As a boy, Tom’s first crush was a strapping young farmhand who worked the fields around his family home. Finland is a land of tough physical men, catching fish in the icy sea; cutting logs in the endless forests; threshing oats, rye, and barley on the farms. Tom, a more sensitive boy, admired these rough men and their distinctive clothing, designed for protection and utility. He later said, “When I was young, leather was worn by people who worked outside because it was warm. All the men who wore leather, they were the type of men which I adored.” When he began to draw he celebrated these early idols, improving their wardrobes with tight jeans, faded T-shirts, and thigh-high beak-toed Lappish boots. It was a young logger in this gear who appeared on the spring 1957 cover of Physique Pictorial, introducing Tom to the world. In the decades to follow Tom added truckers, repairmen, construction workers, circus roustabouts, and the American cowboy to his roster of working-class heroes. Though just sexual fantasies for him, his portrayal of blue-collar lovers helped working class gays accept their true selves.The Little Book of Tom: Blue Collar traces Tom’s fascination with working men in one compact and affordable package. A brawny lineup of multi-panel comics and single-panel drawings and paintings is set alongside archival and contextual material, including historic film stills and posters, personal photos of Tom, sketches, and Tom’s own reference photos.
Touko Laaksonen, the boy who would become Tom of Finland (1920-1991), began drawing cartoons at age five. His favorite subjects were the rough manly men of his native Finland, as Touko knew from an early age that men interested him more than women. His talents were further honed by art study in Helsinki. He found success in the Finnish advertising industry but secretly continued creating his increasingly erotic drawings of hyper-masculine men. In 1957 he submitted some drawings to the American magazine Physique Pictorial and the “Tom of Finland” legend was born. By the late 60s Tom’s “dirty drawings” became the standard for gay art, and Tom’s Men a template for a new gay masculinity. Tom’s art continues to play an important role in promoting self-confidence, positive self-image and openness in the gay community.
Dian Hanson produced a variety of men’s magazines from 1976 to 2001, including Juggs, Outlaw Biker, and Leg Show, before becoming TASCHEN’s Sexy Book editor. Her 60+ books for TASCHEN include The Art of Pin-up and Psychedelic Sex. She lives in Los Angeles.