Tuesday, January 31, 2012

UnderGear Art

Undergear Monster 1993
By Rob Clarke, who includes a wide variety of artistic inspirations in his wonderful world of male erotica.  According to the link to his site (below), part of his inspiration for the upper body of some of these phallic men was from a photo that the artist found in an Undergear catalog. Rob Clarke Serpent

Monday, January 30, 2012

International Male (part three)

In 1977 the first International Male store opened in San Diego (at 2802 Midway Drive).  Just a year later in 1978, a second store in West Hollywood was started (at 9000 Santa Monica Blvd).  Meanwhile their mail order catalogs were chock-full of hansome men in sexy clothing and became a mainstay for gay audiences everywhere, offering "a distinctive look for fashion-conscious men" of the era.  Simply put, their catalogs were a great place to look at men in underwear--including very skimpy shorts.  Almost a decade before the big brands joined the fashion underwear marketplace, International Male was offering every conceivable style and color of cock holders, complete with lace-up bikinis, leopard prints, mesh knits, and more.  The founder of the company (who had created the original Jock Sock) retired in 1987 and sold it to Hanover House.   It's reported that their last paper catalog went out in 2007. The company still operates a thriving business on the internet.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Brent Cross

 Brent Cross earned a name for himself in the 1990s, thanks in large part to his wonderfully thick love tool.  Brent performed in many films (as in dozens of them).  His cleancut appearance was a nice contrast to how naughty he could be in action.  His movies were varied, with films like Dirty White Guys to Men in Blue and Rope Tricks.  Born in 1975, he appears to have retired from the business sometime around 1999.  It's reported that he also used the stage names Brant Cross and Hunter Cross.  Brent Cross also happens to be the name of a large mall outside of London.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Modern Origins of Sexy Male Underwear (part two)

Today the marketing world of male fashion underwear is pretty much taken for granted.  Models like Steven Dehler (above) certainly are pleasing to the eye and offer an ideal of what underwear could look like if we all had the great physique of Steven.  These days, sexy ball keepers are available (3 to a pack) at malls, discount stores and the internet.  But once upon a time, if you wanted more than the bland white basics in men's skivvies you were pretty much limited to speciality mail order, and both gay and straight men with the balls to wear them clipped their order coupons and sent away, which is where we resume our story in the early 1970s.

The Jock Sock.  Even the name implied rugged athletics.  By virtue of its design, the sock was totally male and as the ads proclaimed, "ideal for daily wear or beach and sports".  In reality, it probably didn't offer the needed support for sports more strenuous than perhaps ping pong, but that was okay.   Ads for the Jock Sock appeared in straight men's magazines such as Esquire, Oui, and Penthouse as well as gay publications and those somewhere in-between like After Dark.  The ad below appeared in After Dark magazine's June 1972 issue:
But who could have ever guessed that a 1978 movie would generate a college campus fad for Jock Socks?  Virtually unheard of before the movie Animal House was released, outrageous toga parties quickly became the expected norm in colleges all over America once the movie became a smash hit.  In groups of two, three or more, fraternity studs and sporting teammates (always the popular guys on campus) alike began wearing Jock Socks under their togas with the full intention of disrobing before the night was finished.  On its surface, strutting about a party wearing only a sock over your penis and balls was just a risqué party joke of youth, since nothing more scandalous than a naked beefy ass and a fabric pouch were actually being displayed.   As the kegs emptied and toga sheets eventually fell off and onto soggy shag-carpeted floors, sorority girls no doubt were titillated enough at the beefcake spectacle to surrender some pink.  And once again, straight society had provided an acceptable way for (at least presumably) straight men to act like sexual objects of desire with one another, while totally ignoring the homoerotic aspect of being drunk and almost naked (with your equally buff and also almost naked buddies) at 2 AM.   Guys without the luxury of frat cash to send away for an official Jock Sock improvised --that smelly tube sock from your gym bag, slipped over your private jewels, had the same effect for free--and someone (male or female) was in your bed before the night was over, too.  

The company that created the Jock Sock also had another mail order hit on its hands: Years before mainstream markets targeted men's fashion underwear in the 1980s with famous sporting stars-- a little catalog called International Male was being mailed all over the worldThe company that knew how to market the Jock Sock to both gay and straight men (but mostly gay) would use the same strategy for many more clothing products.  Please stay tuned for part three of this series this coming Monday.

story copyright VGMH 2012.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Jock Sock (part one)

