© TOM OF FINLAND, Untitled, 1988, Graphite on paper, © 1988-2020 Tom of Finland Foundation. #TOMs100

The most influential creator of Gay pornographic images ever’ Historian Joseph W. Slade

1920 – 8th May 100 years ago Touko Laaksonen was born in Kaarina, Finland. A child of 2 Grammar school teachers he grew up in rural Finland he was to develop into ‘One Of The Top 5 most influential Artists of the 20th Century’.

1939 – He moved to the Finnish Capital Helsinki and enrolled in a distance learning advertising course. He drew for his own pleasure images of Labourers and masculine men later destroying them rather than keeping them hidden.

1940 – Touko was conscripted into the Finnish army to fight alongside the Nazi’s against the Russian invasion. He was a 2nd Lieutenant Anti-aircraft Officer. He knew lots of German soldiers but despised the Nazi ideology although did like the uniforms and particularly the jackboots which would of course appear later.

1946 – At the end of the War he began studying classical piano at the renowned Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. He was a very accomplished musician. It is here he started as a freelance graphic designer.

1947 – He faced jail after a pick-up went awry.

1953 – At the cinema Touko saw Marlon Brando in that leather jacket on his motorbike in The Wild One and he loved the imagery. The same year he also met his life partner Veli Makina.

1956 – Started his long standing civilian job at McCann Erickson global advertising agency in their Office in the Finnish capital. He was eventually to become their senior art director.

1956/57 – He did ongoing contributions to Bob Mizer’s International physique pictorial publication under the pseudonym ‘TOM’. In the 50’s and 60’s when homosexuality was illegal and porn was not even an idea gay men got there kicks from male athletic and sports magazines that increasingly became image centric. It was in ’57 that Mizer started crediting his work as ‘Tom Of Finland’, a legend was born and that name was to last for the next 63 years and beyond as the ultimate gay fetish brand.

Early 1960’s – TOF published his well known comic series with Danish publishing house DFT, COQ International and the Swedish Revolt Press.

1968 – KAKE MADE HIS DEBUT and got Millions of guys off for the next 52 Years !!!.

Tom’s ultimate alter ego the imaginary character he created with his handsome face, huge muscles, Muir cap and extensive leather wardrobe would become an icon of T-shirts, films, books, exhibitions and merchandise across the globe with both gay and straight, male and females alike.

1969 – He began publishing through his own Tom Of Finland Company which is where he really honed his style and continued his incredible 3500 piece body of work we know today. Due to laws his images were of clothed guys – Lumberjacks, builders, cops, sailors etc with gay looks, asides and innuendo applied the huge veined cocks, hairy ballsacks and gaping manholes were yet to come when the World was more accepting of gay rights – and then…….

1971 – Homosexuality was decriminalised in Finland.

1973 – Tom left his successful civilian job at McCann and travelled Europe especially Berlin, Hamburg and London, selling his drawings, doing private commission’s and establishing an underground distribution network for his art. He famously said ‘From then on i lived in jeans and lived off my drawings’.

© Tom at TOM House, Los Angeles, 1984; Photo by Jack Shear

1978 – The First American exhibition of his work was held at Stomper’s Boots store in the West Village of New York. The exhibit was visited by Andy Warhol amongst many others.

1979 – He with Durk Dehner co-founded the more formal TOF Company we know today mainly to protect his arts copyright – Durk is still the main protector and authority on everything TOM today and of course was his friend. Also they held the first of millions of art gallery exhibitions of his work at the Feyway Studios, San Francisco where he met and made friends with another gay fetish legend Robert Mapplethorpe.

1980 Mapplethorpe helped him secure his first major New York exhibition at the Robert Samuel Gallery. Freddie Mercury a huge fan of TOF used the classic leatherman look in his video for Crazy Little Thing called Love it was an image Freddie would return to many times. The previous year Glenn Hughes became the leatherman in the Village People taking YMCA to the top of the World charts followed by Macho Man, In The Navy and their movie (Which off course starred a pre-op Bruce ‘Caitlyn’ Jenner) and making the classic Kake look seem acceptable to the mainstream. Pop culture was starting to get all over the TOF look such as 4 years later when Frankie Goes To Hollywood became the biggest band in Europe singing Relax in what had now become the standard TOF leather look.

1981 – Veli Makinen, Tom’s life partner died of throat cancer. The same year the famous Tom Of Finland House at 1421 Laveta Terrace, Los Angeles California 90026 ‘Echo Park Area’ became his second home as he was to start spending half his time in his homeland and the rest in the two-storey 1911 built house in sunny Cali.

1984 – His biography was on the best seller list and Tom and Durk formed the legendary Tom Of Finland Foundation to collect, preserve and exhibit homoerotic artwork and of course its legacy is still very much active today.

