John Sutcliffe was the father of British fetishism. His AtomAge magazine was published throughout the 1970s; for many who loved dressing up in rubber and leather, to receive the little copy of AtomAge in a plain brown envelope was a secret thrill. In those days before the internet, to know that there were others around the world who shared your passions was really a lifeline.
Back then, a love of dressing in rubber and leather was often regarded as weird and somehow undesirable. But AtomAge showed you what really went on in the suburbs across the country when the kids weren’t around. The photographs of folks who might easily be your Mum and Dad in the front room wearing full enclosure rubber catsuits and masks bring it all flooding back.
This book mostly consists of images from all 32 issues of AtomAge, from 1960s ‘kinky boots’ to smiling girls in sports cars and on motorcycles – and lots of total enclosure, gas masks and hoods. Some text, extracted from the magazine, adds to the flavour. There is no hardcore SM – that went on all right, but only behind the scenes. I love the happy suburban housewife, in the fields, walking the dog – dressed in full rubber. And the couples relaxing at home, against flock wallpaper, on patterned carpets, in their latex mackintoshes and goggles.
Back in 1984, when we started Skin Two magazine, I got to know John Sutcliffe and I remember him with great fondness. John flew with the Royal Air Force in World War 2, helping to defeat fascism. (His co-pilot was Freddie Laker!) Later, he worked as a photographer, then made a leather catsuit for a girlfriend, and went on to create leather costumes for opera productions, for ’60s artist Allen Jones and the iconic show ‘The Avengers,’ as well as an increasing number of private clients.
In 1972, John started AtomAge magazine, which showcased his clothes and also featured the AtomAge Correspondence System, through which fetish fans could get in touch. A precursor to the internet! Atomage also sold books and a member of the public referred a copy of the book “The Story Of Gerda” to the police. The Atomage premises were raided and all the published material on the premises was seized.
John was informed that he would not be prosecuted for publication of the Atomage magazines if he allowed his entire back stock of magazines and printing plates to be destroyed. He was not so lucky with the Gerda books; for these he was fined £1,000. The prosecution created serious financial problems for AtomAge. The level of public outrage at John’s prosecution was such that he started receiving cheques and money in the post from customers of Atomage, to help him keep the business running. I visited one day, to find John deeply touched after a total stranger came to his office, put an envelope of money on his desk, wished him well and left.
Sadly John died one Sunday afternoon in September 1987, whilst working at his desk. At his funeral in Mortlake, we all dressed in leather and rubber. I think of him every time I pass. One of John Sutcliffe’s intentions was to bring into the open the idea that people have fetishes. Today, we reap the benefit. John is considered one of the patron saints of the worldwide fetish community.
20 x 13.5 cm hardback, 208 pages, 270 illustrations.
£16 / $32.95 from FUEL where you may also see images from the book
From October, also available on Amazon and most bookstores
For information of AtomAge, also visit www.Atomage.co.uk
All images: Dressing for Pleasure by Jonny Trunk. © FUEL Publishing 2010