At-home catalogue shopping was never sexier than the era of International Male.
Gays of a certain age will surely remember the mail-order clothing brand with advertorial “magazines” that were selling a whole lot more than underwear. Now the hilarious, heartfelt, and not-so-secretly-homoerotic history of the catalogue is being told in a colorful new documentary, All Man: The International Male Story.
Founded in the mid-’70s by entrepreneur Gene Burkard, International Male has been credited with forever changing the world of men’s fashion and the public perception of masculinity. Once sold with the tagline “Freedom for the man,” the magazine celebrated male beauty and emboldened its perusers to take comfort in looking fabulous.
And you know what? It worked! International Man became a bona fide hit. At its peak in the ’90s, it’s said that roughly three million copies of each quarterly issue were in circulation, with an annual revenue well over $100 million.
Though not explicitly gay, the publication was responsible for more than a few sexual awakenings. As All Man reveals, this was (somewhat) by design, as its staff was largely made up of women and gay men. In telling the story of this “band of outsiders,” the doc highlights how their work “changed the way men would look—at themselves, at each other, and how the world would look at them.”
Filmmakers Bryan Darling and Jesse Finley Reed have assembled an eclectic crew of talking heads, everyone from former magazine employees and models (including Madonna‘s ex, Tony Ward), to insightful celebrity commentators like style superstar Carson Kressley, musician Jake Shears, funny man Drew Droege, and designer Simon Doonan.
And though he passed in late 2020, All Man also features interviews with catalogue founder Gene Burkard, who’s rosy recollections of this “fairytale come true” give the doc a heaping dose of sweet nostalgia.
All Man: The International Male Story has been lighting up the film festival circuit ever since it premiered at Tribeca this past summer. If you’re lucky, it just might be coming to a fest near you. In the next week alone, it will play the Tallgrass Festival in Wichita, KS, Out At The Movies fest in Winston-Salem, NC, and the 35th Annual Out On Film fest in Atlanta, GA—all of which have streaming options for non-local audiences.
Later in October, the feature heads to the Seattle Queer Film Festival, with more screening dates yet to come, so stay tuned!
You can read more about All Man: The International Male Story here, and watch the official trailer below: