Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Mod target and other pop icons

Since the 60s, Mods have been linked to RAF roundel and various other pop icons. Simple images like the arrow, the male symbol or the Union Jack have all graced many parkas over the years. It's hard to pinpoint exactly how that trend has started but bands like The Who certainly helped propagate the image. For the record, I have never seen a single photo of a 60s Mod with the target displayed anywhere. One thing is certain, once the Mod revival was in full swing, you stayed clear of any shooting range.

I've always loved the look of the Mod target. It's straightforward, effective, simple and downright cool. The only problem is that it's overused. Ben Sherman has 25 different versions of it (I didn't actually count but there's a lot) on t-shirts. It's a bit much. This is a case of less is more. That's why I usually only have one on my parka and occasionally one on my suit lapel. My loft isn't full of them and my scooters have none.

A couple of years ago, I did buy a magnet set that I found at a flea market.  It now resides on my fridge. I purchased it because I found it amusing that a company had reduced the Mod movement to a handful of images. It was harder for me to admit that they had it right: a suited young man wearing a fishtail parka, a Vespa, a Fred Perry style shirt, a bowling shoe, an electric guitar, a portable record player, a British flag jacket and the Mod target. We have come full circle. Mods themselves have become pop icons. Is this a good thing? The subject is open for debate.

One symbol I always liked was the London underground sign. Not purely Mod but distinctively British. The red, white and blue timeless modern design hits every mark. And for a Canadian like me, it evokes images of Canarby Street, Piccadilly Circus and the 100th Club.

So when an antique dealer friend contacted me because he had one for sale, I jumped at the chance. It's actually a metal replica of the real deal. Montreal being a city that welcomes a fair amount of big Hollywood movie productions, it was apparently used as a film prop in a scene set in London. It's a shame that my mate Stéphane didn't ask in what movie it was used. But I haven't given up in finding which one.

When you stop and think about it, the Montreal subway system , the Metro, has it's own very "modish" logo.  Inaugurated on October 14, 1966, it has a definite modernist feel. With it's circle and attached arrow pointing downward to show the direction you are about to take, it can't get more Mod then that.

The Viau metro station, a few blocks from my place

For now, the London underground sign is proudly displayed in my loft, part of a growing collection of 20th century design icons. And everytime I gaze at it, this song pops up in my mind...


  1. Ger O'ConnellJune 7, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    Love the sign Pat and the loft looks fantastic. Every time I see photos of your place it reminds me how much I need to sort out my own house!

  2. Thanks Ger! One thing is for sure, your garage is 100 times nicer than mine.

  3. Actually the R.A.F. "bullseye" was introduced into The Who by Pete Townshend after being (or so it is allged) by Peter Blake's utilized an archery target in his pop art painting "The First Real Target". A friend bought me that Magnet set for Xmas many years ago and I still have it someplace. I'm rather envious of your metal "underground" sign!

  4. PS: In the 80's I painted a U.S. Army Air Corps World War I era roundel on my parka...

  5. I like the magnets. It just goes to show this is the only culture the media can not ruin. The target has passed the test of time. no matter how many different targets are out there it still just a target.