stated, “you can’t be a mod and a rocker. You have to choose sides” (even though he seems to have done a pretty good job at being a bit of both). Rockers are famous for their leather jackets and fast motorcycles as opposed to the more mellow and chic style of Mods. The animosity between the two tribes exacerbated and subsequently reached its peak when they clashed in Clacton’s town riots during the Easter weekend of 1964.
Since then older generations in British society have always condemned cultural clans such as Mods and Rockers because of their violent confrontations. As a result, they were considered to be a representation of the downfall of British morality and social conduct. Imagine how pretty much the same establishment reacted when Sex Pistols came along a decade later…
Your Quick Guide to How to Dress Like Scooter Boys
- The lines between Scooter Boys are extremely blurred. Therefore, we can look at them as two very similar sides of the same coin. Scooter boys are the updated 80s version of Mods.
- Get yourself a scooter, preferably Italian.
- The Who and pretty much most successful 60s bands are god.
- Ironically flaunting money they didn’t really have, Mods channeled their style via tailored suits whilst sticking it to the establishment.
- Parkas and military bomber jackets make great steals from the Mods’ and Scooter Boys’ wardrobe.
- Wear the hell out of those funky patterned shirts.
- Don’t be afraid to show your bohemian side.
- Wanna go all out? Pick up a fight with a Rocker biker in some British seaside town. Be careful though, you don’t wanna mess up your hair or ruin you wonderful suit.
And On That Note
Scooter Boys and Mods have been through quite a lot. Thanks to their style, music and overarching cultural significance they have made their mark as one of the most relevant and influential subcultures in the country. They have borrowed from a huge variety of trends and tribes and edited their wardrobes accordingly. And so should you. Now that you finally know how to dress like Scooter Boys, why not start with a military bomber jacket then? You don’t need a scooter to pull that off. Most importantly, you don’t actually need to pick up a fight with some rocker to show your devotion to Mod and Scooter Boy clothing. Your updated wardrobe will do that for you!