Leather A-Frame

Leather A-Frame

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Leather A-Frame

A-Frame used to attach extra equipment to the normal webbing of the German soldier.

Picture provided by Epic Militaria ((c)2010), with thanks.

The History and Evolution of the Leather Motorcycle Jacket

The leather motorcycle jacket is an icon. It’s as much a style choice as a piece of protective motorcycle gear. The leather jacket now is offered in a wide variety of styles and this has only improved its popularity.

This iconic garment, and extremely important piece of motorcycle gear, has changed and evolved over time. It’s made its way into popular culture and the very history of the world. The leather jacket is now one of the pieces of clothing we should all have in the closet whether your ride or not.

Because of the importance of the leather jacket , I thought it best to take a look at the history of the leather jacket, and specifically the leather biker jacket. Let’s start at the beginning.

The A-frame effect

Picture it: a triangular wall of windows and a sleeping loft sliding glass doors out to a terrace deck chairs, a barbecue grill, a picnic table, a dinner bell to call you in from the forest, the lake, or the beach.

With a braided rug on the floor and heart-shaped cutouts on the balcony balustrade, the house is all ready for a Sunset magazine close-up—until your child folds that terrace up, trapping the Play Family inside, lifting his Fisher-Price A-frame up by its convenient carrying handle. Getting home from vacation was never so easy.

This A-frame dollhouse looms large in the imagination of children of the 1970s. Manufactured only from 1974 to 1976, the house, described in the catalog as a “ski-chalet,” was the company’s first set to include bunk beds and a picnic table, the furniture avatars of a leisurely lifestyle, as well as one of the first to be entirely made of plastic, lightweight and low maintenance.

From its accessories to its portability, the toy A-frame closely resembles its full-size inspiration, a house that continues to serve as a symbol of an era when leisure—and second homes—was available to a much larger swath of the American population.

Though I’ve snooped A-frames from Mount Hood to Fire Island, the Fisher-Price is the only one I’ve ever owned: once in the 1970s, and again today, when I re-bought it as a gift for my daughter. The contemporary flat-roofed modern dollhouses all seemed too precious and expensive, while the humble A-frame had already stood the test of time.

The A-frame, both doll- and human-sized, is back, and for all the same reasons that made it a phenomenon in the first place. Pattern books from the 1960s abound on Ebay, while Gibbs Smith is publishing a photo-driven book called The Modern A-Frame next spring. Instagram, on which everything photogenic becomes new again, served me mutiple A-frame vacations this summer, as did T Magazine’s feature on minimal vacation homes. These houses fall right into the overlap between fans of the popular—and earnest—Cabin Porn Tumblr and those whose homes might end up on the snarkier Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table Tumblr.

In his definitive 2004 book on the A-frame, architectural historian Chad Randl writes that the popularity of these houses coincided with the era of “second everything.” Second TVs, second bathrooms, second cars, and, eventually, second homes. Between 1955 and 1965, the wage for the average worker rose 50 percent. Construction of new highways, including Interstate 70 into the Rockies and Interstate 80 from San Francisco to Reno, as well as the creation of new dams, lakes, and reservoirs across the country, opened up the wilderness as a weekend destination.

The Tennessee Valley Authority created more than 10,000 miles of new shoreline between 1933 and 1968, with room for at least 12,000 vacation homes the Bureau of Land Management created 200 reservoirs between 1946 and 1968, primarily in the western states. “Every family needs two homes!” read one ad, “one for the work week, one for pure pleasure.”

The A-frame, in its purest sense, is a house shaped like an equilateral triangle. Its distinctive peak is formed by rafters or trusses that are joined at the top and bolted to plates or floor joists down below. The roof covers the rafters and goes all the way to the ground. The cross-piece of the A is created by horizontal collar beams, intended to stabilize the structure, which typically support a sleeping loft.

And that’s it: A-frames meet the earth on rubble or cinderblock walls, concrete or wood columns, but their essential nature is to float slightly above their environment, a viewing platform for an expanse of nature. Instagrammers who emphasize the angles of the A against whispering pines or blue sky, from inside or out, are rewarded with a lot of likes a la @cabinlove.

A-frames did exist before the 1950s. Randl finds evidence for pitch-roofed structures in China, where they covered pit dwellings, and in traditional farmhouses on Shirakawa, Japan to Polynesia, where the roofs of such “great houses” were said to resemble the sails of boats. In Switzerland, where actual chalets typically had side walls, the gable roofs tend toward a much wider, flatter slope. The invocation of historic precedent, then, mostly serves as cover. The modernist can install rush matting and low cushions, while the traditionalist can opt for a gingerbread balcony and wood paneling. Coziness, your way.

