Lonesome Cowboys


Years before Brokeback Mountain, and a few years before The Place of Dead Roads, another pair of gay cowboys were causing a stir on a T-shirt in the SEX boutique, London, a shop run by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood in the mid-1970s. Paul Gorman’s latest piece of pop archaeology examines the history and possible genesis of this shirt, one of a number designed by McLaren whose challenging nature made them ideal gear for the first wave of London’s punks. SEX specialised in transgression (and was famously the birthplace of the Sex Pistols), selling fetish and bondage clothing, and with a variety of erotic material on its hand-made shirts. But it was the Cowboys image which caused the most fuss in 1975 when the shop-owners were prosecuted for “exposing to public view an indecent exhibition”, a piece of police action that was all-too-common during that decade, especially where punks were concerned. McLaren’s cowboys might seem quaint today but in 1975 this was a shocking image for a country which had only decriminalised homosexual acts eight years before, and where the only gay people in the media (although they never admitted it) were camp comedians and flamboyant sitcom stereotypes.

So much for the history but we still don’t know the origin of the picture. Paul has his own theories; mine would be that McLaren borrowed this from one of the many gay mags which proliferated post-Stonewall. It’s not a Tom of Finland drawing, and it’s not George Quaintance either, an artist who drew many naked cowboys but never showed any genitalia. Vivienne Westwood still sells a version of the shirt: yours for ninety quid, dearie. Meanwhile, you can see a couple of the original Lonesome Cowboys here.

Update: That didn’t take long… It was Jim French after all. Paul has the details.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
More Queer Noise

Phallic bibelots


Does Priapus rule the month of October? Having this lot appear in the same week makes it seems likely. The carved carnelian sealing ring above comes via Silent-Porn-Star.


Then this Vivienne Westwood pendant turned up at Fabulon.


Finally, there’s the discovery of two artists producing phallic glasswork. Paul Thomas created the pendants above while Jamie Burress is responsible for the penis table.


Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Phallic worship
The art of ejaculation

Blog this: tits out for the future


left: tits t-shirt by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren.
right: the Hipp Chronoscope via io9.

A new year brings new blogs which is perhaps just as well seeing as the old year drew a line under some regular reads.

The Look, “Adventures in pop and rock fashion”, began posting a couple of weeks ago, spinning off from Paul Gorman’s book of the same name. Pieces there which immediately catch my eye are a skate through Billy Bowers’ outrageous clothing designs and a nice potted-history of the “tits tee”. I’d not realised before that the history of this latter creation goes back beyond punk to the early Seventies, another example of the evolution from post-psychedelic freakery to punk being a process of gradual elision, not the clean break that lazy commentary often suggests.

Also arriving (and noted everywhere by now) is io9, a new addition to the Gawker network, which looks at sf-related culture. I’ve already had a traffic spike from there after they linked to my Hugh Ferriss post and it’s good to see that Bldg Blog‘s Geoff Manaugh is among their contributors.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Ave Atque Vale!