Having been an out gay man since the 1970's, I've seen styles and trends among gay men come and go. There was the close cropped hair and moustaches of the late 70's. This was often accompanied by the standard uniform of tight Levis 501 jeans and Izod brand polo shirts. This is when we started to use the word clone as gay men paraded down the streets and through the bars, each looking identical to the next. Having dinner with a date in a gay restaurant one evening we both realized we had no idea which waiter among the jean/polo shirt clad group was ours when we got ready to motion for the check. Faced with this somewhat faceless society one occasionally played for time trying to remember where/how/under what circumstances you had met the man who obviously remembered you, and what you had done with him.
In the 80's this look was eshewed by the younger crowd in favor of bright, eclectic new wave attire, although there were still standard looks in this genre. One friend of mine said there where three guys who hung out together. They looked so similar that he had slept with one of them but could not remember which one. Another friend of mine suggested that the solution to this problem was to sleep with all of them. That being said, there did seem that there was more room for creativity during this period. Drag was not uncommon. Neither was a fashion statement sometimes referred to as Genderfuck i.e. a bearded man wearing a dress and full makeup or a skintight lame jumpsuit.
The clone look did persist, however the clone of this era was better built than his 1970's predecessor. In San Francisco there hordes of rippling, extraordinarily well muscled men striding shirtless through the gay ghettos of the time. Some of the club kids of the day protested that they found this look and the time and energy devoted to it distasteful. I was not among those who felt that way. I also found it hypocritical to deride another persons narcissism and vanity after spending 2 hours picking out your outfit and arranging your hair just so before venturing out for the evening.
The 90's brought a host of new fabrics, vinyl, latex, lycra and spandex in a dizzying array of patterns, textures and colors inspired new looks. The business at gyms remained steady judging from the sculpted bodies on display at clubs and at the gay pride parades and street fairs.
Alas, times change and we now have the latest look for the gay man. Rail thin bodies clad in vintage tees. Some wear stretch jeans to accentuate their birdlike legs. At last years Pride Parade float after float carrying these undernourished specimens wearing skimpy attire passed by. Even some of the Colt calenders, long the domain of rough looking well muscled models, are this year featuring men that look as if they subsist on a diet of broccoli and a smidgen of rice.
Perhaps the pendulum will swing back someday. Till then I will have to satisfy myself with memories and discretely observing the straight guys in the weight room at the gym.
Gay Bears - The Flip Side
On the flip side of today's reed thin, underfed gay men are the members of the community that refer to themselves as "bears". In nature, bears are large powerful animals. Their ability to catch fish as the unfortunate creatures leap from the water speak to their quickness and agility, despite their size.
In gay terms "bears" are often large, slovenly, obese creatures. Sometimes hirsute, sometimes not, they use the term bears as a license to eat and drink to excess, not take care of themselves and develop diabetes, heart trouble and other weight related maladies, like many heteros in the U.S. these days. With the apparent complete disregard for one's health, the term "bear Pride" could be seen by some as an oxymoron.
I am not suggesting that the gay community return to the "body fascism" rampant in some quarters in the past. I only suggest that we all care for ourselves so that we are better able to care for one another.