The shape-shifting nature also eased the path of the A-frame past restrictive covenants. One of the first all-roof vacation homes was designed by Rudolf Schindler in 1934 in Lake Arrowhead, where the homeowners’ association declared all new houses had to be in the “Norman style.”

Schindler’s design, in the tradition of his former employer Frank Lloyd Wright, made much of the triangle. The front of the wood-framed house was all glass, cross-hatched with thin wood mullions. Inside, the plywood walls and rafters were left exposed, while the rubble foundation crept inside as stone. A double-height living room took up the whole front of the house in the rear was a loft with a bunk room and bedroom. His client, costume designer Gisela Bennati, decorated with Schindler’s own furniture.

That plan, which makes the most of the open space created by the overarching rafters, and stuffs the kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms into the dark end of the A, has proven to be surprisingly durable. Owners try to get right-angled rooms under the roof through dormers and shed roofs, doubled-As and dugout basements, but the truth is, it is an awkward form. Staying low, and furnishing minimally, is the best way to take advantage of an abundance of floor and a pittance of wall.

Schindler’s A-frame was a one-off, but other well-known architects tangled with the form. Andrew Geller, known for his box-kite and bow-like postwar vacation homes in the Hamptons, had his first success with an A-frame he designed in 1957 for Betty Reese, George Nelson’s powerhouse PR executive. Reese had a budget of only $5,000, which Geller exceeded by 40 percent. When completed, she made sure her house made it into the New York Times and other magazines, in articles that emphasized the ease of living in her “Playhouse on a Budget.” Her living room may only have been 13 by 22 feet, but with a built-in banquette and a fireplace silhouetted between windows, it looked luxurious. Suddenly Geller had plenty of clients.

No. 381 A-frame cabin, 1967. Denver Post/Getty Images

The A-frame seems to generate such publicity wherever it appears, and most of those originating during peak popularity, 1950 to 1975, were built architect-free. Pattern books, building kits, and mail-order plans generated by manufacturers of plywood and homasote combined to make the A-frame seem like a short step up from home improvement.

The Douglas Fir Plywood Association paid pediatrician David Hellyer for his personal A-frame plans, giving him free plywood in exchange for documenting his building process and reproducing his plans. After publishing photos of Hellyer’s completed cabin in 1957, the DPFA sold 12,000 copies of the working drawings.

San Francisco firm Campbell & Wong promoted their Leisure House as “your vacation in a kit,” and built a full-scale version indoors for the 1951 San Francisco Arts Festival. The firm initially sold the plans for $25, then created a precut kit with a local construction company. Drawings of the house published in Arts & Architecture in 1951 as “A Small Hill Camp” show two single-story A-frames joined by a trapezoidal deck. The larger is the living-dining space, the small one has bedrooms and a bath. It’s all one could need—no more.

As I looked through plan after plan, I began to see that awkwardness as part of the A-frame’s appeal. Who wants a second home as high-maintenance as the first? Every time I think about wanting a getaway, I remind myself of the lengthy to-do list in the one home we are lucky enough to own. In an A-frame, there are few closets, so it must remain eternally Kondo-ed. In an A-frame, there’s little privacy, so the family has to gather around the fireplace or run around outside. Indoor-outdoor living and informal entertaining were the style of the day in the 1950s, as they are now, and you cannot be any other way in an A-frame. Leisure is part of their very character. The A-frame obviously shares DNA with the tent, but offers just enough comforts of home to the camping-phobic like me.

Los Angeles photographer Bonnie Tsang visited the Yosemite-adjacent A-frames marketed under the Instagram account @far_meadow this summer. Admiring her images, I was curious to know more about their origin. Were they 40-somethings made new? Or was someone making A-frames again? Owner Heinz Legler bought the property a decade ago with Veronique Lievre. The pair runs vacation rental site Boutique Homes and owns the equally alphabet-inspired V-Houses in Yelapa, Mexico.

The Red A Frame at Far Meadow. Laura Austin

At an altitude of 7,000 feet and an annual snow load of 10 to 16 feet, the pitched roof and modular construction of the A-frame was a no brainer. “We were able to pre-build the whole structure in the Mojave Desert and ship it,” he says, for rapid assembly on-site. The houses each have a big open room in front and a loft with bedrooms in back, just like the Schindler house. Between construction of the first and the second structures, Legler decided the stairs took up too much room, and switched out a straight run for a spiral. Plan books from the past inspired him to pre-build the structures, and since he’s had them for rent he’s gotten a lot of inquiries about buying his plans: history repeats itself. He built a third A-frame on the site and had it approved by the building department, but he’s not sure he wants to become a professional A-frame promoter.

