Our conscientious, concinnitious correspondent.
|These pictures should please both Helen’s rubber and leather fans.|
Archaeological evidence of a pair of elk-skin knee boots and a recently discovered fragment of a Mesopotamian stone umbrella suggests that weather has been a basic human problem for 108,000,000 years, give or take a million years. First was the Age of the Cloudburst and we all know about Noah who if he didn’t actually invent the holiday cruise certainly inspired Cunard with the idea. After the Great Flood came the Age of Condensation which led to the reptiles steaming to death and almost certainly accelerated the extinction of early homo tubercullus who had developed the habit of walking upright to keep at least two of his extremities off the wet ground. His descendants then learned how to protect themselves from the weather by wearing animals’ skin and invented weapons designed to persuade their rightful owners to part with them.
Early cave paintings show the efforts of these homos and homo’esses to obtain warm skin covering, but first there was the difficulty of knowing what to do with the stuff inside. The women suggested burning it and so accidentally discovered cooking and ever afterwards lumbered themselves with the job. They also stuck themselves with the job of joining the smaller skins together and so invented dressmaking and fashion.
Human history is a very easy subject if you tackle it logically and scientifically.
The Helen theory of history and invention is, of course, that all human endeavour has been inspired by the need to protect oneself from the elements and had leather tanning been perfected earlier and rubber discovered sooner, the human race would be much more advanced than it is now.
The Helen theory also explains without unnecessary equivocation the origin of leather and rubber fascination and fetishism. It is just a basic human urge like the desire to keep warm and dry. You cannot have a happy, successful sexual relationship unless you are warm and dry so it follows that you need suitable protective material; you certainly did until the invention of the thatched cottage.
Being serious, though, the range of raincoats has improved in the last six months and the ubiquitous pale poplin mac with its severe military styling is now giving way to the new materials. Outside Broadcasting House in October I saw the brown raincoat pictured on page 4 of the last issue and the wearer told me she had bought it in Britain in a boutique on the Kings Road.
The best raincoats I have seen are all of continental manufacture which is sad as Britain was the first to produce shiny vinyl on a woven fibre backing. Nobody has since achieved the same quality and finish although I have heard that Midnight Lady (see ad in this issue) have managed to find a firm able to produce a passable substitute and I am awaiting samples. The problem is, as ever, that science and marketing are rarely able to work comfortably in partnership. So you can see why I always get nervous when I see the expression ‘scientific breakthrough’ for most of them seem to be ephemeral like the fashions.
I picked up one of those Sunday colour magazines and saw there had been a new scientific breakthrough in sex. I didn’t bother to read about it because, as I say, I have an ambivalent attitude about science and its breakthroughs. I mean, how can one be bothered to take any notice of scientists when they are so busy polymerising acrolonitrite to pro duce cyanobenzene that they cannot be bothered to find an answer to the way socks work themselves into a lump under the instep when worn in any pair of rubber boots?
Scientists have not even found a way of opening a packet of biscuits without smashing six of them into crumbs. Having discovered rubber they have never been able to improve on its tensile strength so that the taller rubber heels on boots don’t break off at inconvenient moments. I was reminded of this by reader R.B. He and his delightful wife, whose picture has been in Atomage, went on holiday in Great Yarmouth, and found a shop selling off those superb rubber Lisa boots at only £2.00 a pair. His wife, who, like me, thinks that they are the first really well designed nice looking rubber boots, bought up the stock in her size. She now has eight pairs. The shop assistant told her that they will not stock them any longer because the heels kept detaching themselves from the boots and decanting the wearer horizontally into the nearest puddle. This was a pity because customers liked the range of colours, liked the way they were waterproof, and the fit, but they had so many returned that they had to cease stocking them.
It seems such a very great shame that in our highly technological society such a firm protective footwear – the first smart and really waterproof boots – should now disappear simply because of one technical problem.
I had two pairs. The first pair lost their heels simultaneously in the car park on Bookham Common just after the picture in A30 page 6 had been taken. It was a wet day and I appeared in the saloon bar of The Cricketers pub dressed in SBR and cowled and gloved but without boots. As I dried my soaking feet before their fire, there were those who enquired solicitously if I had not confused my priorities and a waterproof coat and cowl was less essential than covering for the legs and feet.
