For people born and raised after the advent of the digital age, it is almost impossible to imagine the impact that International Male and Undergear had on fashion, society, gay rights and the development of social media. Back in 1976, IM founder, Gene Burkard, could not have imagined the social implications we take for granted today as a result of the mail order business he began in his little San Diego cottage.
IM’s “magalog” format pushed boundaries with a wink and a nudge. Over time, the world’s largest men’s fashion catalog had created new socially acceptable cultural perspectives. With no grand mission to change the world, IM began linking millions of guys who had no idea they had anything in common with millions of other guys.
For most men in 1970s middle America, fashion came from a department past the paint and tools across from the much bigger ladies department. Suddenly, there were bold alternatives you could share with the sexy guys in the catalogs. And decades before online communities let you identify like-minded individuals, IM and Undergear created an analog social community from print media.
Did some of the fashions go too far? Of course they did. And that was the point. You can’t be noticed if you don’t stand out. In Gene Burkard’s mission to “Never Get Respectable,” IM & UG made quite a respectable lasting impression.
Look for upcoming issues on IM’s incredible 40-year run and the impact it made right here in the not-so-distant future.
– Undercover Guy