1987 – The brands popularity was starting to go stratospheric. A gourmet TOF coffee was introduced in both ground and bean form and it is very successful.

1991 – Filmitakomo & Yleisradio produced the one hour documentary film ‘Daddy And The Muscle Academy: The Life and Art Of Tom Of Finland directed by Llppo Pohjola also ‘Managing Information As A Corporate Source’ was published but as Tom had survived the initial threat of the AIDS crisis of that decade & at the peak of his fame storm clouds were gathering……

NOVEMBER 11th 1991 – TOUKO LAAKSOMEN a.k.a. TOM OF FINLAND DIED IN HELSINKI OF AN EMPHYSEMA INDUCED STROKE but in death his story, name and brand would only become bigger and greater.

1995 – The TOF Clothing company introduced a hugely successful fashion line including well supported runway shows.

1997 – The book ‘More Blacks in Tom’s Drawings’ was published. Touko was very anti racist and he was a pioneer including black and African-American models in his erotic artwork often in very dominant roles and often the subs were Police Officers, Military Officers etc….this was very horny stuff and off course controversial in it’s time but we are dealing with an out and out pioneer here.

2006 – MOMA in New York accepted 5 of his drawings and likewise museums in Chicago, LA, Turku Finland, Berkeley California, Helsinki and San Francisco all accepted his art.

2009 – He was inducted into the Leather Hall Of Fame.

2014 – His home country issued a set of three postage stamps in his honour. During his lifetime many straight people in his homeland and for that matter the rest of Europe were not aware of the genius and artistic superstar they had in their midst but gradually through the 90’s and post Millennium everyone else caught up to what the gay fetish world had known all along. Orders ahead of release for the stamps came from a record breaking 178 seperate countries and it became the best selling stamp set in Finish History…….the little lad from rural Finland had come home and his country and most others were fucking proud of him.

2015 – Tom Of Finland’s ‘The Pleasure And Plug Exhibition’ toured the World it included 180 drawings including 1930’s childhood paper dolls and the full set of 1940 Gouaches. The former Russian state Latvia hosted a hugely popular exhibition in it’s capital Riga…Tom was continuing to break down barriers 15 years after his death.

2016 – The TOF House was rightly declared an Historic National Monument. It can be visited – see the website for info. The same year Niklas Hogner (See previous AT interview) a former figure skater turned actor was cast to play Kake in a blockbuster cinema film of Touko/Tom’s life.

2017 – The Tom Of Finland film premiered at the Gothenberg Film Festival on the 27th January. Four weeks later it was released nationally across Finland and then a full International cinema and festival release followed. To see a complete review of the movie as well as the film celebrity premier see earlier AT’s or The film starring Pekka Strang and directed by Dome Karukoski was a huge hit and has a wonderful 81% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes from critics. It won the Flpressi award and went on to win the Best Film Of The Year Trophy at the X-Awards:The World Fetish Awards 2018. It was even picked up by a Middle Eastern distribution company where LGBTQ content is strictly banned… The film is now playing on NETFLIX across all of the Middle East….As we said TOM is still breaking down boundaries.

ALSO IN 2017 – Tom Of Finland Organic Vodka launched which we use at AT receptions. It has won 6 major drink awards including The World Vodka Award; one leading International drink critic wrote ‘It is like drinking silk’.

2019 – Nowadays you can buy as many TOF items as you want from caps, T-shirts, towels, books, key rings, bandana’s calendars and even fragrances from the Online TOF Store or other outlets.

2020 – The incredible ‘Love And Liberation’ Exhibition started it’s 4 month residency in London (see separate review) with a star studded leather geared up opening event hosted by no less than Durk Dehner himself. It contained 40 TOF original drawings but was cut short by the Corona Virus Lockdown and hopefully it will re-open or relocate post lockdown somewhere at the time of writing all we can say is check the website and social media for information. If it needs a home we would love it at Darklands, Antwerp in early 2021.

MAY 8th 2020 – The World celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Touko Laaksonen/Tom Of Finland with many bars and clubs planning special tributes all put on hold because of the Virus outbreak but we believe gay fetish men everywhere still raised a glass somewhere to him and will pick up that dropped baton soon. The ultimate gay fetish legend who lived through War, the homophobic/gay oppression era, extreme gay censorship, AIDS sadly who has not been with us for 29 years is now more well known and admired than ever. His star shines ever brighter and a new generation of leather and other geared kinksters are discovering their proud history and where they and their rights/freedoms have come from and therefore Tom Of Finland’s name is safe at the very peak of the gay fetish World for eternity. Happy Anniversary Tom, Kake and Touko from his millions of fans from all over the globe.


Written by Paul Stag

Paul is an international porn star and a long time editor for Alphatribe magazine.


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