Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Quadrophenia" by Jovana Popovic

In the 50s and 60s, Europe was still living the consequences of the World War II. England and France were one of the countries where the young generations felt most rebellious towards the values and behaviors of the older generations. The end results were various new styles in behaving and thinking, touching on every sphere of everyday life.
The Mod phenomenon, which emerged in England, is certainly among the most famous ones of the period. It was a result of a teenage rebellion against the Technicolor fairytales, which were fed through radio, TV and cinema, as well as repressed and class-obsessed status quo of the older generations. The Mod culture was overwhelmed with different fetishes. Every mod was supposed to have a Vespa scooter which was a fashion accessory. They customized them by painting and over accessorizing them with luggage racks, crash bars and dozens of mirrors. It was also practical as public transport did not run late into the night, so the scooter helped the Mod get around the city. Basic elements of Mod clothing were Fred Perry and Ben Sherman shirts, Sta-Prest trousers and Levi’s jeans, the fish-tail parka jacket which was worn to keep their suits sharp and themselves warm, slim-fitting black or grey suits with a lighter colored shirt underneath and a tight, half-Windsored dark tie .Girls wore homemade shift dresses and ankle socks or colored tights and straight skirts with short, boxy jackets.The make-up was light and the eyes black and heavy, false eyelashes were pasted on and lower-lid lashes painted. A coating of white lipstick was also welcomed but only for the bravest ones.
Mods’ opponents were Rockers. Their common wear were cheap black leather jackets and trousers, which allowed them to spend a lot of money on fuel for their big motorbikes.

The intriguing story of the lives of these teenagers served as an inspiration for the movie Quadrophenia. The movie was filmed in 1979, being a debut of a young film director Franc Roddam. It portrayed the clashes and fights that were constantly happening between the two groups.
The main character, Jimmy is a mod who truly believes in this way of life.He has a boring job, but everything makes sense once he hits house parties and hears the sound of The Who. However, eventually he painfully discovers the unfairness of life, when he is let down by his friends and turned back on by his family.Turning to the mod ideology for comfort he is completely disappointed once he realizes it has abandoned him as well.
The story was roughly based on 1973 The Who album and rock opera Quadrophenia. Incorporating four different melodies, made by four different members, the band created a schizophrenic character, Jimmy, split into four personalities: a tough guy, a romantic, a bloody lunatic, a beggar/a hypocrite.
This movie did not have a single costume designer. Joyce Stoneman (Brazil, The Boys in Blue, The Princess Bride) was named a wardrobe mistress. However, majority of clothes were supplied by two ex-mods, Roger Burton and Jack English.
Jack English is a professional photographer, who founded Contemporary Wardrobe along with Roger Burton, which lead to a commission for Quadrophenia. Roger Burton started out in the vintage clothes industry supplying thousands of choice garments to shops across Europe and as far as Japan. To this day he has worked on numerous projects including 150 commercials, 50 music promos and various movies.
The color palette consists of muted, solid colors, and a few patterns that can be seen on the dresses worn by girls. Dominant color is certainly army green, the color of the parka, which can be seen on most of the Mod characters. Majority of suits are black and grey, with a couple of brown ones, such as Jimmy’s tailor-made. As said before, Levi’s jeans were very popular, therefore the navy blue as well, but also washed blue jeans for the activities at home. The colors of shirts worn are mostly light -grays, white, beige. Among these muted colors, a couple of characters appear in brigther ones as well, such as red, which is worn by Jimmy’s best friend as well as burgundy, which is used to differentiate Jimmy in many of the scenes.

Two very particular characters, that do not appear too much but both play significant roles, and are clearly differentiated by their aestetics are Kevin, played by Ray Winstone, and The Ace Face, played by Sting.
Kevin is an old friend of Jimmy’s and a Rocker. When Kevin is introduced for the first time, he is naked, and Jimmy is glad to see him. However, right after that, he discovers Kevin is a Rocker, after he has seen him wearing leather jacket and trousers and leaves refusing to talk to him.
The Ace Face is considered an ‘’ultimate mod’’. He is well differentiated by the clothes he is wearing, such as leather coat instead of green parka. The uniform he is wearing at the end of the movie shows that the Mod ideology is superficial, as one of the most loyal followers has abandoned it. Once again, clothing plays a major role when it comes to characterization.
Finally, the focus shifts to Jimmy, a true Mod culture representative in this move. Drunken by the ideology, he is not able to see beyond the surface. For Jimmy, everything has to do with the Mod culture, and everything is done for its cause. To illustrate this point, the director even uses a scene where Jimmy lets his wet Levi’s dry on himself, so that they can get the best possible shape and fit perfectly.
When Jimmy is firstly introduced, he is wearing a black blazer with gray stripes, grey shirt, and burgundy tie and trousers. His look is perfect and clean, which represents hia psychological state at that moment – very calm with nothing to worry about.

Furthermore, when preparing for the trip to Brighton, Jimmy is seen cruising around the town on his scooter. Jimmy is wearing a Mod parka, which immediately gives a hint who he is, as well as a Fred Perry shirt, and dark blue Levi’s jeans. His wear is casual, but is still within the Mod spirit.
The next big look is shown when Mods leave for Brighton. Jimmy wears a suit that he had tailor-made especially for this occasion. It is dark brown, and perfectly fits his figure. His tie is also brown, and the whole look is completed with the Mod parka. The Brighton trip is of a special importance, Jimmy feels special, and therefore the clothes are special as well.
The final look drastically differs from the previous ones. Jimmy is heading to Brighton, and has a burgundy jacket, white shirt and black tie and trousers. The eyeliner almost frames the madness coming out of his eyes. Everything is overwhelmed by the burgundy, which before was used only for minor details which were not that obvious. The contrast between him and the two typical English gentlemen with cylinders is stunning. It is almost a representation of the Mod culture within rest of the society.

The movie and Mod culture have influenced fashion at large in many aspects. One of them is the trend of the parka, also called the ‘ultimate parka’. Also, many of the world brands continue to be inspired by the cuts of the Mod clothes, such as Chloe, Balenciaga and Dsquared.
It is true that fascination by certain phenomena from the past does not cease. Thanks to Quadrophenia, some of the authentic aesthetics are forever recorded and stored for those who will want to know what the Mod culture really was like.

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