My second pair were better. They saw me through a wet winter, a spring and a wet summer. Mind you I only wore them now and then. I also walked with caution and care. I did not ride a horse in them, or use them on motor bikes (although I have seen many who do), or went hang gliding in them. They were reserved for careful occasions when they could be worn on pavements.
Which brings me to the point that it should be possible to have a rubber boot – other than a riding boot – that looks smart, is completely waterproof and fits to the leg so that it is smart. It should not look like a tube with a finger gap at the top, nor should it be flat footed with a huge sole that leaves a pastry pattern behind you as you walk.
Lady Bedford (curtsey as you mention the name, dear) designed a brighter better boot but its appeal is its colour for basically it is simply a riding/walking boot, comfortable, practical but not really smart except at a ferreting party on the Yorkshire Moors or a meeting of hounds on Ranmoor Common, neither of them events which have attracted my attendance.
|One of the earliest Atomage outfits – in shiny black vinyl c. 1964.|
It is not just the question of looking smart but feeling smart. There is a feminine psychology which demands that even if you are out pony trekking or fishing or walking you should be able to feel self assured and smart. And I am not capable of feeling smart in conventional rubber boots and waders. Some of the rubber riding boots like the French made Stylo boots, seen on my legs on page 4, are fine and the Atomage waders are not too bad, but the heavy standard waders feel odd and look odd on my legs. Better and smarter are the Aquo boots but they have gone, it seems, from the market. I had a marvellous pair of those.
The lady members of the Hippo Club will know what I mean when I make the observation about standard waders. It is a major drawback to participation and although the male voices will shout that it doesn’t matter what you look like, it is what you feel that matters as you oozle and spludge your way through the swamp like Mrs ACS 385 in the last issue. She doesn’t wear waders I note.
I realise the scientists have their problems. Rubber has many shortcomings as a material for manufacture, structural weakness being one of them, but surely some effort could be made? This is the latter part of the Twentieth Century and most of the boot models in use were made in the late 30s
Rubber can be bonded to most woven materials, yet canvas is still used for boots. Robert was shown years ago in the Bata factory in Hellocourt in France, a rubber boot made on a woven acrylic material which was supple, would never rot and, as it absorbed the rubber through the weave, was lined with rubber. It did not matter if the boots got wet inside as they were not so likely to rot.
Despite these improvements, over 80 per cent of the rubber boots made in the world are made on old, out-of-date lasts with old equipment leased or sold to third world countries whose cheap labour then make rubber boots so cheaply that it prevents investment in modern techniques and modern equipment. At Hellocourt, I understand, the modern machinery for rubber boot making stands idle for the old equipment it replaced, now in use in Asia, is making boots at a price that nobody can match. It is a Catch 22 situation.
The scientists might have the answer but who will fund them?
|Atomage made its early reputation with magnificent leather suits c. 1965.|
My guide to the ACS system in the last issue has improved the flow of correspondence without stemming the comments. One new ACS member complained’ that he had received twelve letters but all from men or couples when he has specifically asked only to have letters forwarded to him from unattached women! Another reader complained because he received a letter from someone he suspected was a homosexual and would we please investigate before he replied. The most intriguing was the ACS member who enclosed five letters in five consecutive posts over three days all addressed to the same ACS number!
I have joined the system so I can see how it works. It has already led to two new friendships so I think it well worthwhile. So if you are writing to ACS 246 you have no need to enclose forwarding postage as I collect the mail from Atomage.
It must be four years since I last saw the Mackintosh Society’s magazine and then it was about as dull as some of the raincoats worn by its readers. The Autumn 1982 issue though shows a real improvement and I have to compliment them on the content which is brisk and newsy. I see they have a lady columnist, Lyn, who is more polite than I am, and searches the shops for news of raincoats and rainwear. There are excellent, lively, illustrated reports on the social events, including some splendid rubbery parties. This was issue number 49 I noted and number 50 is to have a special picture supplement.
