NB: This is a series mostly about the clothes and attitude, not so much the music!
For most people this means the band should be discounted. After all, what’s Mod about someone pretending to be Mod? It should be all about looking good, at least looking a bit different and playing some decent tunes along with it. For many, being Mod is not something that you actively pursue, so much as find yourself doing (to paraphrase Martin Freeman) because it comes naturally.
The High Numbers (as they were introduced to the scene) were not natural Mods at all. Roger Daltrey especially had severe trouble keeping his hair under control, so much so that he had to use product to retain his early look. He himself said he gravitated towards the Rocker end of the spectrum, not the Mod end. Everything about the band was contrived to appeal to a Mod audience that needed new music.
So what’s Mod about the Who? Well I would actually argue that until they hit their “Pictures of Lily” frilly shirts and silly ties phase in the mid 1960s, quite a bit.
As one looking back on the My generation, pictures and videos of The Who offer a rich insight into what Pete Meaden and the later managers interpreted their audience to be. The band were designed to empathise with a Mod audience, this is true - so they had to dress like them. The band were a reflection of the scene of the time. Perhaps exaggerated, true, but nonetheless their clothes are a powerful reminder of what is possible with that strong early sixties vibe.
“The band were designed to empathise with a Mod audience - so they had to dress like them.”
So The Who’s record is not entirely scratched; despite their shaky foundations, the original man in charge was a Mod through and through and aimed to dress them to appeal to the contemporary musical scene. Their wild success ought to indicate how much he nailed that objective and managed to project ‘Mod writ large’ onto what would become one of the world’s most successful bands.
For purists, we may take or leave the logos and roundels, but we can’t deny that bold colours and choppy, punky guitars have remained part of the broader Mod identity ever since.