Last year Canadian architects Scott & Scott built a new A-frame in Whistler, another ski community where 1970s A-frames were thick on the ground. The architects updated the form with a poured-concrete base, a tilted gable, and a thin metal handrail—no gingerbread here—but the overall look, and use, aren’t far from Campbell in the 1950s and Schindler in the 1930s. They, too, receive frequent requests to sell their plans.

“There is this nostalgic idea of going to the cabin and playing board games and everyone being in the same room together,” says David Scott, who owned a Fisher-Price Farm and Jeep in his youth. “Your only task should be lighting a fire,” adds Susan.

“What remains appealing is the simplicity of them, or the perceived simplicity of them,” says Randl, who has gone on to research other high-low designs including revolving restaurants and shag carpeting. “They had an incredible burst of popularity among a certain economic group and, after their cultural moment, became an object of ridicule.” But young families shopping for vacation homes today don’t remember the jokes. They see the same light, angles, and dream of the minimalist vacation their grandparents did. A-frames are like tiny houses without the sustainability lecture.

I talked to Amber Bravo, a creative lead at Google Design who, along with her graphic designer husband Geoff Halber, bought a Catskills A-frame and its contents two years ago, a second home the same size as their Brooklyn rental apartment. The sellers had painted the interior white and put in hardwood floors—previously the house was a 1970s paradise of “wood” paneling and linoleum—and since then, they’ve been slowly subtracting.

“The interesting thing about the A-frame is you become so in love with the form of it, and while you would like to have a better bathroom, you don’t want to disrupt the purity of the line,” she says. “There is one dormer with a picture window that looks out at the woods, so the only thing we can do is enlarge that dormer. We’re unwilling to do anything that would mean you wouldn’t see that triangle anymore.”

The beds for the two small first-floor bedrooms are from Muji, with storage underneath to augment the minimal closets. Though designers have lots of posters, there are hardly any walls to hang them on, so the couple bought a graphic rug. Only now is their 3-year-old son allowed up the steep steps to the house’s loft. “It’s not the kind of place where you can steal away you are all in.”

These are the other rewards, especially for parents watching their child grow in awareness of the world. “He associates the house with very simple geometry. If he sees a triangle, he says, the cabin.’”

Leather History

Have you ever wondered how leather was made? Where did leather come from? There are several stories and facts to answer these questions. Our purpose in writing this article is to try to explain as we have researched where leather originated and how it was made, up to the present time.

We've all heard the saying "old as dirt" or "old as water" Well leather is about as old. If you look at Genesis 3:21 "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God made coats of skins, and clothed them." In the beginning and is true to this day leather is a product of nature. God gave us the knowledge and skills thru time, to develop what nature provided, into many useful things.

Cavemen hunted for survival and in doing so used all parts of the animals they killed. The skin of the animals was used for protection in the way of tents, clothing and a sort of footwear. There have been sites found in Spain that have produced bone tools that was thought to have been used for scraping hides and skins. This process was done to remove hair and meat from the skin. The skins were then stretched and dried to be used for clothing as well as tents. For not knowing at this time how to tan the skins and hides they did not last long. A process referred to as putrefaction would cause the skins to get hard which would make them unwearable.

Preservation also known as tanning is an art in itself. There are many different ways to tan a hide depending on its use. One of the earliest methods of tanning was to stretch the hide on the ground and rub it with brains and fats from the animal while it was drying. This was a way to soften the hide, but was not a process that would last. The oakbark process of tanning as history tells it was created by the ancient Hebrews. This process is still used today. During the early days of the Roman Empire was when some of the tanner's guilds appeared. Leather products at this time consisted of some types of footwear, clothes and military equipment. Some other materials used in tanning were natural by using decaying leaves and vegetation. Earth salts that contained alum was discovered later. As time went on a process of tanning using chromium salts developed by an American Chemist reduced the time it takes to tan leather. This process takes hours to do rather than weeks or months.

Since the beginning of leather manufacturing from the caveman and before to the present, man has used hides or skins for the protection from the elements, warmth, and to make weapons and many other leather products. Technology in the tanning of leather has made it possible to manufacture quality leather in boots, shoes, jackets, purses and so many more items.


