Mondo and “Col-leej”

During the late fifties and early sixties when I was a student at Central Junior High and then East Providence High schools there were two unique groups of students: the mondos and the college (pronounced “col-leej” with the accent on the second syllable). It was quite easy to tell the two groups apart by the type of clothing each wore, and by the hairstyles they sported.

Mondos usually wore black or gray. The girls were known to wear tight, straight skirts and cardigan sweaters turned around and buttoned up the back, along with black nylon stockings and “mondo boots”: black, pointed-toe, over-the-ankle shoes. They wore heavy makeup, “teased” their hair into exotic styles, wore dangly earrings and their boyfriend’s ring on a chain around their neck. Mondo boys wore tight black pants, Nehru-type jackets or a style of pullover shirt specific to that era of the sixties. They also wore mondo boots. Their hair was combed into a “duck tail” in the back, up at the temples and down into the middle of the forehead.

Typical “col-leej” girls dressed in plaid pleated skirts, blouses with round Peter Pan collars, pullover sweaters, knee socks and saddle shoes. Their hairstyles were flatter, their makeup more subdued and their jewelry limited to scarab bracelets, circle pins and small earrings. Alternate items of clothing included A-line skirts, nylon stockings with sneakers or red or navy flat pumps, and madras plaid jackets. “Col-leej” boys wore chino slacks or white pegged pants, button-down-collar shirts, skinny ties, and madras plaid jackets or pullover sweaters. In the beginning they wore their hair in crew cuts, then later on in the style of the “Fab Four”.

Appearance was not the only thing separating the two groups. Music preferences played an important role. Mondos seemed to like Motown, and “col-leej” were fond of folk, the Beach Boys, and the Beatles. Some mondos liked to hang around in gangs and were more likely to get into fights after school. “Col-leej” kids joined school clubs, sports, or played in the band, and, as the name suggests, they were generally enrolled in college prep courses. Mondos were more apt to be in the lower divisions of the school and take “shop”. In junior high it seemed the two groups disliked one another quite a lot. This seemed to become less pronounced in high school as students were more likely to come together in classes like gym, swim and art and get to know each other.

You’re probably wondering if I was mondo or “col-leej”, aren’t you? Well, I started out as a mondo, mostly because I had an older cousin who handed down her clothing to me. She had beautiful clothes, but the skirts were straight, the sweaters all cardigan, and there wasn’t a pair of saddle shoes in the lot. My parents couldn’t afford to buy all new clothes for me. I felt so conspicuous in my mondo style because I was in a college prep division. I also hated Motown music. Then when I got my first paycheck from a summer job, I spent the entire amount on pleated and A-line skirts, round-collar blouses, and pullover sweaters at the Poise ‘n’ Ivy dress shop in Rumford. I combed the “teasing” out of my hair and chose a more natural hairdo. I bought a pair of saddle shoes. I remember when I started my junior year at E.P. High. So many people in my classes came up to me and said, “Doreen! You went “col-leej”!”