If you want to join or get details of the Society and its magazine, then write to the Membership Secretary at P.O. Box No 8, Sutton, Surrey. Cost of membership is £13 in the UK, £14 in Europe, £21 overseas.
What impressed me especially were the pictures of the members at some of the parties. The latex dresses, skirts, blouses and trousers worn by the ladies were really very attractive and showed how really versatile rubber can be when it is treated properly; lovely folds and lines. Only two of the male members, though, appeared in a rubber suit, and the rest were in conventional clothes, unexciting and uninspiring. Please tell me, gentlemen, why dress the ladies but not use the material yourselves?
The new book is here. At last. At last. Phew! Having progeny must surely be a less painful process. So there it is, small and shining, black ink on white paper, 80,000 words, 238 pages and eighteen months of work part-time. And in the end…well, you must judge. I was, as I have said before, inspired by the lack of honest literature on our subject; everything was either absurd fantasy or psychological mumbo-jumbo. There is a justification in the preface which, hopefully, will prevent me from being tied to a stake and burned by the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary for misuse of the English grammar; to be followed by drawing and quartering on the secondary charge of espionage on my own sex.
All I am saying is that if you have read this column and not thrown up then you had better read this book as it will make my motivation clear. Contrary to the disclaimer to be found in most books, all the characters are based on real people (all of them alive and well) and all the incidents are based on real events. Only the plot is fictional.
May I express my gratitude to ‘Mark’ for allowing me to use his lovely letter describing his experiences as a dedicated and hedonistic TV; to J.C., P.A., and T.R. for their help in reading the M.S. and correcting the worst of my blunders; to ‘John’ and ‘Angela’ and ‘The Willing Servant’ who provided so much of the material and also many of the laughs.
May I express my apologies to the readers for the literals and the punctuation errors that are bound to be found because the printer allowed me only one weekend (when I had other things to do) to read and correct the proofs. I am sure I missed a lot of mistakes out of the undreds made in setting the M.S.
Anyway, no more nights in bed with Mr Roget hunting for the mot propre, sorry, juste; no more passionate whispering to test the quality of the alliteration; my affair with literature is over for the time being. I think I’ll write a TV play next.
The book is illustrated. This was not my idea but I was over-ruled by John Sutcliffe and others when it came to finding a picture for the cover. We finished with nine and, because nobody could agree, in the end, one went on the cover and eight went inside!
The drawings happened by accident: the artist illustrated one of the episodes on the basis of a verbal account from one of the participants and sent it to me. He was quite unaware that the event was already related in my book. It was so good a representation of the event that Robert begged him for more and sent him a draft of the M.S. Unfortunately he only had three weeks to do the illustrations and he says they are not as extensive or detailed as he would like. So there it is: my book, my personal story; and if you think £7 a copy is a lot of money for a paperback, may I point out that Robert has just paid £15 for a paperback with exactly the same number of pages and only a few more illustrations than my book. Please buy it as I need the finance for a new leather outfit.
Oh well, on to the next paragraph. Can’t hang about waiting for your praise and enthusiasm. Time is money.
The division of Atomage into two parts with the bondage bits being driven out to live in an exile publication has been widely welcomed by readers who told me that they now feel that they can show the magazine to wives and girlfriends without it upsetting them. I find this reasoning inexplicable. Why do women need protection from S/M and bondage but not from lunatics who want to sink into swamps in huge waders?
D.D., my regular correspondent and critic, who accuses me of constantly misreporting him, says that the separation was necessary in order to remove the worst, blatant sex element. According to D.D., I and many other readers suffer from an obsession with sex (am I quoting you right, D.D.?) and Dressing for Pleasure should be just that and not a form of foreplay. To quote D.D. “Everyone is sex obsessed these days which I find socially and politically dangerous.”