It was not easy to make leather in Colonial times. There were no factories, and if you did not live in town, or did not have enough money to buy ready-made items, you had to make your own. To do that, you first had to take the hair or fur off the skin. It had to be soaked, then pounded and then stretched over a frame and scraped. Next it had to be soaked in a solution like quicklime. Then it needed to be washed to stop the chemical reaction--all this just to get rid of the hair and fat. If they wanted to soften up the hide, they then put it into a mixture of, believe it or not, dog dung, chicken and dove droppings. After that, the leather soaked in ammonia. Then it was hung out to dry. It could take months to get a good hide. This is just the basics of tanning a hide, but it does give a good idea of how hard it was.

A Short History Of The Leather Jacket, From Wars To Catwalks

We do not exaggerate when we claim that every man (but also every woman) has had at least one leather jacket in his wardrobe.

An item that is now considered as a classic garment, a must, something as necessary and basic as a t-shirt or a pair of jeans, the leather jacket is also a garment that is always stylish and fashionable, and never goes out of fashion. You just need to have a look at the catwalks all over the world and at the collections of the main fashion designers to understand that this piece of item of clothing is held as a must-have and as an object that can inspire both the designers that create it and the people who wear it. Lambskin, buckskin and sheepskin leather hides are the main types of leather used for the creation of jackets.

Nowadays the leather jacket is a fashion item that each man wants to have in his wardrobe to show it off when he wants to feel a bit rebel or simply to stand out as a strong and decided person, but this special jacket was born many years ago for completely different reasons.

War Clothing

The leather jacket, indeed, fist appeared during the First World War as a garment used by German fighter pilots. Used as outerwear layers of uniforms, leather jackets had a protective role. They were called bomber jackets and were very appreciated especially for their insulating capacity and warmth. Leather jackets were also used during the Russian Civil War, so we can certainly claim that their first field of application was the military sector.

Soon this garment began to become more popular also outside the military sector, in particular in the 1920s, when the first leather jacket for Harley Davidson was designed by Irving Shott. Unlike the military jacket, this model (named &ldquoPerfecto&rdquo after a cigar) had a zipper instead of buttons and was a shortened version of it. However, the leather jacket did not dismiss its military role and appeared again during World War II, worn also by members of the USA Army. The legendary A-2 model is still seen as an icon, and some clothing companies still reproduce these jackets, after so many year.


A boost to leather jackets as fashionable garments was certainly given by Hollywood and the many movies that featured stars and unforgettable characters wearing this item of clothing. Movies dating back to the 1940s and 1950s, like For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Wild One and Rebel without a Cause, just to make few examples, contributed to the launch of the leather jacket as an item used by beautiful and charming boys (just like Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando, James Dean and other movie stars), most of them rebel and unconventional. This is how many boys began to conceive this garment as something that could enhance a person&rsquos charm (and maybe attract girls!), as well as a sort of symbol for rebellion.

In the following decades the leather jacket affected also other sectors, in particular fashion and music. The Beatles first (in the 1960s), the Ramones, Sex Pistols and The Clash then (form the 1970s on) contributed to associate the leather jacket to rock and punk music. As far as the world of fashion is concerned, we cannot forget the contribution given by designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Yves Saint Laurent. The girlfriend of Malcolm Mclaren (manager of Sex Pistols), Vivienne Westwood transformed the leather jacket into a trendy garment, while Yves Saint Laurent was the first designer to insert leather in his collections not only for jackets, but also for trousers, skirts and so on. Leather became a fashion material and was then used in the collections of many other designers.

Modern Days

Nowadays the leather jacket is seen as a fashionable and classic garment, and designers evidently like to reinvent it and give it different shapes. Although the basic model is still appreciated, the leather jacket is now something that can vary a lot depending on designers&rsquo creativity, on contemporary trends and on personal taste. Leather jackets are realized in different colours (not only black or brown!), and shapes, for both men and women, and can be either elegant or casual.

The leather jacket is an item that has gone through the decades and has been protagonist in many different fields, and what is certain is that it will accompany us for a lot of time!

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The Swiss woman spreading the gospel of 'intelligent, feminist, life-changing' porn

What your sex fantasies reveal about you

But not everyone can count on divine assistance, and in its absence, technology steps in. The protagonist of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tale “The Sandman” is Nathaniel, a young student with an artistic nature and a proclivity to melancholy, and a fiancée, Clara, who is not especially sympathetic to either of these tendencies. Nathaniel is haunted by the memory of his father’s violent death at the hands of an associate, whom he believes to be “the Sandman” – a mythical figure that throws sand into children’s eyes and then plucks them out.

