What makes a mod suit mod? One may argue that the mod suit is what defines the mod look, more so than parkas, gingham shirts and pique polos - after all, we're only wearing our parkas to keep the grease and oil from our scooters from staining our impeccable, smart and sharp mod suit.
The mod suit look emerged in the late 50s. The first mods - the modernists - defined as such for their love of modern jazz over traditional jazz (the mods vs. the trads) looked to their jazz heroes for style inspiration. Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, et al, were often pictured wearing sharply tailored suits. Couple this with the influence of Italian fashion and the mod suit was born.
So lets examine our classic mod suit; the basics and the necessities. The elements which define a mod suit.
- Slim fit & Waisted Cut: The mod suit is a slim fit. As slim as you can stand it. The look does not allow for boxy jackets or baggy trousers. Your suit must be cut slim with darts to accentuate the waist.
- Single Breasted: The classic mod suit is a single breast. This means one row of buttons, not two (which is double breasted).
- 3 Button Fasten: Tradition dictates the jacket is high fastening with a three button fasten. However, we will usually wear it with only the top two fastened.
- Narrow, notch lapels: Slim lapels are a must, typically with a notch (over a peak). This is the triangular cut out shape to the top of the lapel. Exact width is a matter of taste, but around a two inch width will see you through nicely.
- Short length: This blazer isn't called the bumfreezer for nothing. Mod suit jackets are slightly on the short side. Nothing worse than a suit jacket which is too long.
- Short-ish sleeve: The sleeve should also be on the slightly short side, although not so it is overly noticeable. This is so we can show off our shirt sleeve cuffs and our fancy cufflinks.
- Ticket pocket: Another defining aspect of the mod suit. The ticket pocket is the smaller, third pocket usually found above the main pocket on the right hip of the suit jacket. A British tailoring tradition, we could write a completely separate article on the history of the ticket pocket, but for our purposes here, it adds that dandy mod heritage look.
- Mohair and/or Tonic fabric: Not all mohair fabrics are tonics and not all tonic look fabrics are mohair, but if we can have both, then why not? Mohair is the classic fabric used in a mod suit. Mods loved the lustrous, smooth look mohair wool gives a suit, making it immediately the mark of class and style. Tonik - the original and proper fabric - was developed by French fabric manufacturer Dormeuil, but the tonic look here refers to a two-tone, iridescent fabric which copied that look. (The original fabric was quite expensive, but the look can be achieved with other tonic fabrics).
- Side vents: On the back of our mod suit jacket we find two side vents. This has also been written into mod lore that our classic mod suit shall feature side vents (twin slits at either side of the back of the jacket) and never a centre vent (a single slit in the middle of the back of the jacket at the bottom). The length of the vent is a matter of personal taste. The Who song (or High Numbers, as they were then) Zoot Suit contains the lyric, "I wear zoot suit jacket with side vents five inches long," so a lot of mods opt for that length, but anything in that region is fine. The vents purpose is to aid movement while wearing the suit. For a frame of reference, the vents on the suit jacket in the illustration are 7.25".
- Tapered, slim leg Trousers: On to the trousers and as you might expect, the mod suit trousers are slim leg and usually tapered, meaning the are narrower at the bottom than the top, as opposed to straight.
- Short-ish leg length: As with our jacket sleeves, we wear the trousers very slightly on the short side (but no half-masts, please!) This is so we can show off our stylish loafers, brogues or chelsea boots and maybe the snazzy socks we're wearing with them. Mod is all about detail and we need to show off that detail.
- Narrow Ankle: The tapered mod suit trouser leg results in the narrow ankle. A traditional suit would have maybe 16" - 18" bottoms or wider, but the mod suit will have a narrow bottom. Again, it's personal preference as to how wide. 14" is a good ball park figure.
- Pockets: Trouser pockets are a must, but how many and how they look is again down to taste. The mod suit pictured here has two front slanted side pockets which keep the shape and silhouette of the trouser nicely. Not pictured is also a single straight pocket with a button fasten on the back, but more about pockets in part two.
- Narrow waistband: Also details down to preference and style, but the classic mod suit will feature a narrow waistband, equipped to hold a narrow width suit belt (but probably unsuitable for wider jeans belts). You shouldn't really have to wear a belt with your mod suit, but sometimes it's nice.
The suit featured in this article is the Madcap England Mod Suit in Burgundy Mohair tonic. Find it here.