The scooter is a type of step through motorcycle that became popular in the post World War 11 era. It provided low power low cost transport for the masses. Early styles came from Japan, America and Germany but it was the Italian Lambretta’s (Innocenti) and Vespa’s (Piaggio) that has become the standard for scooters right through to today.
A youth subculture that developed around the scooter was that of the Mod. Originating in the 50’s and finding its peak in the 60’s it has enjoyed revivals in more recent decades and maintains a popular following even today. At its heart remains a fascination with the scooter but also important is the Mod fashion and musical tastes.
Music centres around African American soul, Jamaican ska, and British beat music and R&B.
Fashion adopted Italian and French styles as a reaction to the leather clad rocker style but it also incorporated developing fashions from Carnaby street London. Military insignia were adopted too as was the parka which was initially worn to protect the sharp suits worn beneath. Female mods were quite androygenous with their short haircuts, mens clothing and minimal makeup.
Mods used motorscooters for transportation, usually Vespas or Lambrettas. Scooters had provided inexpensive transportation for decades before the development of the mod subculture, but the mods stood out in the way that they treated the vehicle as a fashion accessory. Italian scooters were preferred due to their cleanlined, curving shapes and gleaming chrome. For young mods, Italian scooters were the “embodiment of continental style and a way to escape the working-class row houses of their upbringing”. A mirror bedecked ‘Lambi’ or Vespa was an iconic image of its time and one that still holds a fascination for many today.
Quadraphenia (1979) a film written by Peter Townsend of The Who was a rock opera that followed the story of a London Mod. Featuring the music of the band and other music of the mid 60’s it was not popularly received at the time but it nevertheless manages to capture the Mod culture and its fashion extremely well and is a much underrated cinematic experience too.
Today Scooter and Mod culture survives as a still popular subculture. Groups from across the Uk come together at many seaside resorts such Rhyl, Whitby, Great Yarmouth, the Isle of Man, Llandudno,Exmouth and Woolacombe and many other venues too. The different incarnations of Scooter and Mod interest fom each decade can be seen to coexist quite happily………….but the scooter remains the popular common denominator at these rallies and is testament to their enduring appeal.
Links: Scootering Magazine -http://www.scootering.com/
Classic Scooerist Scene Magazine – http://www.scooteristscene.com/
Shed Magazine – http://www.shedmag.com/
Scooter Rallies – http://www.scooter-rallies.com
Mod Revival – http://www.modrevival.net/
This picture shows a Lambretta TV on the left and a GP on the right both in great condition and excellent examples of their type. Photo taken at the Lyons weekender in Rhyl on a rideout to Rhos on Sea. The scooters belong to members of Liverpool Scooter Club.