Nathaniel meets Olympia, his teacher’s daughter, who is “tall, very slim, perfectly proportioned and gorgeously dressed,” though “I could almost say she was sightless, as if she was sleeping with her eyes open.” Nathaniel is besotted with her. “He had never before had so marvelous an auditor [For hours] she sat motionless, her gaze fixed on the eyes of her beloved with a look that grew ever more animated and more passionate. Only when Nathaniel finally rose and kissed her hand – and no doubt her mouth, too – did she say: ‘Ah, ah!’”

His friend Siegmund tries to understand his attraction to the mute woman, “whose every movement seems as if controlled by clockwork the unpleasant soulless regularity of a machine.” Olympia frightens Siegmund and Nathaniel’s other friends: “We would like to have nothing to do with her,” he tells Nathaniel. And indeed, as Nathaniel watches while Olympia’s “father,” Prof. Spalanzani, quarrels about her with Coppelius – a merchant whom Nathaniel identifies as the Sandman of his childhood – he witnesses as Olympia falls apart in their hands, turning out to be a “lifeless doll” (translation by R.J. Hollingdale, 1982).

A worker preparing a silicone doll at a factory of EXDOLL, a firm based in the northeastern Chinese port city of Dalian. FRED DUFOUR / AFP / Getty Images

Hoffmann, one of the leading figures of the German Romantic movement, published “The Sandman” in 1816. In 1881, Jacques Offenbach turned the story, along with two other Hoffmann works, into an opera. In 1891, Tchaikovsky wrote music for a ballet based on another of Hoffman’s stories, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” But Hoffmann himself did not live to see these trans-medium successes he died in 1822, at age 46, of syphilis, with which he had been infected in his youth.

In 1906, German psychiatrist Ernest Jentsch mentioned “The Sandman” in a short article he wrote, “On the Psychology of the Uncanny.” The German word unheimlich – literally “unhomely,” but rendered in English as “uncanny” – is the threatening feeling that arises when something familiar and well known becomes foreign and alien, different, wrong. It’s the anxiety that is stirred in us by, for example, “doubt as to whether an apparently living being really is animate and, conversely, doubt as to whether a lifeless object may not in fact be animate,” Jentsch wrote.

In the wake of Jentsch, Sigmund Freud decided to investigate this phenomenon and its connection to Hoffmann’s story. He analyzed it in great depth in his well-known 1919 article “The Uncanny,” where he argues that it’s not the doll Olympia that arouses anxiety in Nathaniel, but rather that the plucked-out eyes the Sandman craves and which are described in the story as taking different forms, embody, for the protagonist, the Oedipal complex and attendant fear of castration. This is what undermines Nathaniel’s prospect of forming a full and healthy relationship with a flesh-and-blood woman such as Clara, Freud suggests, and sends him into the arms of the mechanical Olympia – a perfect object of desire, a tabula rasa on which he can project his yearnings without fear of rejection, refusal or castration. “The doll’s absolute attentiveness leaves him the entire stage. He populates her emptiness with imaginings and feelings of his own,” writer Marit Ben Israel observes in her Hebrew-language blog.

‘True to nature’

Two years before Jentsch published his article, industrious entrepreneurs had already found a more direct way than psychoanalysis to deal with the fear of castration. A French catalog from 1904 boasts of dolls regarding which “there is no fear of blackmail, jealousy, argument or disease. They are always available, always obedient.” The sexologist Iwan Bloch elaborates about these “fornicatory dolls” made of “rubber and other plastic materials” with “genital organs represented in a manner true to nature.” Thus, “even the secretion of Bartholin’s glands is imitated, by means of a ‘pneumatic tube’ filled with oil,” he wrote, in his 1909 “The Sexual Life of Our Time in Its Relations to Modern Civilization.”

It’s not known whether the doll commissioned by Austrian-Czech painter and writer Oskar Kokoschka in 1915 was equipped with sophisticated features like those, but in contrast to his relations with his real and frustrating beloved, Alma Mahler, widow of the distinguished composer, he experienced no scenes of envy or quarrels with the doll. At his demand, she was fashioned in the very image of Alma – Kokoschka even ordered her clothes, both undergarments and other attire – from Mahler’s own seamstress. He took the doll with him to the opera (did they watch “The Tales of Hoffmann” together?) and for rides in a carriage.

But her fate resembled that of Olympia: She was beheaded and destroyed in a drunken fit. Freud may have been aware of the scandal, which perhaps influenced his article – after all, he had treated Gustav Mahler, who was trying to cope with his wife’s adultery. But one person who was definitely familiar with Kokoschka’s doll and inspired by it was German surrealist artist Hans Bellmer. Like Kokoschka, Bellmer sought to oppose the rising tide of Nazism in his life and work: The disturbing, erotic, disassembled and reassembled dolls that he began to create in 1933 were influenced by his opposition to fascism and its approach to individual human beings, as well as by his powerful, though apparently unconsummated, attraction to a 15-year-old female cousin.

