Jonny Trunk has compiled a pictorial retrospective of AtomAge, called “Dressing for Pleasure – The Best of AtomAge 1972-1980″.
For early devotees of leather, rubber and vinyl fetish wear, AtomAge magazine was the underground bible of the 1970s. Founded, designed and published by the English designer John Sutcliffe as a platform for his extraordinary talents as a manufacturer of weatherproofs for lady pillion riders, it quickly became a rallying point for explorers of every kind of fledgling clothing scene, functioning as both an instruction manual and a mirror.
The experimental clothing showcased in its pages, including items made by the readers themselves, transformed a passion for a sexual proclivity into a cult phenomenon. From motorbiking and mask-wearing, to mudlarking and wading worship, AtomAge covered every conceivable variant on and use for fetish wear. The amateur photographs reproduced here reflect a golden age of DIY enthusiasm, before fetish became the industry it is today, and inadvertently depict a suburbia from which dressing for pleasure was a necessary escape.
The outrageous costumes found in AtomAge also served as inspiration to a then-new generation of fashion designers such as Vivienne Westwood, and many of these costumes have since been acquired by high-end collections. Compiling the most astonishing imagery from all 32 issues of this now extremely rare and sought after cult magazine, Dressing for Pleasure illustrates not just Sutcliffe’s exceptional designs, but also, through their own photography and writings, the fantasies and desires of the AtomAge followers.
Jonny Trunk tells about his first meeting with AtomAge:
This book all began on a visit to my old chums Whitaker Malem. Patrick Whitaker and Kier Malem are leather artisans who work in the fashion, art and film business. When not designing costumes for cinematic superheroes like Batman they’re dressing Allen Jones sculptures or making weird chairs or something. Anyway we were having a cup of Mellow Birds and talking about film music when I spied a small A5 magazine on their workbench. I picked it up and was immediately engaged by the simplicity, crudeness, inspired photography and folk arty oddness of the whole thing. The magazine was called AtomAge and within about 30 seconds of seeing it I knew I’d have to investigate it all further. And so I did.
Guardian also has an article on John Sutcliffe:
The British fetish industry has surprisingly practical beginnings. In 1957, John Sutcliffe, a former aircraft engineer from Hampstead, was taking a girlfriend out for a trip on his motorbike. Heavy rain soaked her through, no motorcycle clothing being available for women at the time. “So I went into Soho and bought a dozen skins of red leather,” Sutcliffe said, “and asked my landlady if I could borrow her sewing machine.” The result was not only a waterproof suit for Sutcliffe’s friend, but also the birth of AtomAge, a clothing label and magazine that brought a fetish for rubber and leather into the open for the first time.