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What Is the Difference Between Mods and Rockers?

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The 1960s was a time of great change in music, fashion, and culture, with new sounds emerging from all over the world.

In America, it was the era of the British Invasion, when bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and many others became huge stars.

The era was characterized by change, liberation, and a break from the conservative conventions that had dominated society for so long. It witnessed the dawning of youth subcultures.

During this time, young men and women found their voices and began to express themselves through their choice of fashion, music, and social philosophy.

Many different subcultures emerged, each with its own distinctive styles, aesthetics, and cultural symbols.

And these various subcultures demanded ardent loyalty among fellow members, as well as fierce rivalry towards opposing groups.

One rivalry which dominated headlines was that between the British youth subcultures of the Mods and the Rockers.

vintage photo of members of the mod subculture

Who Were the Mods?

Mods were a subculture that emerged in England during the 1950s and 60s. They valued style and fashion, particularly the tailored aesthetic of Italy and France.

They were clean-cut, generally middle class, and they became associated with fast cars and scooters.

They watched European cinema and listened to 1960s music genres such as ska, rhythm and blues, soul, beat music, and British blues-rooted bands.

Where Did the Mods Get Their Name?

The Mods took their name from the abbreviation for ‘Modernists’ which referred to a new, modern style of jazz musician who loved to wear Italian clothing and valued clean, stylish fashion and a polished appearance.

The term Modernist was used in contrast to ‘Trad’ or ‘Traditionalist’, which reference the old style of jazz musicians.

How Did Mods Dress?

Mods were generally middle class youth who dressed in an unconventional manner, often sporting brightly colored clothing, such as suits or jackets, vests, ties, scarves, hats, and shoes.

They also wore their hair differently than most people at the time. Their hairstyles included mohawks, quiffs, pompadours, afros, etc.

Mod fashions were inspired by American jazz musicians like Bill Haley and Elvis Presley, as well as the movies of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

They were deeply influenced by Italian fashion and tailoring too.

Mod girls wore short skirts, tight sweaters, high-heeled boots, and sometimes fishnet stockings.

They favored bright colors, including red, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, pink, white, and black.

Their makeup consisted of heavy eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, and powder.

A beautiful funky 60's retro model posing.

What Music Did Mods Listen To?

Mods are most famous for listening to the 1960s British youth culture bands like The Kinks, The Yardbirds, and The Who.

The Who even wrote a very famous album entitled Quadrophenia in 1973, all about the subculture and its rivalry with the Rockers.

Mods also liked to listen to R&B, soul, and other forms of pop music that reflected the changing times.

They enjoyed listening to genre-fluid music, disco music, and the dance music of the mid-sixties.

Mods celebrated modern music by the likes of Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, and Gene Vincent.

What Vehicles Did Mods Ride?

In addition to their appearance, Mods were known for their love of scooters. In fact, the word “scooter” comes from the French word “escorteur”, meaning “riding companion”.

Scooters were cheap, easy to ride, and fun to drive. They were popular because they could be driven on the sidewalk.

Scooters were also great for cruising around town, especially if you had a girlfriend. You could take her shopping, go dancing, have lunch, and then come home with her and your scooter. It was a perfect date!

photo of a rocker in a leather jacket and blue jeans holding an electric guitar

Who Were the Rockers?

Rocker was a derogatory term used to describe young men who didn’t follow the rules set forth by the Mods.

They were considered uncool, unkempt, and sloppy. Rocker boys usually sported long hair, leather jackets, and jeans. They were considered to be tough and hardcore.

The Rockers were more likely to hang out in bars where they drank beer and listened to loud music. They were usually older teens and adults.

Many of them worked in factories or construction jobs.

Where Did Rockers Get Their Name?

The name “rocker” came from the 1950s American slang term “rock ‘n’ roll”. This meant something wild, crazy, and exciting.

It was originally used to refer to the music played by African Americans. Later, it became associated with the rebellious behavior of teenagers, American rock bands, and British rock bands.

What Did Rockers Wear?

Rockers typically wore dark clothes. They wore dark denim jeans, black leather jackets, and boots. They also wore work shirts, button-down collars, and suspenders.

They rarely wore jewelry and instead chose to wear rings and watches.

Their style was very much inspired by the likes of Marlon Brando in The Wild One and James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause.

They also loved wearing military clothing. This included army fatigues, combat boots, and flak jackets.

What Music Did Rockers Listen To?

Most Rockers listened to hard rock and rock n’ roll. These types of songs were often about rebellion and freedom.

Some of the best examples include Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’, Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’, AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’, Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’, and The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’.

British Rockers were influenced by British bands like The Rolling Stones, as well as by American rock and roll stars like Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley, and Bo Diddley.

What Vehicles Did Rockers Ride?

Rockers rode motorcycles. Unlike the Mods who rode lightweight scooters, Rockers preferred larger bikes. Harley Davidson and Triumph bikes were among the most popular choices.

They also favored chopper bikes, which are similar to dirt bikes but smaller.

portrait of handsome rocker in black leather jacket and sunglasses

Was There a Rivalry Between the Mods and the Rockers?

There were many times when the two groups would clash. For example, Mods believed that Rockers were uncouth and rude.

Rockers thought that Mods were stuck-up snobs. There were also times when the two groups fought over girls.

How Did Mods and Rockers Differ?

Mods were generally middle-class youth. They had money, good education, and respectable jobs.

They tended to dress better than their counterparts. They also had a higher sense of fashion.

In contrast, Rockers were mostly working-class youths.

They lived in poor neighborhoods and attended low-income schools. They didn’t have much money and dressed poorly. They also had a lower sense of fashion.

black and white photo of a band playing on stage

What Happened Between the Mods and Rockers in 1964?

In 1964, the Mods and Rockers famously clashed in various seaside resort towns in southern Britain.

The biggest physical conflict occurred in Brighton on Easter weekend when hundreds of youths from both sides embarked in a violent conflict with each other.

Police officers made several arrests and many Mods and Rockers were jailed for civil disobedience.

Other riots broke out that year in Margate, Kent, Whitsun, Hastings, and Clacton.

The clashes sparked what was later described as ‘moral panic’ in the wider British public, and both sets of youths were seen as ‘louts’, ‘good-for-nothings’, and ‘trouble-makers’.

Finally… Did Mods and Rockers Ever Get Along?

Yes! Although there were many differences between the two groups, they did share some common interests. Both groups liked cars and motorcycles.

They both enjoyed hanging out at local clubs and listening to loud music. They both loved fast food and snacks. And they all liked to party!