Personal Leather Histories; Tony
Tony wrote us when he found our website that - to his surprise - featured some of the leather magazines that he helped create! The e-mail correspondence that followed gave us first hand information of how leather magazines were made in the early 1970's. This we could never have learned from any other source. We are happy that Tony helped us edit the e-mail correspondence into this interesting story.
My name is Tony and I live in Manchester, England. In the 1970's I was involved, as a young journalist, with the company called Cain of London that produced many of the magazines featured in the Gay Leather History.
Tony in his early twenties.
Cain of London
I first became involved with Cain of London as a young student of journalism in London in 1973. The company was owned by Tom Cain who was a gay photographer (very into leather) who I first met in a club. He wanted to provide an alternative to the few gay magazines (mainly American and second rate) that were available for lovers of leather at that time.
Cain's alternative: leatherboys literally in leather.
Most of the models he used were straight and they were mainly friends of Tom or people he met on the fringes of the gay world. Many of them were small time criminals who were willing to do a bit of modelling for money.
If you look at the pictures very carefully you may notice that many of the guys are wearing the same leather jackets/jeans. This is because Cain had to provide all the clothing for the models to wear, as most were neither gay nor had any gear of their own. I recall that the standard fee that was paid was £50 for a one hour shoot. This may not seem much now, but at the time £50 was a large amount of money. Most of the shoots were made in the early morning in streets around the studio.
The leather gear was used more than once on different models.
I actually met many of the guys featured. But as I was only rarely involved in the photo shoots I only met the models when they either arrived to be interviewed by Tom or when they came to collect their money. Many of them were only used once.
One exception were a couple of genuine gay bikers called Bob (Clark) and Wolf. This couple appeared in all three of the "Cain Leather Boys" magazines (usually together). Wolf changed his appearance also in the six months between the first and last magazines being issued. In no. 1 and no. 2 he has a skinhead cut, but in no. 3 he has full length hair, in fashion at the time. He also appears in no. 3 with another guy called Bob - not the same guy who was his partner - I think that these are the most sexy photos of all, as Wolf is fully clothed in leather jacket and pants while Bob is nude. It made volume 3 quite unusual in that these were the only nude shots that Tom Cain ever published (as far as I am aware).
Bob and Wolf, from Cain Leatherboys volume 3.
Now for a bit of gossip! I was actually present at this shoot and remember it very well! We had to keep stopping because the young lad kept getting a hard on which would have got us into trouble with the law! To help matters after about 20 minutes Wolf actually jacked/sucked him off to stop it happening (for a while). Even though they are 30 years old I think these pictures are still some of the most homoerotic images I have seen.
At the time we were producing the "Leatherboys" series NO penises were allowed to be shown never mind any that were slightly aroused. That is why you see virtually no nudity in any of Tom Cain's work. It was only in late 1973 that the laws were relaxed and that is why he did some nude shots in Leatherboys 3 which was the last of Toms work in which I was involved. Tom was always keen to stay on the right side of the law as he had a successful, none sexual, photography business. He only got into the leather work from the fact that he was gay and heavily into young guys in leather.
In the early 1970's it was almost impossible to find a publisher who would actually print the pictures. We got around that by doing our own publication using an old industrial photocopier and guillotine which we hired by the hour from a local student newspaper. Basically they taught us how to use the equipment and then left us alone for a couple of hours while we did the printing, cutting and stapling.
The photocopier did about 10 copies per minute, the guillotine was also hand operated and the magazines were held together using a large staple machine - I remember that the copier kept jamming and every time we opened it up to clear it we got ink all over our hands!
Printed by "Unity Printers London"- Tom Cain had a vivid
We only hired the equipment for about 2 hours each time and we had to print, cut, staple and pack the magazines so that the owners of the equipment had no idea what exactly it was that we were producing! The about 500 magazines we produced each session would then be loaded into Toms old Ford Transit van and we used to go to the pub opposite the office to wash off the ink and have a beer!
It is amazing that there are still magazines that have held together for so long when I think of how basic the equipment was that we used to put the magazines together. I remember Tom saying that it was incredible that people would pay $3 - $5 for the such amateur publications - that was a lot of money in those days - possibly the equivalent of 25 - 35 Euros today! The reason, of course, was that they were the only leather magazines available to be bought at the time. The contents seem so inoffensive now but they were considered to be "hard core" then! We used to get lots of fan mail - I even have some of those letters still.
They were created by amateurs and read many times,
but the magazines are still looking good after 40 years.
Although the magazines have an "amateur" look about them, in total many thousands were produced (particularly when the sales took off in America) I cannot say how many actually were produced but at least 10,000 of each edition of the Leatherboys and perhaps the same for the Young Londoners series too (incidentally some of the later editions of Young Londoners were renamed "Cain's London Boys" and possibly some other titles too - Tom sometimes changed them to suit various markets. Most of the last print runs were done exclusively for the American market (they have prices printed in $ on the front).
