Tom of Finland: A History

Promotional Gay erotic artist Touko Laaksonen has become one of Finland’s biggest and most famous exports. Better known as Tom of Finland – a pseudonym he first earned in the 1950s when American magazine Physique Pictorial published some of his now-iconic homoerotic drawings – his name and artwork have since become a brand that features on numerous gay gifts and goodies including underwear, dildos and lubricant. More recently, Tom of Finland appears to have evolved into a Finnish equivalent of Andy Warhol, because Tom’s images of impossibly hung, muscle-bound men in sexually-graphic poses now grace a surprisingly broad range of high-end products. Founded in 1820, Finlayson is a Finnish textile manufacturer whose range includes duvet covers, shower curtains, towels, kitchen aprons and oven gloves – each featuring prints by well-known artists and designers. Alongside the likes of Moomin and Finnish artist Hannu Väisänen is an extensive Tom of Finland range. Jalo Helsinki is another design-led brand from Finland. They’ve won design awards from reddot and Wallpaper* Magazine for their quirky fire safety products, which include a smoke alarm resembling a buzzing housefly and a phoenix-shaped fire extinguisher. Made of high-performance acrylic coated glass fibre, Jalo’s range of fire blankets come in various versions – including some that feature artwork by Tom of Finland. Finnish gourmet coffee roasters Robert Paulig have been roasting small batch Single Estate Coffees since 1987. A recent addition to their Art Roast coffee series is Tom Of Finland Coffees, available as ground or bean plus a Spicy Santa version for Christmas. Developed in partnership with the Tom of Finland Foundation, it’s described as being “unapologetic, self-aware and boastfully proud” and mixes Mexican flavours with Brazilian and Colombian notes – so it must be a deliciously full-bodied, Latin American mouthful. This week saw the UK launch by Spirit Cartel of Tom Of Finland Organic Vodka. Handcrafted in Finland from 100% organic ingredients and pure arctic water, this premium vodka is described as “superbly smooth with a pleasurable tingle at the finish” – sounding rather like some of the buff men that Tom has drawn over the years. The vodka’s brand ambassador Niklas Hogner, a former figure skating champion, also plays the role of Kake (the dark-haired, mustached leatherman whose exploits are illustrated in a series of sexually graphic Tom of Finland comics) in a forthcoming biopic about Tom of Finland. Having wowed audiences and critics at a host of international film festivals, Tom Of Finland by award-winning filmmaker Dome Karukoski will have its London premiere this Friday at Hackney Picturehouse as part of the East End Film Festival. Following the screening is an afterparty at east end gay hotspot The Glory. Everyone is encouraged to come in Tom-inspired attire, with a full spectrum of prizes (ranging from ToF dildos to Finlayson duvets) available for the best (un)dressed. Walking around a city such as London, you’ll inevitably encounter policemen, builders, bikers and a host of other sexy guys who could easily fulfil the role as one of Tom’s men – so perhaps we’re already living in Tom’s world. Only now we have even more of Tom’s things that we can purchase, pick up and take home. Tom of Finland is showing at Hackney Picturehouse on Friday June 28 at 9pm