And so it begins…

In Undercover Guys by UndercoverGuy17 Comments

In the summer of 2015, I joined the rest of the world watching the “Site Under Construction” page replace the vibrant content of the Undergear website, I felt a sense of loss. International Male and Undergear, were an important part of my youth. They were a little voice during the Reagan years whispering “there are more of us than you think” and “maybe a neon crop-top will go with those preppy pants.” Even if that little voice was wildly wrong about the neon – and an entire collection of swimwear, it was right about the growing sense of community that it helped to foster.

Looking for an update on the closing of the company a month or so later, I googled the names of some of the more recent models and a few other terms that would normally produce several pages of accurate results and – what the –! The search terms were already disintegrating after a few weeks!

I began to gather data and images as best I could while they were still available. SEO is particularly unkind to 15-year old fan sites created during the dial-up era. In the back of my head, I felt that there was a story in here somewhere. What I quickly discovered is there are hundreds of interesting stories and that I knew people who knew people. So I started compiling bios, stories, photos and they started to shape a larger collective narrative spanning 40 years. Who were these guys? What became of them? How did a men’s underwear retailer become a subsidiary of a coffee company?

The more I learned, the more interesting it became. And each story and photo gallery seemed to make a nice 24-100 page digital magazine issue. Of more than 100 scheduled, the first 18 issues are finished and on line. Every couple of days, a new one should emerge. So keep in touch. And welcome!


  1. Thanks for pursuing this. Likewise, as a twenty something in Ohio I could only imagine what the catalogue suggested was possible for all. I met briefly Steve Romano who was on the cover once in about 1980 or 81. I thought of him tonight and could not find him thru a search and then remembered Undergear and International Male. Long ago moved to Berkeley, Oakland and now Sacramento. Thanks again. I’ll check back .

    1. Author

      Robert, it always makes me happy when a 20-something takes a look back at was. It is a good sign for the future and what can be. I remember the name Steve Romano, but it looks like he might have vanished from the internet…for now. We’ll keep looking for and bringing back as many of the guys from our past.

      I am also excited to hear that this week, some of the top models from the 80s and 90s have returned to Southern California to work on a documentary about International Male!

  2. I think I was part of the last generation of young men to truly witness the breathtaking (yes) grandeur of male beauty that was forever immortalized in the pages of International Male and Undergear. I was only a preteen in the early 1990s when I discovered the then fairly recent issues of International Male in my basement that had belonged to an older cousin of mine. From that day on, I was captivated. Maybe I’m biased, but I do believe the issues I stumbled on were emblematic of the magazine’s best period: very late ’80s and early ’90s. The men (and the fashions) were truly gorgeous then.

    This catalog was an unintentional lightning rod and time capsule for frankly, the most beautiful men of our time. I doubt I’m the only one to say that I have barely seen any men more beautiful than Brian Buzzini, or his other contemporaries that posed in those pages since.

    The catalog meant a lot to me, even if just on a purely physical level, (ha). There is merit to beauty, and if nothing else this company managed to provide us a riveting example without debasing anyone involved. It was a truly special moment in time.

    Finally, thank you for this website!! I stumbled upon it by accident, and again—I will be forever grateful! I’ve always wanted to learn more about the models’ lives, and to share my love for them and the company with others. Keep up the great work! I will keep an eye on this site for sure. Lastly, thanks for the tip about the documentary!! I hope it comes to fruition! Please keep us posted.

    1. Author

      Thank you for your comments. You made my day. The period between the late ’80s and early ’90s were the glory years. At that time, the new owners invested heavily in models, location photography and the overall look of the “magalogs.” The models were an amazing blend of local California guys like Brian, John Watkins, and Robert Goold – all of whom made it to the international fashion scene in Europe – and top fashion models from around the world. The influences at the time were global and impressive. Even the stylists were top notch. It was a very polished beautiful presentation that enhanced and built on the founder’s mission with fresh eyes. And it was intended to be a lightning rod. And they were superb at luring us in.

      I have been a bit neglectful of getting new sections posted, but I have been been building and cleaning the photo library. There are a lot more sections to come later this year. It has been genuine pleasure to hear from you and how IM/UG affected you.

      With appreciation,

  3. David Johnson was a real breath stopper a gorgeous man among the many others. Undergear always made me feel proud to be a man despite my flaws. I still wear undergear.

  4. I found this website last year and check it occasionally, but see no new activity. Your rationale for beginning this project is still valid, even if those of us who appreciate the effort don’t express it to you directly and in droves.

    I was lucky enough to correspond with Steve Manley about 20 years ago. I still think he had the most exquisite male physique I have ever laid eyes on, and he had a warm, charming personality, too, creating the ultimate model of masculine beauty. All in all, a truly magnificent man.

    Are you still actively working on this project? Do you have access to the the entire International Male and Undergear libraries? I have old catalogs from the 1980s and 1990s that I could send you- just don’t ask for the ones that prominently featured Steve Manley, Eric Etebari or Eric Fox.

    If you don’t preserve the legacy, who will?

  5. Just wanted to say im humbly flattered and honored to be included in your project. Anxiously awaiting the completion of my issue and would love to help in any way if needed. The friendships and comrodery that was formed in those days with the other models, photographers, art directors etc. has been missed for many years now and i truly hope that someday theres some type of reunion as id love to connect again with so many of the friends i made during the days of traveling with International Male/Undergear.
    Troy Gongwer

  6. OMG Thank you!!!. My youth My saving grace in the 70s&80’s. Growing up in rural Ky. Catalogs like this let me know that there was a real world out there. And also gave me the motivation to go find it.
    Thanks again for putting everyone’s Magic memories on one web page

  7. I hope you don’t mind a bit of cross promotion even though it’s off topic. I have a site called Commercial Hunks. Mostly about TV commercials, but the spirit of it is the same as this site. I got tired of seeing handsome men for a few weeks at a time and then wondering whatever happened to them, or forgetting them altogether. I relied too much on Youtube when I started the site, grossly underestimating their “sand castle” approach to storage (meaning things get wiped out instantly and with no notice). I now combine video links with screen grabs for greater archival stability.

    Anyway, I’m definitely going to mention this site there, and I hope you and your site visitors will also visit mine.

  8. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you have done here. When I was a gay kid growing up in the 90s, these men were the prototype of what I aspired to be, and I think my enduring interest in all kinds of gear stems directly from these pages. I especially value the comprehensive approach you take to each model: identifying them, and showing the crossovers a lot of these men had to Playgirl and the beefcake fitness magazines. It was such a loss when these magazines stopped publishing, but it’s nice to know there are dudes out there who value the memory and the archive as much as I do.

  9. Hi! Trying to figure out who a particular model is. Had such a crush. Is there a way I can send a pic and see if you know who he is?

  10. 2/5/2020
    I have no idea how active this site is, although the comments above are from 2017. I read recently that there is going to be a documentary about IM with model interviews, like Brian Buzzini, and other background/historical information. Bravo; I sure hope that happens. IM & Undergear catalogs were always a pleasure to receive even if the fashions would rarely work on ordinary guys as it was fairly obvious that the models didn’t look good in the clothes/underwear/swimwear.
    Still. The men were always spectacular & that meant a lot in my early closeted years!

    1. Author

      There is a documentary on International Male in the works. They have already conducted a lot of incredible interviews with former models, art directors, photographers and staff. It is looking good! The film is called ALL MAN. Give it a google. They have a great Facebook page too. It is fun to see so many of the models 25-30 years later. They are great on camera…and looking great, too!

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