Jun 29, 2008

International Re-Male

I'm not sure why, but for some reason, (I think it's because I subscribe to Men's Vogue, and someone is clearly on top of their demographics), but a brand new International Male catalog has found its way back into my mailbox. Completely unsolicited, I swear.

Of course, back in the day, I had less pride and more desperation. I'd see the ads in Rolling Stone, seductively calling me.
Who could resist?

Two things I wanted to be.

I was mortified afterwards, but, hey, you did what you had to do. It was A Different World (from where you come from) then.

They pretty quickly stopped sending them, however. They realized I wasn't going to buy anything. They knew what was up. Even back then, I knew the clothes were ridiculous, but who was looking at the clothes? It was proto porn, and they knew it.

I hadn't seen a one in decades, until it showed up in my mailbox.

Glancing through my brand new 2008 edition of the International Male catalog, past the poly-metallic satin shirt/tie combos, past the nehru jackets and pinstripes, past the nouveau pirate shirts, past duster coat after duster coat after duster coat, past the formal gauze overalls, I was stopped cold in my tracks.

It's a photograph that I know, a photograph I've memorized from nearly 20 years before. I would recognize this Marcus Shenkenberg-at-half-price anywhere:

Of course, the entire catalog can transport you to 1990. That's its beauty.
Compared to the other "fashions" this is pretty standard, nothing too avant garde or flamboyant. It's an IM classic it seems.

I note that the underwear section has shrunk, oddly enough. Even the models' crotches have shrunk, and they're shot headlessly, and almost torso-lessly.

I mean what's the point? They've taken everything that was pure and beautiful about the catalog and destroyed it.
It's very sad.

I was just about to toss it in the trash, when I read that the company is set to fold soon. This might just be one of the last catalogs ever. Not a surprise, of course, but still kind of sad.

But then recycling photos and going soft on the underwear shots are just not good strategies for any business, are they?


TJB said...

Oh my my my. From the dark recesses of my fashion past, I admit to SUBSCRIBING to the IM catalog "back in the day." In my defense, I was 14 at the time, hormones were busting out like June, and the underwear section was the closest I could get to legally obtaining porn. But even then,I somehow knew that stacked Cuban heels, pirate shirts and pleather snakeskin-printed jeans were neither chic nor appropriate, unless you were a very flamboyant hustler.

Which begs the question: just WHO bought the actual clothes? REALLY tacky queens? Misguided hetero lotharios? Inquiring minds want to know.

I have to say, though, that a vintage IM catalog offers much more entertainment value than Men's Vogue, in my opinion. I expected much more from Ms. Wintour than the dry, thin, fashion-starved pamphlets I've seen so far.

TJB said...


My curiosity piqued, I logged onto the InternationalMale.com website, and lo and behold, they have a special sub-category in Underwear called "Problem Solvers." Read: girdles, padded asses and fake bulges.


mrpeenee said...

I remember thinking long and hard about IM models as "problem solvers" in their own rights, and they had nothing to do with padded anythings.

Still, maybe I'll just go check on one of them IM girdles. You never know.

Michael said...

Two things I wanted to be.

Favorite thing I've read in a while.

Silly Monkey said...

Didn't they make a special underwear-only catalog for awhile?

Jim said...

The Underwear has been spun off on its own. You are seeking:


And lo, the bodies and faces seem to still be connected to the underwear model.

Please don't let my knowledge of this color your judgment of me. I know a lot of things, I swear.

TJB said...

Jim -- Don't feel bad. According to their website, we are merely some of many who have succumbed to the charms of a publication "whose pages have thrilled and sparked the imaginations of countless readers worldwide."

govtdrone said...

When I worked at a bookstore we would sell the catalog and we women all loved looking at the catalog, who knew mesh tank tops could be sexy. I do remember that when we would walk around the bookstore straightening up we would always find the catalog in the science fiction section.

Frontier Psychiatrist said...

Does the catalog have that awsome skull on top of the motorcycle?

jason said...

TJB: that's the eternal question, isn't it, who bought this stuff? But I've actually seen a few items being worn...by yes, "really tacky queens."

Peenee: one word: Spanx

Michael: thanks.

SM: They do. I think Undergear will take over IM. Wouldn't you love to see these board meetings?

Jim: I'm grateful for your wisdom.

Govtdrone: Science Fiction? Somehow it's appropriate, no?

FP: No. Unfortunately, no. I would have been interested in an International Male housewares section, however.