Testament of Youth

Owen Harvey - Mod UK
Owen Harvey – Mod UK
Raimon Wouda - Liceo Aristofane, Roma
Raimon Wouda – Liceo Aristofane, Roma

Originally, in the 1960s, wearing a tailor-made suit and, ideally, moving around on a Lambretta or Vespa scooter, was a ‘cool’ act of rebellion against the mainstream. British photographer Owen Harvey focused his attention on the resurgence of a particular fashion style: the Mods. But is being rebellious still an option for the retro-Mods of today?

The retro-subcultures seem to have become depoliticized and with that, less vigorous. Instead of being rebellious and expressing a need to take over things, sooner rather than later, the contemporary teenager is assumed to seek instead a sense of belonging. The pictures by Dutch photographer Raimond Wouda at least seem to confirm that, as an institution, school is essentially a location to cling together. What his project shows is group behaviour at its core.

To sum up the assumption: all human beings function, by nature, both on a singular and a social level but in the age of insecurity – basically defined by the school years and its aftermath – we tend to still be a bit wobbly on both sides of the spectrum and, in such a situation, it is comforting to find shelter in something ‘retro’, in statements of a cult that has historically proven its strength.

Would that sufficiently explain why these youngsters dress up so smartly? Is it just because they feel secure in reactivating something that was successful in the past? Our feature article hints at an alternative interpretation: that the ‘rebels’ of the 1960s have eventually pushed their manifestations in such a direction that youthfulness went mainstream. […]

The full article has been published in the print edition of GUP #46