Our latest enthusiastic contributor to this series Mr. J. Miller says that “as an unashamed fetishist he likes to think that magazines such as Atomage and the others” are a genuine, even necessary, outlet for people with a hankering for a fetish on something”. Mr. Miller says “I have been a leather, boots and latex fan for longer than I can remember and am a little outrageous in my dress in public, at times … which gives me a kick, and amuses me too!”
“Fetishism” is defined in my rather poor dictionary as “pathological interest in objects associated with sex” which is in itself open to interpretations. By the time one has looked up ‘pathological’ one really is puzzled. Anyway, “fetishes” are judged ‘naughty’ by the straight, sober world outside. But who, may one ask, has not got a fetish of some sort, sexual or otherwise, and why not.
Fetishes are more often related to some kind of clothing, as we all know, and in this article I will confine myself to discussing and exploring the fetish for leather and what it might mean, and perhaps why people indulge their tastes in this way. I must begin by declaring my own interests and say that I am indeed one among many who ‘loves’ leather.
Leather with its supple, soft sensuousness is a very appealing material. It is exciting to touch, to feel and to fondle. Psychologists talk of theories about ‘back to the womb’ and all that jazz but there are many who have a favorite old black leather jacket, man or women who care nothing about wombs or tombs or any mystic symbolism. The attractive way a well cut woman’s or man’s jacket folds and falls from the shoulders, or fits very closely to the body or bosom make it that ‘second skin’ we like so much. Some of the pictures in earlier issues illustrating the ‘Love of Leather’ feature surely prove this?
Fetishism (and I hope this is the last time in this article that I use the word) is only a matter of what extremes the person is wanting, wishing or willing to go. There are certainly all-leather outfits for men as well as for women that are unusual only in that they are all made of leather. Pittards are one leading firm whose success proves this. A soft chamois leather blouse or shirt, a nappa coat, a skirt or suit, high knee boots, leather hat are fashionable and practical. Then there are splendid, over-powering cat-suits for both sexes, fitting like a skin, splendidly laced or zipped everywhere, with a plethora of buckles, zips, cuffs, collars, straps, hoods, masks etc.
So let’s start with boots, a fashion that came in the early sixties for women, and very nice it was and (praise be) still is! There is nothing to turn the eye quicker than a well-shaped leg kitted out in a well-made pair of high knee boots with good heels for they make the girl strut slightly, and walk with a certain arrogance that is appealing.
Girl’s boots were initially on a spiked heel and pull-on or zipped. These were very smart but oddly enough some became known, rather unnecessarily, as ‘tarty’. The long side zip although it has its advantages and can present a slim ankle when the boots is well made is spoilt in mass production. The zip bulges most unattractively, sloppily and scruffily. Then last year came back the pull-on boot for ladies that is so attractive under a midi-skirt, crinkling softly as it does over the ankles. They should be kept well-polished and cared for. This goes for all boots and leather wear made for the man or the woman. Rather more ‘kinky’ boots are those above the knee which come in a variety of fashions for men as well as women. I had a pair made for me by Anello and Davide at 33, Oxford Street, London. These are close fitting at the ankle, with a half length side zip, then pull on up to three quarters of my thighs. They are a wonderful fit and a joy to wear! There is nothing like having boots made by hand for you on your own boot makers foot last. I wear them occasionally outside the house over a pair of slim fitting nylon riding trousers and with a black leather safari jacket. Although I may be considered ‘extreme’ and may be laughed at there are many admiring glances and interested enquiries too. Women’s all leather thigh boots are similar but can go further encouraging all the fantasy designs beloved of magazine illustrators. Very lovely are lace-up thigh boots, rising up the leg as high as the fork: made in black leather with, for instance, red laces! These are best without too high a heel because the lacing is tight to support the ankle and it can be quite a strain on the young bones.
There is no point in my nicely listing every design of boot, fashion or fantasy, for boys and girls for there are boot makers catalog- (and the pictures in Atomage – ED). The point is that they are nearly always the focal point of any all-leather outfit and boots must he good lo get the wearer anywhere – and to last the winter.
The recent return to female fashion of the ‘blouse’ (with or without zips) has, perhaps, ousted the very popular ‘Barbarella’ jacket that still remains popular with its collection of zips in unlikely places. This, I think is rather a pity as the Barbarella jacket fitting, as it did, partly over the pert little bottom was, or is, most attractive. But both are in leather and relatively inexpensive. Jacket design in leather is infinite in its possible variations for both sexes, and usually people stock a variety of many ‘sexy’ outfits. The Soho market, at the end of Gerrard Street, has a good line in cheap leather clothes, but you need to watch from dealer to dealer and look carefully at what you are buying as they sometimes make from the cheapest worst skins. For the boys the ‘blouse’ has been with us all the time otherwise there are safari jackets and sports coat styles, and blazers. The trouble with men’s stock in the general run is that skins have been poorly selected and matched, and they are rather coarse skins at that, the stockist fondly thinking that the ‘cowboy butch’ thing is what is wanted. Nothing is further from the truth. They could afford, at the prices some charge, to select skins properly and make up neat, elegant garments.
It is rare that leather trousers or jeans are stocked for either men or women. No one other than Atomage has ever tried to popularise them except very special boutiques or shops like SKIN in the King’s Road. At these special Shops the garments are well made and the skins are soft and supple, and they stock many colours. I remember I bought an excellent and very close and well-fitting pair of grey trousers at SKIN.
Now for specialisation. “Private” orders can be manufactured exactly to your specification and measurements. Atomage are the most well known. They do a lot of theatre work but all bespoke work takes a little time. They are very painstaking though and their work is excellent; indeed – unbeatable. Also Atomage execute your own design from a rough drawing or description.
Cat-suits are always popular for the ladies. Or shall we say the gentlemen like their ladies in cat-suits, and very nice too? As might be imagined, no two orders are the same, but the pictures with this article will give some ideas for what you could design for yourself, or for her. There can be plain close seamed, stitched raised seams, or laced seams. The suit can be bootlegged, i.e. the boots are attached to the leg to make the garment complete in one. As you see, there are all sorts of fastenings and D-ring loops for attachment. Various openings can be made at will. The same principles can be applied to a cat-suit for a man, or battle dress trousers and blouse, or anything else. There is virtually nothing they cannot do. Atomage will make proper jeans, either tapered or flared, and make them very well. The favourite colour for so much special clothing is black, but most colours are available in all garments. Brass and silvered fittings are available to ‘decorate’ the outfits.
A rather more specialised garment is the helmet but this comes under the heading of ‘restriction wear’, along with belts or corsets. Some of us like to wear them either as complete coverage or with fitted goggles in perspex for the eyeholes. Some helmets have mouth apertures some do not; some zip-close, some lace-up. There is one with a ‘pony-tail’ exit for ladies hair and I think this is very smart.
Why do we like our bizarre garments? They are firstly fun, but also comfortable and very exciting to wear. If, like me, you do not mind ‘coming out’ and wearing them in public you will find that one is rarely laughed at and then only by the coarse and unthinking. Usually you will find glances are envious and always interested. Other people come up and ask questions and I always tell the truth: I dress that way because I like to and it gives me a kick.