Some vintage ads contain unintended undertones while others include a subtext always intended for those with the eyes to see.
J. C. Leyendecker, for example, designed some of the ads below. He brought his illustrative genius to thousands of ads and over 400 magazine covers. J. C. frequently used life partner Charles Beach as a model for his overtly homoerotic designs.
Fullerton Museum Center curator Richard Smith said Leyendecker “virtually invented the whole idea of modern magazine design.”
As such, many illustrators found inspiration in Leyendecker’s work. Thus, he contributed to the unintentional homoerotic undertone so often discernible in American culture even in the days before ‘gay liberation’.
However, let’s start off with some of the camp and kitschy ads whose designers had no idea how amusing their work would one day seem.
Jester Wool in vintage ads
Jester Wool sold wool, obviously, and also patterns for making knitted garments. They later expanded into rug kits. The company, based in Leicester England, went into liquidation in the late 90s. But not before assisting generations of Brits into ‘gay garments’.
Jester Wool perhaps made an innocent mistake but I suspect the person responsible for Austin Reed’s 1955 ad knew exactly what they were suggesting.
Speaking of mornings, WTF was this ad attempting to convey?
Admittedly, very little gay subtext there, but we couldn’t resist including – the banana near the crutch and the machete. What’s that all about?
The ad would perhaps make John Harvey Kellogg happy.
The miserable old wowser who popularised cornflakes abhorred sex. So much so that he spent his honeymoon writing a book advocating abstinence.
He also invented various hideous contraptions to stop boys from masturbating.
Nothing works so well for that as a machete we suspect.
Intentional gay subtext
The aforementioned J. C. Leyendecker designed ads that often included either men looking wistfully at each other or guys just being guys together – naked.
Check out the wistful gaze of the young man in this ad for Kuppenheimer suits.
In an ad for Cannon Towels, J.C. played about with some college frolics – looks like hazing to our eye. It would land the subjects in court today.
But he went all out for Ivory Soap, inventing in the 1920s a scene straight out of a Bob Mizer 1950s softcore gay porn shoot.
Anyway, enough nudity. Time for unadulterated smut.
But that ad has nothing on boldness compared to the following. I wonder if the booklet remains available? We all want more pay.
Finally, ‘guys being guys’.
If you listen closely, you can hear what he’s saying.
“It was this big, I swear.”
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