THE TIME HAS COME. We’ve been serving an array of vintage fashion galleries in these content-light times, but we would be remiss in our duties as gay fashion bloggers if we failed to feature that bastion of ’80s and ’90s queer eye-opening, the International Male catalogue. Not merely a gallery of astonishingly dated, occasionally horrifying – and in many cases, not remotely trendy tor the times (hello, Pirate Shirt) – male fashion, the International Male catalogue, in the days before the internet and largely at the height of the AIDS crisis, was an ENTRY POINT TO GAYNESS for at least an entire generation of Gen-X and older Millennial queer men, who could get it delivered to their (or their parents’) front doorstep under the guise of normal and wholesome marketing to the young male consumer. Let’s just say the underwear and swimwear sections could occasionally skirt the outer boundaries of Gay Porntown – and often featured models recognizable from gay porn. The covers, however, were largely respectable, if not exactly tasteful. A teen or college-age guy in the closet could tell himself – and anyone else who might have asked – that the IM catalogue was simply a flashier version of any legitimate male fashion magazine or catalogue; a GQ with more abs, a Sears catalogue with visible bush. In this way, they were the successor to the mid 20th-Century, pre-porn physique magazines we wrote about in our book. a way for queer closeted men to indulge in aspirational and sexual fantasies catering to their queerness without the sometimes daunting (if not terrifying) prospect of going to a public location to purchase or rent porn from a purveyor of such things. It’s so easy to enjoy the absolutely astonishing level of tackiness in most of the fashion (which didn’t so much cater to the young closeted men of the time as it did the older, more affluent and outward-facing queer men who also enjoyed the catalogue), but it really was a glimpse of a gayer, freer world to the last generation of queer male teenagers to grow up in a world where such things were unimaginable.
Sorry to get all historical on your asses! By all means, FEAST YOUR EYES and drown your cares and woes in satin, brocade, and WAY too many vests!
[Photo Credit: eBay, Pinterest]