According to Anthony Ferguson, Bellmer was the forefather of the modern sex doll. “The uncanny, eroticized models created by Bellmer in the 1930s differed from the functional sex doll only in that they lacked the necessary orifices for penetration,” he notes. Those orifices came into being at the end of World War II, with the invention of the inflatable sex doll. There have been rumors to the effect that these dolls were first manufactured on the instructions of Hitler, so that Aryan soldiers could achieve sexual satisfaction without contaminating their purity through contact with inferior races. However, there are no reliable sources to authenticate this. These inflatable creations were unreliable, since they were made of low-quality vinyl that often popped or tore at the seams when subjected to strenuous use. It wasn’t until the development of latex, silicon and similar materials that it became possible for the first time to create a durable mannequin for purposes of sexual satisfaction.

An unfinished silicone RealDoll, manufactured by Abyss Creations. David McNew / Getty Images / AFP

The ongoing effort to create sex dolls that are simulacra of male fantasies involving female “availability,” “obedience,” big breasts, smooth skin, youthfulness and immortality can be seen as an attempt to achieve the ultimate objectification of women. In contrast to the “use” of flesh-and-blood women, in certain brothels an additional deposit is required from those using the dolls. They’re very expensive and require handling and maintenance, the owner of one such “house of dolls,” which allows occasional use of sex mannequins, told the BBC in a recent TV documentary (“The Future of Sex: Sex Robots and Us).

But all this might soon change. Pornography, as is its wont, snaps up every technological advance that can be prostituted to suit its own purposes. Manufacturers of “real” dolls, as these state-of-the-art sex mannequins are called, are caught up in their own kind of “Pygmalion project,” aimed at creating a sex doll that will not only move autonomously but also sense movement, respond to it and use its mouth for verbal purposes, too – i.e., to make a convincing show of life and even of desire.

Some people already spend their sexual and emotional existence in the company of such dolls, treating them not only as sex objects but as objects for love and relationships. In 2014, David Levy, an expert in artificial intelligence and author of the book “Love and Sex with Robots,” told Newsweek, “I believe that loving sex robots will be a great boon to society. There are millions of people out there who, for one reason or another, cannot establish good relationships.” One of those millions is author David Mills, the happy owner of a RealDoll, which Vanity Fair – to whom Mills spoke in 2015 – called “the Rolls-Royce of sex dolls.”

Mills told the magazine: “My fundamental personality conflict is that I really like women but I don’t like to be around people.” He also described his traumatic first encounter with his doll, how he ripped open the plastic, thrilled – and then screamed in horror. The appallingly human-like doll looked straight at Mills with a glazed, dead stare. The RealDoll is the product of the feverish imagination of Matt McMullen, an artist and entrepreneur who founded a company called Abyss Creations.

Threatening uncanniness

An abyss is not, however, what McMullen and his competitors need to cross in order to create the perfect sexbot. Their obstacle is a valley, more precisely the “uncanny valley.” At some point in the 1970s, when pornographic technology was still focused on the realm of cinema, a Japanese roboticist named Masahiro Mori was working on a hypothesis in the field of computer sciences. The professor claimed that when we come into contact with an almost perfect humanoid, we are seized by the kind of nightmarish feeling that made Mills scream when he was first exposed to the staring eyes of “his” doll – and the way Siegmund, Nathaniel’s friend, reacted in the presence of Olympia.

When a robot is completely different from a person, there is no problem in communicating with it, Mori maintained, and alternately, if the imitation is perfect, the uncomfortable feeling will disappear, but anything in between generates the anxiety that Jentsch described in his article and that Hoffmann depicted in “The Sandman” – the fear of something that is neither alive nor dead. The phenomenon of threatening uncanniness, distorted oddness, is what experts in robotics, computerized animation and artificial intelligence are trying to overcome on the road to the holy grail in this field, which computer scientist Alan Turing described in 1950 as an artificial being that will be able to make us believe that it’s real.

These days, in contrast, a series of printed answers [as proposed by Turing in his eponymous test intended to demonstrate the effectiveness of AI] are not enough to persuade us of a computer’s “humanity.” It must also come packaged in an equally persuasive body. At the same time, it’s possible that there’s an easier way for a female sex robot to pass Turing’s test: She can simply open her legs.

Ryan Gosling in a scene from "Lars and the Real Girl."

