Like the Fred Perry Laurel wreath embroidered on their chest, the scooter rally patches stitched by Mods onto jacket sleeves were a badge of cult identity. For SS14, Fred Perry have collaborated with Paddy Smith, the most prolific scooter patch designer and peddler during the mod revival. The collection, ‘Margate on the Run’, sees Smith’s iconic 4“ squares stitched across the back of parkas, on the inner lining of camo bombers, and on the sleeves of the classic polo. In the early eighties Smith designed and printed limited edition collections of patches to sell at the scooter rallies which came together in a different town each weekend. If you had the patch for that town, you’d survived the pilgrimage. For the Fred Perry collection Smith’s patches riff on the enduring Mod codes of targets and checkerboards, plus the Ska music that soundtracked their rally gatherings. A print shirt immortalises the Whitsun Weekend, and its infamous violent clashes between thousands of Mods and Rockers on the beaches of southern England in May 1964.
Ahead of the collaboration we caught up with Paddy Smith to talk patch obsessions and the cult of the scooterist.
Dazed Digital: How did you first become involved with scooter rallies and the scene?
Paddy Smith: Although I was a mod and rode a scooter as a teenager in the sixties it wasn’t until 1981 that I became involved again following the mod revival of 1979. My brother in law had been to the rally in Scarborough the previous year that I went to Skegness with 15 t shirts printed with a simple logo and ‘Skegness Scooter Rally’. The first patch was a one colour print featuring a silhouette of my brother in law’s Lambretta LI 150 which I printed for the Yarmouth rally three weeks after Skegness.
Dazed Digital: Why patches?
Paddy Smith: Scooter clubs were springing up all over the country in the eighties. The generation the Sex Pistols observed had ’no future’ lived for the weekend. Old Lambrettas and Vespas were not only cheap and stylish – they took you away from the boring town you grew up in. As the scene developed it attracted skinheads, psychobillies, rude boys and even a few hippies! It was about scooters, being different and getting away – it was not a London based scene. Travelling hundreds of miles on old bikes designed for shopping or commuting created challenges as did the animosity of ‘grebos’ and ‘casuals’ along the way, so everyone had a story to tell. When rally patches became available jackets became historical documents that displayed how far and how often you had travelled.
Dazed Digital: How did the popularity of your patches spread?
Paddy Smith: The scene grew rapidly in 1982 and there were a few people doing the same as us – walking around the pubs and the sea front selling rally patches – but it was in 1983 that mine became regarded as the ‘official’ patch. I adopted the 4” square: there were nine national rallies a year, so anybody who bought all nine patches found that they could sew them onto the back of a Levi denim or MA1 flight jacket and they fitted nicely into a square. Because I had ridden to all the rallies in 1982 on my Vespa P200E I had become acutely aware of why people were proud of their patches and regarded them like campaign medals. Other patch sellers were unloading any surplus in Carnaby Street, which was causing resentment amongst the rally going ‘troops’ who saw people wearing patches for rallies they had never been to. I made the promise that my patches would only be available on the rally they were made for and any surplus would be burnt the following November 5th.
Dazed Digital: Talk us through the process of creating each patch:
Paddy Smith: The scooter is always the start. My background is in fine art, not graphics so what I’m doing is making little pictures. When I was designing for rallies in Britain I would search out a new interesting looking scooter and photograph it at one rally to feature on a patch later that year. For the patches I print now for rallies organised by clubs across Europe and Australia I work from photographs they send me. The colours and style of the scooter dictate the background, which might reference the name of the scooter or the rally or may simply reflect the lines of the scooter in some way.
Dazed Digital: What were the ideas behind the patches created for Fred Perry?
Paddy Smith: The collection centres around Margate, where there had been clashes between the mods and rockers in the sixties. We were looking to make cultural links with this and the later rallies. I kept the references simple using targets and checkerboards along with some musical references and some landmarks from the town. The blocks of colour with black outlines give them a sixties Pop Art feel.