Before there were famous sportsmen pitching "fashion" underwear for mainstream audiences in the early 1980s, there was another company that had already established a name for itself for selling sexy men's undies.  If you were a young man in the 1970s who happened to read any number of adult men's publications (including both gay and straight magazines), then there's a good chance you probably saw an advertisement for the Jock Sock.   It was the product of a company called International Male, which was a mail-order specialty retailer that has existed (in one form or another) since the 1970s.  It's reported that the clothing line was originally created by Gene Burkard, a former advertising copywriter at the Milwaukee Journal.  Gene had the very innovative idea to market a unique version of men's under shorts through the mail (called the Jock Sock) back in 1971.  Nearly a decade ahead of the mainstream men's "fashion underwear" blitz, the Jock Sock was marketing genius--even the name sounded athletic and masculine.  And talk about freedom--this underwear had no seat or leg straps and offered a stretch nylon pouch, understanding that men are in various states of arousal throughout the day.  It was available in colors and fish net styles.  And as we'll take a look at in part two, it was popular with both gay and straight men who mailed away for a pair.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Object of Desire: Jim Palmer's Sexy Underwear Ads

He was handsome, down to earth, hairy and lean.  Jim Palmer was (and remains) one of the best pitchers in major-league baseball history.  And starting in the early 1980s, Jim became very famous as a spokesman and underwear model for Jockey shorts. His toned and naturally hairy physique appeared in the company's national magazine and television ads, as well as on billboards at locations like Times Square.  There was even an underwear poster (please see below).  The marketing message was very direct:  "Jim Palmer, Star for the Baltimore Oriloes, wears Elance briefs." 

And what to do about those men who thought that the skimpy 'bikini' was too-feminine looking (and tight-fitting) for their macho undergear?  Simple--Keep the no-fly bikini style but give it a new name!  Among serveral brands, the men's 'bikini' evolved into being known as 'sports' briefs.  Jockey's Elance briefs were billed as having "European styling for maximum comfort and freedom" while maintaining "minimum coverage".  If the ads did nothing else, they offered up a whole lot of sexual appeal for women and gay men alike.  For lots of young dudes, the male Sears catalog underwear models now had new competition when it came to get busy in the bedroom or bathroom.

In an interview, Jim described: “It was Steve Garvey, Jo Jo White, Marques Johnson of the Bucks. Pete Rose was supposed to be there but he missed his flight. I had the briefest underwear on — the bikini underwear — and they threw me a [baseball] glove so I’d feel comfortable.”  It's reported that he donated all of the proceeds from the sale of his underwear poster to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  Straight Jim Palmer is the only pitcher to win World Series games in three decades, as he earned victories for the Orioles in the 1966, '70, '71 and '83 Fall Classics.  And thanks to his underwear ads, he has also earned a special place in the memories of countless gay men.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Retro Penis Fashions

The above advertisement came out in 1976 featuring male sports stars posing in untraditional appearing men's undergarments.  Marketing men figured that the best way to convince everyday guys that wearing bright red, shocking yellow or even fish net underwear was 'cool and masculine' was to feature jock stars (men like Steve Garvey, Vic Hadfield, Lou Brock, Fred Dryer, Craig Morton, Terry Metcalf, Ed Marinaro, and Jim McMillian) wearing them in full-color advertisements.  Compared to today's underwear ads, these look tame.  But back then the ads were noticed.  They were collected.  No doubt lots of people did lots of things while looking at the men in their shorts.  Today, a vintage Jockey (good-condition) ad page sells somewhere between $7 - $15.
But in addition to different colors, there were also fresh new styles of shorts in comparison to the traditional brief or boxer.  Thigh-high cut shorts, pouches without a fly, and bikinis (also known in slang as banana hammocks) were pushed. The new phrase for these products became "men's fashion underwear" and the promotions worked well with mainstream men--well sorta.  Many guys went for the basic primary colors and prints (compared to their traditional white shorts), but unlike women, many men refused to put fashion over comfort, especially when it came to trying to fit all of their man junk into skimpy bikini pouches that didn't allow much room for moving or expansion throughout a busy day.   In the 1980s a research group for one advertising agency discovered that men, aged over 24 in their focus group, viewed the name "bikini" as having a feminine connotation to it...something that was easily fixed in future years.  Please stay tuned for part two.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tom 1989

Yesterday we enjoyed Tom's debut in Playgirl magazine's January 1977 issue.  He would return in October 1989 looking very fashionable for the times...just take a look at those neon clothes and smooth body!   This issue featured actor Greg Evigan on the cover and begining on page 66, their Weekend Warrior pictorial. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hairy January 1977

Hairy (and sometimes very machismo-opinionated) Hollywood actor James Caan graced the cover of the January 1977 issue of Playgirl.  For just $1.75 it was packed with lots and lots of goodies inside!  This was a time when the magazine was still trying to copy the successful Playboy and Penthouse model of offering a mixture of investigative news stories, celebrity interviews and nudity--reflecting their motto of being well-rounded "Entertainment for Women"--only for some reason the format never really worked as well as it did with the adult men's magazines.  In addition to an article about 'faking sex' in films, there was a story on the exploitation of women piece-workers.  As far as their nude male offerings went, their discovery gent for the month was bull fighter Bill Lucidi and their centerfold stud was a fur-covered Tom Gagen, beginning on page 65 (photographed by Norbert Jobst). Handsome Peter Scott was also featured.   Looking forward, it's interesting to note that James Caan would be on the cover of their March 1980 issue and Tom Gagen would appear in the October 1989 issue.
Super-jock Tom Gagen was selected to be a finalist in the Playgirl Natural Man contest which was held in Los Anegeles in the fall of 1977.  According to the brief story that went along with his photo spread, Tom was 28 at the time of posing, he liked his new VW (with sunroof), seafood, reading, antiques, and Marin County (where he lived). 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dashing Reynaldo Hahn

