Breeders had the Sears catalogue. Gays had International Male. Hence, we have just explained the reason why we live in a bitterly divided society. You’re welcome.
But our hyperbole may just contain a kernel of truth. While heterosexuals were browsing bras alongside barbecue grills and other essential houseware items, those of us in the LGBTQ’mmunity had to squirrel away copies of suggestive fashion mags to get our respective rocks off.
International Male planted its flag at the intersection of soft-core vibes and hard-bodied hunks. We don’t mean to be crass (pause for incredulous reaction), but there’s a very good reason why the publication’s pages were printed on glossy, durable material.
And as you wipe that image from your mind, consider the fact that IM pre-dated the Internet by almost two decades. The randy rag provided a much-needed release for queer and questioning adolescent boys (the main question being: how the hell does that thong stay on?).
But the significance of International Male transcends erotica. A new documentary explores the cultural relevance of the catalogue, from its sexually liberating perspective to its innovative takes on couture.
ALL MAN: The International Male Story assembles luminaries from the gay pop-culture realm as well as fashionistas who deconstruct the magazine’s influence on the clothing industry.
“International Male was trying to ignite men to start dabbling with style,” narrates Simon Doonan. “Style is masculine. Style is flamboyant.”
The dichotomy of beefy and bold was on full, bulging display in every issue of the periodical. Models sported impossibly niche ensembles that characterized a time and place that may never have existed, except in our fertile fantasies.
Exhibit Gay: this vision in tattoos…
Even the documentarians behind ALL MAN are unable to identify the true identity of the performer simply known as “Greek Dock Worker.” How fitting that he remains a phantom in our wet dreams.
The aesthetic of International Male was impractical and indecent. In other words: it fed our dirty minds and inspired generations of gay tastemakers to be tasteless yet fabulous.
So, wear that mesh tank top to your niece’s bat mitzvah. Bust out a string mankini at the public pool. Be brazen, be tacky, and be appreciative of the International Males who paved the possibilities of over-the-top/underground sexual expression. Our hats (and shorts) are off to you, good sirs.
Image are courtesy of ALL MAN: The International Male Story © Brawn, LLC
Last modified: April 7, 2021