THE GAY AGENDA: Between the Sheets

23rd December 2014, 3:55 pm

Fans of Tom of Finland’s iconic leatherman can finally take him to bed, thanks to a new line of internationally available textiles.

Finnish erotic artist Touko Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland (1920-91), drew a new wave of global attention this year when his home country’s postal service released a range of commemorative stamps bearing his art, specifically his most iconic character – the boots-and-chaps-clad “leatherman”. Now a Finnish textiles company has unveiled a collection playing on the popularity of Tom of Finland with a brand-new range of textiles emblazoned with some of the artist’s most recognized work.

Tom of Finland was famous for his depictions of heavily muscled men, usually in tight – or non-existent – clothing, which led to his becoming a symbol of the Gay sexual revolution. It was only back in November 2013 when MOCA at the Pacific Design Center showcased Laaksonen’s work alongside fellow Physique Pictorial photographer Bob Mizer. It was an exhibit that no doubt introduced Tom of Finland’s work to a broader audience.

Perhaps surprisingly, though, when his art appeared on postal stamps this year, the Finnish postal service reported record sales. All of a sudden, people were clamoring for Tom of Finland.

It’s no surprise that companies are keen to work with Laaksonen’s unique art, the latest of which is textiles company Finlayson, which has teamed up with Tom of Finland Foundation – based here in Los Angeles – to produce a new range of towels, bed linen and more bearing the leatherman, currently available at the company’s international online store.

Finlayson chief executive and co-owner Jukka Kurttila explains that the company doesn’t see the textiles line as a risky move, predicting a a large, global Gay market for the products. “We are aiming at a wide global Gay target group,” but we don’t see this as a particularly brave move, we think it’s a well-considered and calm step.”

“I am confident that Touko Laaksonen would be proud of the respect that he as an artist has gained during recent years thanks to Tom of Finland Foundation and Finnish trendsetter companies,” says Berndt Arell, co-author of the book Tom of Finland: Unforeseen. “Becoming a world-known artist has required determination and courageous work in a world that was not that respectful and permissive at the time.”

Times are indeed changing for the better, for the international Gay community it seems, but also for a talented Finnish illustrator we lovingly refer to as TOM.


Published: 23rd December 2014


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