By the age of 19 in 1894, dashing Reynaldo Hahn seemed to have it all...handsome, self-confident, smart and talented. Only there was something that he knew about himself that didn't fit into his own ideal of the perfect man...he way gay. To be fair, he was still a teenager and living in a world where political powers were changing and being gay was quickly becoming a negative religious tool (the scandal and disgrace of Oscar Wilde was about to happen...for more related history, please read my October post Gay Men & Religious Persecution: "Satan's Harvest Home" ).

While Reynaldo had already written many songs about love, his worldly sophistication masked both a shyness and self-loathing about his own personal sexual feelings. He had close intimate friendships with women, and his mixed-messages suggested that maybe he was confused and they could "change" him. The famed courtesan Liane de Pougy wrote Hahn love letters although she probably knew he could never reciprocate her feelings. Often sadly typical of men who see their sexuality as a flaw instead of a gift, in an effort to prove his masculinity, the personal letters Hahn wrote to his lady friends at that time were frequently very critical of "homosexuals" and "homosexuality".

But love stepped in and kicked him in the behind in 1894. At the home of artist Madeleine Lemaire he met an aspiring writer 3 years older than himself. Call it love at first sight, Hahn quickly changed his views about being gay when he found someone he loved. Living in a closet was no longer an option for him.  The guy he fell head over heels for was (then little-known)  Marcel Proust.  Proust and Hahn shared a love for painting and literature. They also shared a love for one another, and became lovers who traveled together and collaborated on various projects. Although by 1896 they were no longer having sex together, they remained lifelong friends and supporters until Proust's death in 1922.

The intense love affair with Proust set Hahn free as a gay man.  Hahn became a key member of the Paris gay set, which included Jean Cocteau and Saint-Saens. Now embracing his sexuality, his good looks and strong masculine personality were irresistible to many a man and he became very desirable in what must have been an amazing place and an amazing time to be gay in world history. Artist Charles Demuth (who I paid tribute to earlier this month,) also experienced that world.  In 1909, Hahn became a French citizen. In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, he volunteered for service in the French Army. Although he was above the official age, Hahn was accepted and served, first as a private, finally reaching the rank of corporal in WWI. It's reported he earned the respect of those he served with.  While at the front he composed a song based on the poems of Robert Louis Stevenson. Forced to leave Paris in 1940 during the Nazi occupation (they hated and killed gays as well as Jews), he returned at the end of the war in 1945 to fulfill his appointment as director of the Paris Opéra. However, he died in 1947 of a brain tumor.  How wonderful he was able to live a life that allowed him to witness that the manhood "ideal" of his teens was a myth created by insecure others filled with hatred and political ambition; Only when he accepted himself for who he was did his world become filled with true love and happiness, and no longer just topics written in songs for others.

Hahn’s memoirs are thought to be a valuable source for the musical and literary life of the era, and it's very interesting to trace the views of gays through the various biographies that have been written about his most prominent lover, novelist Marcel Proust. Jean Yves Tadié, in his 1986 “Marcel Proust: a Biography,” writes that Proust abandoned his first novel, Jean Santeuil, because he broke off his passionate involvement with Reynaldo Hahn, the young composer for whom he was writing it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


From The Rawhide Male, #1 by Kris Studios
It's reported that on May 1, 1958, Chuck Renslow bought the Johnson’s Health Studio Gym, which at the time was the most popular men's gym in Chicago.  Previous gym owner  Irv Johnson was also the creator of Tomorrow's Man magazine and wanted to relocate to California.  Chuck renamed the gym Triumph.  It was a wise business move for Renslow.  Here at the gym, Renslow and Dom Orejudos (aka Etienne) had access to the young beefy models who often appeared in their publications.  By the time of the gym, Chuck was already the founder and photographer of Kris Studios (1954).    In addition to many other ventures, Chuck would become the publisher of Triumph, Mars and Rawhide Male magazines.  He and Dom were open lovers for more than 40 years.  At the photo shoots, Orejudos would often arrange the themes/poses while Renslow would handle the lighting and take the actual photographs.  Throughout his career, Mr. Renslow would be in the forefront of the Chicago political movement working for equal treatment and rights.
Chuck Renslow


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Poppers (part two)

The talents of Jerry Mills are easy to appreciate when one considers how vividly he was able to capture a time and lifestyle in gay history by using just a few sketches printed on just two pages in a gay mens' magazine.  It's possible to look back at that era nostalgically and forget that the big city gay ghettos, which were a new and welcome alternative to living hidden in small towns for many men, had their own share of issues, which Mills captured in his humor.