Thoroughly Reading International Male, Buying No Clothes
With the release of the documentary All Man: The International Male Story, a writer reflects on his formative experience with the International Male catalog during adolescence.
Like Marti Muth my high school English teacher who slid a copy of The Normal Heart across my desk in 1986 and said Read this International Male knew I was gay before I did.
My closeted teen behind devoured the companys men's wear catalog when it landed in my familys mailbox in the 1980s. I was drawn to the fanciful clothing things like rope-yarn tops and peekaboo rower shorts that were a universe removed from my fat boy pants. Page through a copy of the catalog today and the clothes look queerly masculine, like something Lil Nas X would drape from his body.
According to the new documentary All Man: The International Male Story, available on streaming services, I wasnt alone. Through interviews with celebrity fans, catalog models, company employees and Gene Burkard, the companys gay founder, the film explores how for some 40 years a catalog of outr men's wear became a generation-defining gay chef doeuvre.