George Melly wrote that mods were initially a small group of clothes-focused English working class young men insisting on clothes and shoes tailored to their style, who emerged during the modern jazz boom of the late 1950s.Early mods watched French and Italian art films and read Italian magazines to look for style ideas.
According to Dick Hebdige, by around 1963, the mod subculture had gradually accumulated the identifying symbols that later came to be associated with the scene, such as scooters, amphetamine pills and R&B music. While clothes were still important at that time, they could be ready-made. Dick Hebdige wrote the term mod covered a number of styles including the emergence of Swinging London, though to him it has come to define Melly’s working class clothes-conscious teenagers living in London and south England in the early to mid 1960s.
Mary Anne Long argues that “first hand accounts and contemporary theorists point to the Jewish upper-working or middle-class of London’s East End and suburbs.” Simon Frith asserts that the mod subculture had its roots in the 1950s beatnik coffee bar culture, which catered to art school students in the radical Bohemian scene in London.Steve Sparks, who claims to be one of the original mods, agrees that before mod became commercialised, it was essentially an extension of the beatnik culture: “It comes from ‘modernist’, it was to do with modern jazz and to do with Sartre” and existentialism. Sparks argues that “Mod has been much misunderstood … as this working-class, scooter-riding precursor of skinheads.”