Will sex dolls be the bridge to the far side of Mori’s “uncanny valley”? Or are they the very embodiment of the abyss? Is it easier to ignore the fright that their quasi-human nature arouses because they fulfill a sexual function? The answer, at least from the viewpoint of half the world’s human population, might well be positive. The reason for the fact that almost all sex dolls are manufactured with a hypersexual feminine look, are intended for men, advertised for men and purchased by men can be found not only in biology and in women’s different sexual psychology and in the way they achieve arousal and satisfaction – but also in women’s attitude toward the uncanny.

Studies like one conducted at the University of Montana and described in an article titled “Familiar and Strange: Gender, Sex and Love in the Uncanny Valley” (published in 2017 in the journal Multimodal Technologies and Interaction), examine the gender biases entailed in the integration of androids in the human domain. The results showed that women are more sensitive to uncanny phenomena, respond negatively to them and are quicker to identify images of “artificial” humanity.

The reason for this disparity has not yet been fully investigated and explained. Like the “uncanny valley” concept itself, it may have ancient biological origins. According to Claude Draude, head of gender studies at the University of Kassel in Germany, the reason may lie in the characteristics of the uncanny itself. In her probing article, “Intermediaries – Reflections on Virtual Humans, Gender, and the Uncanny Valley,” published in 2011 in the journal AI & Society, she hypothesizes that the home is perceived as a feminine sociological-metaphorical territory, and accordingly “the uncanny” – that which is not homelike, and nullifies and threatens the home – is also the “unfeminine.”

The differences between the genders are also reflected in the modes by which popular culture represents intimate relationships with sex dolls or robots. Whether it’s dramas or romantic comedies such as “Lars and the Real Girl” or “Her,” the weird Japanese porn of “Doll Inflatable,” the film noir of “Blade Runner,” the Western genre of “Westworld” or the parody of “Austin Powers,” the robot doll will always enjoy saliently feminine features, pointy breasts and a velvety voice, or represent a traditional stylized “feminine” role like that of the model housewife, the devoted nurse, the French maid or the damsel in distress. There are exceptions, of course, such as the robot that has intercourse with its owner in order not to hurt him, which would violate one of the science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics in “The Naked Sun,” or the robot commander Data in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” But most of these imagined relationships take place between men – loving, desiring, exploiting or subjugating – and images of artificial womanhood.

By around 2050, David Levy predicts in his book “Love and Sex with Robots,” robots “will have the capacity to fall in love with humans.” But until, and if, that happens, the “real dolls” are raising moral and ethical quandaries, but also garnering enthusiastic support. Their advocates – psychologists, manufacturers and users alike – see them as a cure for sexual and emotional ills, and a solution, as one of their manufacturers claims, for men in old-age homes, the disabled and others. An army of sensual, advanced robot women, their fans say, will do away with prostitution, human trafficking, rape, even pedophilia.

But opponents maintain that the widespread existence of these robots will intensify the grim objectification of women, encourage inter-gender alienation and facilitate dangerous escapism. They see supporters of these sex machines as encouraging a range of weird paraphilias, from necrophilia and somnophilia (being sexually aroused by someone who is unconscious) to algamatophilia (sexual attraction to statues). These views are countered by the robosexuals, who say these creations are not hurting anyone, male or female, whatever their preferences. On the contrary: People can find a release for their urges in the realm of this “hot” technology.

The warning inherent in Hoffman’s “The Sandman” is more relevant than ever. Even though it seems initially that Nathaniel recovers from the loss of Olympia and the discovery of her true essence, and succeeds in returning to Clara and his former life – the trauma eventually pushes him across the threshold of insanity to his death. Falling in love with the uncanny, with what is neither alive nor dead, will always be barren, one-sided and incomplete. And when the object of desire is revealed in the fullness of its artificiality, the loneliness becomes more bitter and horrible than ever. The price for yielding to anxiety – of castration, of intimacy, of a bond, of the gaze or the blindness of the other – and turning one’s back on what is human, all too human, is loss of the self.


This page is for resources (and links to resources) about the history of South of Market San Francisco, and the Leather community and culture that found a home here. We start with content created by our own Board Member, Gayle Rubin:

A Quick History of South of Market San Francisco
by Gayle Rubin
Associate Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan
and member of the Board of Directors of the LEATHER & LGBTQ Cultural District
March, 2021

Valley of Kings – Sentinel USA, September 1984

Another reliable source is Race Bannon, who recently recapped
50 years of Leather in the B.A.R. — Bay Area Reporter, Mar 31, 2021

An authoritative photo archive of the people and events of our community over more than 15 years was created by Rich Stadtmiller:
RichTrove.com – A Rich Treasure Trove of Leather Images

A fun look at local Gay History, including Leather and SOMA aspects of it, can be found in Justin Hall’s “Marching Toward Pride” poster series: comic-style portraits of six moments of SF LGBTQ history, each one colored to represent one of the six colors of Gilbert Baker’s original rainbow flag. You can view them all at Justin Hall Awesome Comics , and read the 49 Hills article about them (including an interview with Justin) here .

