The Catalog that Changed Culture
ALL MAN: THE INTERNATIONAL MALE STORY, the Tribeca Festival and Outfest Official Selection arrives on digital platforms June 6. Theatrical screenings will take place in New York (now on June 5!), Los Angeles, San Francisco.
Once upon a time where was a catalog that appeared in public in 1974. The catalog was unlike the Sears catalog or anything else as it had as its focus, men. It is true that 1973 saw the launch of Playgirl magazine, but this was a catalog about fashion, style and sex appeal. And it changed culture. It is likely that the International Male catalog spurred the onslaught of gay men to gyms across American in the late 70s. It helped redefine the notion of masculinity featuring ruggedly handsome models parading on oceanfronts across the world. And it was free.
It was called All Man: The International Story. And now there is a documentary—a very good documentary to tell the story.
The documentary, directed by Bryan Darling and Jesse Finley Reed, is an hour and a half look into a time, a time before AIDS, a time when retail stores could make their mark, and time when the burgeoning gay community was getting a foothold in culture. While New York had its After Dark magazine (mostly dancers and celebrities) this catalog had gay men clamoring for a peek at the tight, skimpy bathing suits. The film features interviews with past models and people employed by the company. And just like the 70s, as we headed into the 80s, AIDS begins to diminish the employees and models. What could have been a light, breezy look at a company that created a sexy catalog, turns into a potent look at life in the early 80s and the increasing horror of an epidemic in the gay community.
The founder of International Male, Gene Burkard, envisioned a platform that would cater specifically to men’s fashion needs, allowing them to explore and embrace their personal style. The catalogs became an essential medium through which the company showcased its unique and avant-garde fashion offerings.
In its early years, International Male catalogs featured clothing that challenged traditional notions of men’s fashion. The catalog presented bold and daring styles, incorporating vibrant colors, unconventional patterns, and experimental designs. It aimed to cater to a diverse customer base by offering clothing suitable for different occasions, including casual wear, formal attire, and even specialized costumes.
The catalogs gained attention for their innovative approach to fashion photography. They featured attractive male models who often posed in seductive and provocative ways, breaking new ground in the realm of men’s fashion advertising. This bold presentation became a defining characteristic of International Male’s aesthetic and contributed to the brand’s allure.
Over the years, International Male catalogs continued to push the boundaries of men’s fashion. They showcased emerging trends, incorporating elements of punk, new wave, and alternative styles. The brand’s commitment to offering unique and cutting-edge fashion choices made it a destination for men seeking distinctive and fashion-forward clothing.
In addition to clothing, International Male catalogs also featured a wide range of accessories, including shoes, jewelry, hats, belts, and grooming products. The brand aimed to provide a comprehensive shopping experience, enabling customers to curate their entire look from a single source.
As the internet gained popularity and e-commerce became more prevalent, International Male adapted to the changing retail landscape. The brand transitioned from traditional print catalogs to online sales, expanding its reach and accessibility to a global audience. This transition allowed International Male to stay relevant in the rapidly evolving fashion industry.
While the brand experienced fluctuations in popularity over the years, International Male catalogs remain a significant part of fashion history. They played a crucial role in challenging traditional gender norms and promoting self-expression through fashion choices for men. The catalogs showcased a wide array of styles and provided men with the confidence to embrace their individuality.
JUNE 5 screening
With special guests, filmmakers Bryan Darling, Jesse Finley Reed, Peter Jones, and Taylor Vracin-Harrell