Mods in the 80s: Beccy Connell, Sara Wichall, Gary Hosie, Jonathon Browne and Kirstin Sibley
Speakers: Beccy Connell, Sara Wichall, Gary Hosie, Jonathon Browne and Kirstin Sibley
Running time: 9min
Beccy Connell: [0:08] It started in England in the early 1960s, I guess. A bunch of working class, mainly boys, I’ve got to say, who got into Jazz, modern Jazz, and hence the name ‘modernist’. And with that came the continental Italian look and so that idea of looking sharp and dressing to impress each other as opposed to going out to impress girls. And it just started from there. So they’d just be suburban kids, they’d hook up and then they’d come into the city and they’d have share houses, and then, you know, invariably would be the hangout and then more people would hook up. And there were, I guess, mod suburbs, like Newtown, there were a lot of mod houses. Glebe at some stages.
Sarah Wichall: [0:53] I came out from England and ended up at Maroubra Bay High, which is a predominately surf school. I remember walking into school the first day and being called a punk, which was a massive offensive word to call me, being a mod. So I got into a few scraps the first day at school. But they accepted me; they were interested into what it was all about… the whole clothing, the attitude – there is an attitude to being a mod down to what you would wear – 14 inch bottom trousers, inch above the ankles, Winkle Pickers, suits had to be four-button – it was very much attention to detail.
Sarah Wichall cont’d: [1:27] So I came out here and everyone was running around with zinc on their noses and swallowing bronzing tablets so they had a tan. And I came out from England this pale creature wearing Fred Perry’s, tartan mini skirt, Winkle Pickers and running around on scooters.
Jonathon Browne: [1:42] In Parramatta in the early 80s, it was sort of flannelette shirts and ugg boots and, you know – it was just so different to be wearing Winkle Pickers and five-inch side-vents, and three buttons, and one-inch lapels. Then I drifted to the city, it was like four of us, really. It was a huge mod scene in Parramatta. And we went, ‘You know what, we’re just getting the shit kicked out of us on a daily basis – let’s move to the city’. So we did.
Kristin Sibley: [2:05] I lived in various mod households and there was one in Newtown at the back of the performing arts school and one in Station Street, we called Mutant Manor. It was this huge Victorian pile with like six bedrooms. And people would just arrive on your doorstep at two or three in the morning whether you’d gone out or not and expect to kind of be let in and have a bit of a party there. There was Ferndale Street, and that was, yeah, a different crowd again, but there was various mod households and we just kind of partied a lot, yeah. [laughter]
Gary Hosie: [2:38] I guess it was based on pleasure. It wasn’t based on politics or poverty or, you know, like the whole punk think supposedly – economic, social – you know, sort of response. It was about having a good time, listening to good music, dressing up sharp. And to do those things, you effectively needed a job, so you needed to be relatively responsible. So we, in fact, had more freedom, because we could go from a pub to the swishiest bar at the Hilton Hotel without having to change our clothes. So we had total freedom.
Jonathon Browne: [3:12] Went to a pub called the Sussex, which sadly isn’t there any more. It was run by a woman called Stella Marinos, who was just the most amazing woman ever. She took me under her wing – because I was only 17 at the time – she knew I was too young to be in a pub. So it was just like, ‘Love, when the wallopers come around, just duck out the back’. Like, ‘Yeah, OK’.
Sarah Wichall: [3:33] The wonderful thing about Stella was, she would always look out for the kids, supported the bands going through, again, The Allniters were one, The Sets. We were just looking for our own little niche, but also I think it was a lot better of us being in there and looked after by her than out on the streets. She was a wonderful, wonderful lady.
Gary Hosie: [3:52] A lot of people that I’ve met over the years, since those early 80s mod days, have come up to me and talked about sort of the influence that, The Sets, my band, had on them, and how they still remember the lyrics of the songs to this day. Even though we never put out a record, and we never released the lyrics, they learned them singing along live.