A site dedicated to the memory of Stompers’ Boots and its founder, the late Mike McNamee, is maintained by Larry Faulks at https:// southoftheslotsf.com .

An informal map of “Leather History” in South of Market San Francisco was put together by Hunter Fox, and can be found here .

Leather Armor

Leather armor is very popular, not only in fantasy but also in movies supposedly set during historical eras in the real world. But most of it would be leather clothing at best, only slightly more resistance to getting ripped by thorny bushes.

Like with armor made from cloth, leather rotts away over time, so there are very few preserved examples. And with paintings and statues, you can never tell the material. There are several problems with the idea of leather armor: For one, leather is easily cut by sharp blades and also flexible, so it offers minimal protection against blunt impacts. This can be improved upon by treating the leather in the right ways and of course also using multiple layers (but you pretty much never see that in movies).
But there's also economical problems with it: I've read in some places (which means there's no way to tell if someone just made it up), that leather for use in armor would have to be so thick and tough that you could really only use the skin from the shoulders of a bull, or something like crocodile or elephant. And leather of that type is much more rare and therefore expensive than leather from sheep or goatskin. That doesn't mean it was impossible to get enough of it (mining for metal ore is hugely labor intensive too), but it wouldn't have been cheap.
And one problem that I am seeing is how to repair it when it gets damaged. Even if you have thick hardened leather, when it gets hit by a blade, it does get cut. Perhaps not all the way through or only with very little penetration, but even then, how would you fix the whole? Sew it up with string and needle?

Now there is one type or lether armor that seems to be quite well documented, and that is Monglian armor. Which adresses both of the issues I named: The mongols were nomands who had huge herds of animals from which they got most of their food and clothing, so they would have access to large amounts of reasonably cheap leather. Also, that type of armor did not use large leather "plates", but lots of small scales like lamellar. That makes repairing it very easy. Just undo the lacing or rivets of a damaged plate and replace it with a new one. Getting high quality leather for just one or two scales is a lot easier than getting a big piece for a cuirass. But something like this seems nonsense.

Does anyone here have decent knowledge about how actual leather armor was made, how it worked, and when and where it was actually used historically?

A Brief History of World Leaders in Leather Jackets

Former South African President Jacob Zuma has been subject of many ignominious controversies, from rape allegations to a resignation in 2018 over corruption. He’s currently refusing to appear before South African courts. Among his many disappointing qualities: a predilection for hideous brightly leather jackets. His party actually released a collection of neon leather jackets to celebrate his style, but they proved massively unpopular across the country.

The Worst People in Nice Jackets

There’s no getting around it: fascists love leather. Mussolini loved a motorcycle jacket. Nazis of all shapes and sizes wore leather coats, both during WWII and in racist subcultures in the years to come. This guy wore brown leather to storm the Capitol last week. Leather can work many wonders, but it cannot make fascism any less awful.

P.S. It’s really too easy to find photos of these historic assholes in leather, but I don’t have to help you. If you’re really curious, Google.

A Finance Minister….with EDGE

When Yanis Varoufakis served as Greece’s Finance Minister for a wild eight months in 2015, he had a big job on his hands that required an even bigger fit. Rarely does International Monetary Fund fashion cause a stir, but Varoufakis’s absolutely wild leather coat made waves. Did Greece pay back the IMF on time that year? No. Did their Finance Minister look like a badass? Undeniably yes.

Whether we’re talking statesmanship, book deals, or leather jackets, Obama stands apart. His post-office style is unparalleled in presidential history. In addition to his fan favorite ‘44 jacket, there’s this piece he wore to the 2019 NBA Finals. Unlike the classic Camp David bomber, this black jacket is slimmer—and, dare I say, classier. He owns one in brown, too.

Dear Leader

The man himself in the coat that sent me down this deranged path. What diplomatic missive is hidden within this luxurious leather garm? Only Kim knows. In the meantime, we can only pray that the Dear Leader’s burgeoning sartorial taste is a sign of global rapprochement, and not, like a missile launch to welcome President Biden. After all, leather is a language spoken all over the world.

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