It is our belief that affinity for leather stems from its consistent use by man-kind thousands of years before the invention of other clothing materials. Yet among those who have a strong affinity for leather there is a proportion whose main ‘drive’ is to see it worn by others – principally their partners.
As they do not necessarily experience the immensely satisfying sensation of wearing it themselves there must, therefore, be a visual ‘link’ which enables them to obtain this same ‘satisfying sensation’ seeing it worn.
Essential in this visual link is undoubtedly the realisation that the garment is really leather. The discovery that the material is a good plastic ‘imitation leather’ acts as a deterrent to further interest – often revulsion! So what is the visual message? First the grain the tiny pattern of wrinkles and pores in the animal skins. Secondly, the intriguing lack of uniformity of consistency of thickness, pliability, and often colour.
Man-made materials always fail in this respect. Plastic manufacturers should take a look at the millions of denim garments made over the last few years that have been given artificial fading.
Another visual message is the folds and creases which indicate the pliability and thus that the folds are ‘soft’. The way in which leather folds is totally different from cloth, paper and most plastics, even though some of the latter. notably the vinyls, have a certain amount of one way stretch. The folds and creases we first look for are those in the elbow.
No other material except leather behaves in the same completely haphazard way. It is possible to identify your own leather jacket from those creases – just like fingerprints. Your leather garment becomes quite unique after some months of wear. You might even say it adopts the wearer’s ‘personality’. No other material does this. For the same reason leather tends more than other materials gradually to ‘mould’ to the figure and so we can get a much more rapid ‘recognition’ message. Particular aspects we admire undoubtedly come through – waist, hips, bust or even the gentle curve of a back? Every movement becomes just that little bit more demonstrative in some way. It may be due to the glinting highlights rippling over the creases, or it may be due to the pleasant shine from a more tightly tensioned area of the leather, for instance, round the bottom, over the thighs and over sides of the breasts.
Another, but very slightly different, kind of visual appreciation we experience is connected with the amount of leather being worn. A good ‘shortie’ jacket can, indeed, be very sexy and stimulating when teamed up with other materials, but the ‘message’ is much stronger if it is teamed up with a superb leather skirt.
This is not just due to the presence of the two garments in the area of our vision at any one moment. If two ladies are standing side-by-side, one wearing the jacket and the other the skirt, the affect on us is in no way comparable with the situation where one of them is wearing both garments simultaneously!
This applies even when you are standing close to the lady wearing both leather ‘above and below’, but yet your eye only notes one of the garments.
The excitement grows as ‘the vision’ approaches ‘full cover’. Consider the vast difference in the impression one gains when the coat hem does not quite cover the top of the knee boots and, on the other hand, when the tops of the boots are not exposed with each step when the person walks along.
This inevitably leads us to the total ‘cover-up’ as exemplified in our early efforts at Atomage with the ‘G’ Girl.
The earliest example I remember of ‘leather all over’ was Jacqueline Cochran in the 1934 England/Australia Air Race.
She entered wearing a fabulous black leather suit. Funnily enough, even to this day I still remember registering some measure of disapproval of the knitted cuffs! Leather seems to be degraded when mixed with any other material except the metals. Fur, of course, is complementary, springing itself from leather in the first place. The desirability of ‘total cover’ arises, without doubt, from our protective instincts. We had a customer once for photographs who amazed us by selecting some 80 or 90 Pictures from over 4000 negatives in the space of an hour.
I could not understand how his selection was so rapid and seized the prints as soon as I got them from the darkroom to find what was his common factor. It was total cover. Where there was a gap at the wrist showing a tiny sliver of white skin, a photograph of an otherwise superb ensemble had been rejected. Thus it is that even when neck-to-toe (and fingertip) leather protection is achieved, there still remains an even stronger drive within us to complete the achievement by adding the helmet. The head is the vital centre of’ the human being so what is more natural than that the ultimate must be its enclosure and protection in leather.
Let Helen Henley and other women who fear wearing head coverings (see opposite) be assured that to be asked to wear a helmet is the highest possible compliment any leather lover can pay her! It is not to hide their charming looks but to protect them from danger and the ravages of the sun, wind and rain, preserving them in glowing form forever and a day!
There are also the equally important senses of touch and smell which play an important part. You can also ‘hear’ leather. Rubber and plastics do not appeal to all four senses in quite the same way or to the same degree.
To support my case we have drawn from the Atomage photograph files a small selection of ‘close ups’ which I think illustrate the look and lure of leather.