|This vinyl suit is most unusual, especially warm when it is worn over a latex catsuit as it is here. Although not designed or made by Atomage, or for me, it is a most accommodating design with toe to neck zips so I just climb into it.|
I don’t really follow you here, D.D., but most people (me especially) are far more obsessed about getting enough sleep than getting enough sex. It is curious that for two thirds of the each diurnal revolution the earth’s population is frenziedly grappling with or lusting after each other, dressed or undressed, then suddenly they lie as defenceless as worms, as innocent as angels, before commencing the grappling and groping all over again. Actually, wakefulness is abnormal, a condition of over-activity in the brain cells and nervous system and I believe nature intended us to spend all our lives asleep so as to avoid such hazards as typing the report on the Eccentric Fashion Show and Rubik’s cube. Bats spend five sixths of their lives asleep and manage it whilst upside down; pussy cats spend roughly half their lives curled up asleep and yet have very splendid sex lives to judge from the noises I hear outside my bedroom windows at night.
The point I am trying to make, I think, is that the strength of the human sex drive is such that it has to be channelled and directed. It is essential to have an outlet and relief for the sexual drive. Some direct it into creative work, some into commercial and political activity, but for many the need is to express themselves simply through physical sexuality.
If you would like my definition of that: being together in a situation of pleasure, or profit, or understanding or simply of relaxation. Squirming deliciously under or with him, enjoying that inexplicable caving-in feeling is, for the woman, only a part of it; touching, exchanging looks, small kisses are the essence. Dressing to please him is also a part of it; friendship and laughter and a sharing of spirit are the manifestation. Most important is that we need to share our fantasies; if we can do that and understand, then we have no need to have two parts for Atomage.
If you want to experience and explore your sexuality, then it requires an effort beyond curiosity. Contraception has, at last, given women sexual freedom, so now we have the opportunity and the rewards are astonishing. i am constantly being surprised. As a way of relieving frustration, tension, unhappiness and dissatisfaction, sex and sexuality have nothing to match it. Alex Comfort says that there are only two guidelines in good sex: ‘Don’t do anything you don’t really enjoy: find out your partner’s needs and don’t baulk them if you can help it.”
|The lady dresses – in a total enclosure Atomage leather suit worn with a leather corset.|
One of the new friendships is with a couple and I would like to give, with their consent, a precis of the wife’s view of rubber rainwear. I shall call her Edna for the purposes of this column.
Edna, like me, hates getting wet and her views on the English weather so match mine that we had an instant rapport. Shortly after they were married her husband bought Edna an SBR black raincoat at a shop in Kensington High Street, now long gone. Edna liked it, wore it, but then discovered that smell of warm rubber was off-putting not just to her but those who crowded near to her on the sardine-packed tube train. The coat left an odour in the wardrobe and caused comment in cloakrooms. She loved the coat but came to hate the smell.
Edna bought a rubberised satin coat with a lovely sheen, in a nice soft shade of blue. ‘,W-thin weeks, it too-developed a pungent odour. Edna says that if rubber did not have what she calls this ‘decayed smell’ she would be happy to wear it every day, everywhere not just to please her husband but to please herself as she thinks the material is easily the best at keeping you dry, easily the best in the way it forms and folds. So why cannot we get rid of the smell?
It seems that Edna’s husband has a heavy rubber skin diver’s suit and that doesn’t smell of rubber – just a sweaty body smell which is fine with her. Edna believes this is almost the sole reason why women won’t cater for men who love to see the ladies in latex and rubber.
Now I suppose someone will write and say ‘what smell’’?
Hardly had the steam evaporated from my overheated typewriter than a breathless messenger arrived, leapt off his steed, and hurled himself at my booted feet. His news was that rubber boots with heels were again to be found, but all of them of the shorter, ankle length, cow-boy type, to be worn with denim pants (bet you didn’t know that denim first came from Mimes – hence the name ‘de Nimes’). By the time you read this they will be available in all the better shoe shops. Hope the heels stay on this time round.
As for me, I have dusted off my front lace knee boots (circa 1972) and I am considering wearing them with a ra-ra skirt and set of matching antennae with nobbles that wobble. One does have to keep up with the trends, doesn’t one?
Except that if this bloody rain doesn’t stop soon then it will be the high waders and a sou’wester instead.