In addition to the "Leatherboys" series Cain also produced the "Young Londoners" set of two books that are shown on the Leather History as well.
Leatherboys volume 1 to 3
and both volumes of the Young Londoners.
With regard to Tom I often wondered what has happened to him. He was in his mid 50's when I knew him so I guess that means that if he is still alive he must be nearly 90 now. About 15 years ago I spent some time in London trying to find both the shop and Toms old studio but they have, alas, both gone now.
Love for leather
It is right to say his photos reveal that Tom was "leather loving". Tom was always in the company of young, attractive leatherboys (usually blond) and in the few months that I worked with him he was rarely without some new companion. None of them arrived with any leather gear of their own but it did not take Tom long to buy them a pair of leather jeans and a leather jacket. I remember that I drove him to "Lewis Leathers" in Regent Street on at least two occasions with his latest boy to get the lad kitted out.
Although there was never any relationship (except professional) between Tom and me (he simply wasn’t my type) I have to admit that I did get "friendly" with several of his leatherboy companions. I have often wondered exactly how many of the models that Tom photographed actually ended up in his bed. As I mentioned before many of the models were "straight" guys that Tom met locally or in bars.
page from Lewis Leathers catalogue.
I have mentioned a shop in London called "Lewis Leathers". They were just about the best manufacturer of leather gear for bikers in the 60's and 70's. They had a small shop in Portland Street in London right next to the BBC. The place was always full of guys trying on leather gear - many of whom were certainly NOT bikers!
The other main thing about Lewis was they produced a catalogue of all their gear. Initially it contained only artists impressions but from about 1971 they included pictures of (usually) masculine guys kitted out in leathers. What was unusual was that the models did not pose next to motorbikes or in false settings but were shot in studio conditions and usually in groups of two or three. Lewis also advertised regularly in the gay papers so I think they knew that a large proportion of their customers were gay.
Many of the catalogue photos were certainly erotic and I know that many gay men kept a copy of the Lewis Leathers catalogue next to their bed!
Lewis Leather catalogue models
For the photo shoots Tom always kept a supply of jackets/jeans in the studio. I do recall that on several occasions he planned a night out with one of his "straight" friends (usually what you would call "rough trade") and the guy would turn up in ordinary clothes and change into leather gear before going out. The gear was always back on the rack the next day!
In addition to the models that actually went into print in the magazines Tom had many, many, more that came in for shoots that went into his "private" collection - I would LOVE to see them! As far as I am aware Tom only ever took pictures where the model remained fully clothed - like many of us he was turned on more by a leather clad body than a nude one.
The major outlet in London for Tom's magazines was "Boy Studio" which was simply one of the trading names used by a sex shop in Earls Court (London). The shop was mainly straight but, like so many of those shops 30 years ago, had a small gay section. As far as I recall there was no "studio" to produce the literature - it was simply a shop.
Boy Studio also sold some of the leather gear shown
in Cain's leather pictures.
In addition to the magazines it was possible to buy "photosets" of glossy prints of the pictures featured - I wish I had kept some of those!
What happened when an order was received was that the details were phoned through to us and we sent out the photosets from Toms studios in South West London. It was a limited range of pictures and I remember Tom used to prepare batches of about 50 of each set in his darkroom by hand. Orders for the leatherwear were sent out from the shop in Earls Court directly.
A set of five original photo's by "Boy Studio"
Usually the sets came with an order form for more.
The photoset you have is featuring a lad called Kevin (but who used the name “Ian” in the magazines) and he was a particular favourite of Toms. He also did a lot of "private" modelling for Tom. He was one of the guys that Tom used to like escorting him on his trips around the bars. He would often arrive in the mornings dressed in his ordinary clothes then change into full leathers for Tom, spend the day with us and then change back before going home. He never did much work but Tom just loved seeing him walking around the office in his leathers.
I was actually at the picture shoot when they were taken! We did it at Crystal Palace Park in south London next to the ornamental pond. We did the shoot at about 6.30 in the morning in the middle of summer (must have been 1972/73). At the time Kevin was definitely Toms "favourite" and he was, as far as I recall, straight. I remember that Tom had just got him a special pair of leather jeans with TWO zips on the front so that the whole front opened up like a flap. I think that Tom had these made especially for Kevin - they certainly were unusual at the time. I remember Tom speaking to someone on the phone asking that a ring be placed on the zips to make sure they could be opened easily!
Kevin as "Ian" in his leathers that were especially made for him.
These pictures have reminded me that we had problems keeping the leather jeans up on Kevin's arse because they were SO tightly tailored. The picture of him standing with his back to the camera clearly shows how tight they were.
My connection with Cain only lasted a few months as it was only a vacation job. The company seemed to go into decline in the mid 1970's and changed addresses several times before disappearing entirely in about 1978.
Well that is the story of my involvement with Cain of London!
Tony, Manchester UK, March 2003