Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Top 6 Mod Books That Might Be Missing From Your Library

I doubt many of you have never held a copy of Richard Barnes' book Mods. Back in the late 80s, living in Canada, finding a copy wasn't an easy thing to do. Nonetheless, it was the book to have. My good friend Daniel recalls the lengths he went to so he could put his hands on a few pages.

"Back in the early nineties, long before the Internet, I paid $20 for 4 pages that were brutally cut out from the Richard Barnes' book Mods and placed in a Who record. Call me stupid, call the owner of the record store a total fraud, still, when you are as passionate as I am about Mod culture and Montreal has nothing to offer you to quench your thirst, you are ready to do anything. Things have changed since then, but one thing hasn't, the Mod way of life is still worth jumping in front of the traffic to find the right gem. I'm standing here at home right now, waiting for the UPS guy to deliver my 1962 Burns Bison Bass. He better show up soon, I'm late for work and have $3600 less in my bank account."

You have to admire Daniel's dedication and passion. And he is right. Fortunately, things did change. But there are still books out there that remain rare or simply are flying under the radar. Hopefully, I will introduce you to a few books that you didn't know existed and that you'll want to add to your collection. They're not all specifically targeted to Mods but they, in my humble opinion, fall in the "must-have" category.

1) All That Mods! - Vanda - 1998

Finding a copy of this might take you a while. Just like Playboy, I didn't buy this one for the articles. The reason is simple, I don't read Japanese. But if you like looking at rare Japanese issue album covers of The Who or the Small Faces then you might want to track this one down. 

The meticulous attention to detail that the Japanese are known for won't be lost on the Western Mod. Since I can't speak to the written content, I can certainly vouch for the graphic design. It's fabulous.

2) My Favorite Shirt - A History of Ben Sherman Style - Paolo Hewitt & Terry Rawlings - 2004

It's been years since I last bought a Ben Sherman shirt. I personally believe that the company has lost its way over the years. A company that was once revered for its quality and wide range of colourful patterns is unfortunately now just a shadow of its former self.

If you managed to find a nice Ben Sherman button down in Canada during the Mod Revival, you were lucky and your mates looked at you with envy. Owning a Ben Sherman was special and you were proud to be seen in it. If you want to relive the glory days of the shirt maker and learn about its history, scour the Internet in the hopes of finding a copy. Paolo Hewitt and Terry Rawlings have a solid reputation as authors of books on anything relating to Mods. This one isn't any different.

3) The Influential Factor - Graham Lentz - 2002

My mate Graham is not only a true gentleman but he's also one of us. You can tell by reading this book that it was a labour of love and that passion permeates through the pages. So I feel extremely fortunate to own a copy. If my blog was turned into a book, this is probably what it would look like. But instead of going on about it, I'll let Graham talk about it in his own words.

"I started work on The Influential Factor in 1995. It was apparent to me that Mod was influencing a new generation of bands who are now collectively known as Britpop. I had finished my journalism degree and decided to make good use of my new skills. I also realised that Richard Barnes' book Mods from 1979 was the only one that focused on the subculture and that the Mod story needed updating. 

The first proper interview I did (with the help of my mate Paul Welsby) was with John Simons who is highly regarded in the UK not only as a modernist from the early to mid fifties, but as a retailer of the Ivy League look and stylish men's clothing for over 50 years. He said he believed Mod was a major influencing factor in British culture. That's where the title of the book came from. I finally self published the book in 2002. I was the writer, designer, publisher, press and PR man, distributor and retailer of the book. It was a tough task, but there are only 2,000 copies out there somewhere and on the rare occasions they turn up on eBay and the like, they change hands for silly money, so it's kind of nice to think the book has become sought after and a collectors item. 

What people forget, is there was no social media back then. It was hard for me to track down the people I wanted to interview. Those I did get were via the generosity of friends who supplied phone numbers or email addresses. Without those friends, the book would never have happened, so I owe them a lot and they know who they are. The Influential Factor was not as good as I wanted it to be. I always felt it could be better. There were people and stories I wanted at the time who should have been in there, but weren't. I am actually putting that right as we speak. This is an exclusive for you, I'm currently updating the book with some great material already and a few surprises. I don't have a publisher yet, but, all being well, the book will be available in 2016."

4) Gear Guide - Hip-pocket Guide to Britain's Swinging Fashion Scene - 1967

The book of the who's who in Carnaby Street and King's Road is much more than a simple guide to the hip shops. It has a worthwhile chapter on the history and the fashion icons of the time. It's worth getting just for the 60s lingo peppered through the pages. The words "gay", "brightly coloured" and "with-it" might be overused though. You find them on every page!

Some Original Mods will argue that Carnaby Street, specially in the mid to late sixties, had nothing to do with Mod. I don't necessarily subscribe to that school of thought. Even if I didn't live it, I still believe that without Carnaby Street, the Mod movement would have died in its infancy and wouldn't have become the global phenomenon it is today.

The good news about this little 72 page book is that it has recently been reissued. You won't need to pay the big bucks for an original copy like I did.

5) The A-Z of Classic Scooters - The Illustrated Guide to All Makes and Models - J. Godard & B. Soler-Thèbes - 2005

Have you ever heard of the Scootavia, the Simard, the Panther or the Magneet? No? Then you need to add this one to the library. Countless books have been written about the Vespa and the Lambretta but no book I am aware of has tackled more than 300 makes. 

Full of photos and vintage ads, this is a must for every scooter enthusiast.

6) The Ivy Look - Graham Marsh and JP Gaul - 2010

If you already have the essential book Take Ivy by Teruyoshi Hayashida, this one needs to be next on the list. I prefer this one in fact. It's complete and extensive. It even has a small chapter on Mods.

"The Ivy Look is a pictorial celebration of the clothing and accessories that dominated the American male dress code from 1955 to 1965. Democratic, stylish and comfortable, the Ivy look was the height of cool [...]" I couldn't have said it better myself. To deny that the American Ivy League look had some influence on the way Mods dress is to ignore a part of our collective history.

Is there a book you think I missed? Please let us know in the comment section or on the Parka Avenue Facebook page.