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A conversation with Christine Darling

Christine Darling has been interested in "mod" culture and style since age 10, when she heard her older sister's The History of British Rock double LP. She's currently pursuing the meanings of mod as a Ph.D. candidate in the Communication and Rhetoric...

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What is "mod?"

The definition of mod varies and that's what a lot of my research has been about. Mod purists would say that mod was a subculture in London in the early '60s made up of working-class teen-agers. Because of the success of The Beatles in 1964 and their success here, mod became attached to anything that was new, young, hip, modern. So today when we say the word "mod," people will think of Sean Connery James Bond films, space-age furniture, mini-skirts, Mary Quant, shaggy haircuts on boys, Cooper Mini cars.

 

Do you have to be English to be mod?

It really was such an international phenomenon. Even in the '60s, mod became tied in with that whole international jet-set mentality. There was the huge baby-boomer generation -- so many young people who were affluent and looking for their own style.  The mainstream youth culture co-opted things like mod that were once underground because it looked cool and it said something about being a modern young person. Then it was adopted by the mainstream adult culture as well.

 

Is there mod now?

It's never really gone away. It's always being revived. My main interest is the way people born in the '60s and '70s adopt and perceive mod style as it was first presented during the years 1964 to 1967 -- and that's why I track current fashion and music trends. Right now I see we're going through another period where mod is back in the fashion world, and bands like The Strokes have been labeled "mod." But, I like to define people in mod subcultures today as being post-mods -- it's a good word to describe the recycling and rehash of the '60s look.

 

Do you collect original mod objects?

I collect everything I see that smacks of mod style -- from artifacts such as old postcards and clothing to great recreations like the Bon Bon accessories. I would love to have a vintage Vespa scooter from the '60s. That to me is really symbolic of so many dreams of mod culture: speed, youthful energy, ease, the modern times, chic transportation, being with your friends riding around on a Vespa.

 

If you're a post-mod today, what statement are you making?

I see it as a statement of rejecting certain trends of the here and now, and I also think it speaks of the lost optimism of that time. Because mod stands for things like the jet set and modernity and all the good things that modern life has to offer. I think that dream has been lost in the last 20 years, so it's no surprise that since the early '80s, there's been definite resurgences of mod.

 

So today's mod is apt to be depressed and nihilistic?

No, I think that people are tapping into something that exudes a kind of optimism that they want to bring into the present. They're trying to implement that in their life -- the fun and excitement associated with that time. Even the old-school symbols like Royal Air Force target symbol -- you can see it even in the mainstream like in Target advertising. Target is trying to tap the same excitement that the mod '60s afforded and displayed -- to sell their products today.

 

Is it a nostalgia for past visions of the future?

It's a nostalgia for a time when people looked towards the future and looked towards modern gadgetry and technology as a cue that we were heading in the right direction, that there were more exciting times to come, that things were only going to get better and better. There was so much emphasis placed on the future, and I think the aesthetics of that time really reflect that. And I think we don't have any current models of how we envision the future. The ideals we have are based on those models that are now in the past. Think about it, what seems cooler: Disney's Tomorrowland circa 1967 or Disney's Tomorrowland circa now? Sure, there are chic laptops and cellular phones, but where are our jetpacks? Where are our holiday homes on the moon?

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