Gary Hosie cont’d:[4:13] And those songs expressed how they felt, because we were mods and they were mods. My brother and I were not drug takers, we didn’t want the scene to be a drug-taking scene. We weren’t successful because in the end, drugs became a part of it and drugs ruined it. But, you know, for us, projecting that by being the example and singing about it in our songs was what we wanted to do. We wrote about what the mods were doing, and what had happened.
Kristin Sibley: [4:45] Thursday night was definitely out to the hip hop club. And out till four in the morning, then get up, go to work. I think I was working at DJ’s at the time. And, you know, get up, having had two hours of sleep. And Saturday was always get up as early as possible, go to Newtown, tour the op shops. And the markets, you know, Balmain Markets or Paddington Markets and try and find a fab new outfit. That was kind of the girls’ aim – was always new clothes, new clothes, you know.
Beccy Connell: [5:11] Cute little dresses… boots, go-go boots, ski pants and little Winkle Picker, Mary Jane shoes and things like that.
Sarah Wichall: [5:19] A lot of the time you would customise your own clothing. If you saw a particular check that you liked, or maybe you would just get the collar buttoned down if it was the correct length, so you’d just take it to a tailor, get it altered. The old 60s dresses, the girls used to like go out and hunt them down. The majority at the time, I mean we were always about a size eight or 10 back then, so you’d have to take it along to a seamstress and have to take it in for you, you’d adjust it. If the material was great, you’d make it the way you wanted it to be… Peter Pan collar, anything like that. So a lot of customising went on. A lot of customising, because you just had to find what was, initially, the ‘right kind of look’, but then adapt it so it would be ‘the look’.
Gary Hosie: [5:59] I mean, the suit was generally, it was a three-button suit with a three-inch lapel. Relatively short lapel, two buttons done up, third button not, quite often with flaps on the pockets, six-inch vents on the back. The leg was fairly narrow, although not necessarily absolute leg clingingly tight, but maybe about a 12-, 13-inch bottom.
Jonathon Browne: [6:25] For the first probably two years it was op shop stuff, until I’d had saved enough to get my first suit made and that was like something special. We used to wear brogues if we knew we were going to be in a fight that night. Particularly with the skinheads, who used to wear Doc Martens which is sort of like boxing gloves on your feet. Whereas brogues were sort of, harder, and could do more damage.
Beccy Connell: [6:49] Really heavy black eye makeup. Normally, no lipstick or if it is a lipstick, it’s just a pale, pale pink or a white lipstick – so it’s all about accentuating the eyes…. False eye lashes….
Sarah Wichall: [7:01] The more black and heavier the eyes, the better. Predominately black bobs, or you get a lot of girls coming in would have kiss curls down here and a bit of a bouffant at the back – which is a great look until you’ve got to stick a helmet on it, and then kind of like loses its effect, so to say. But they used to make helmets back in the 60s for the girls who had back-combs and they used to have a little bump above it. And, of course, you’d be able to get out and your hair would still look perfect.
Gary Hosie: [7:24] I’ve got a scooter to this day, which I ride to work all the time. And I think that, you know, you fall in love with them. You know? A scooter was designed so that a bloke could have his wife on the back. The panels are there to stop the dresses getting caught in the chain. To my way of thinking, they were perfectly designed for a couple to ride around on. You know? And I just love them. You know, I love looking at them… I love riding them – but they were not easy to find back in those days. You know, you had to seek out second-hand ones, and often get them restored. So, you had a passion for it – you had to. Because you had to find them, maintain them, learn how to start them when they wouldn’t start. You know? So, there’s a real love thing there, you know. They’re fantastic.
Beccy Connell: [8:16] Just love the look. I mean, I haven’t really shaken it off since I was, you know, 15. I like the way the boys look. You know, tall, skinny mod boy with tight, white Levis, hipsters and short crew cuts – Nothing better! I love the fashion, I love the history from that time. You know, and that’s looking back at it from a nostalgic point of view. I know that actually living it is a different thing, but you know? I just love it.