Interview

Interview with “Gaydar Nation” for “Straped: The Art of the Decorated Jockstrap” London, 2009
Colin Corbett’s work focuses on the taboo attraction of the male member in ways that are both surprising and provocative in an exhibition at London College of Communication, open to the public from 21 January–30 January 2009.
His different variations of the jockstrap are humorous and inspired by different cultural themes from Ancient Greece to world religion and make strong statements about men.
We caught up with Corbett to find out more about his fascination with jockstraps!

Tell us a little about your work?
Strapped: The art of the Decorated Jockstrap, is just that, a collection of decorated jockstraps. Some made by hand from scratch, some standard over the counter, but all decorated, beaded, studded, appliqué ornamentation, and found objects like stuffed birds, toys and masks.

What was the inspiration for the collection?
On a trip to Istanbul a few years ago I visited the Topkapi Palace where I saw a complete working suit of armour for some Sultan or other. It was encrusted with diamonds, emeralds and pearls and was an essentially ‘macho’ war garment that had been rendered ‘camp’ and a beautiful ‘art object’.
On a more realistic and domestic level, I wanted to make a statement about the male identity and the jockstrap seemed the perfect canvas. It both conceals and draws attention to the genitals!

What are you trying to achieve?
On one level I am hoping to create a garment as an art piece which when framed and hung on the wall above the fireplace looks beautiful. On the other hand there are statements to be made about a man’s relationship to his identity, visual appearance and his cock and balls.
My piece ‘Weapons’ (the one with the soldiers) is saying, at least to me, there’s too much testosterone in the world where as the ‘rhinestone and diamante ones are saying, ‘I may be head to foot in dead cow in a leather bar but Isn’t my package pretty!’

Are your pieces purely decorative or are they designed to be worn?
They are shown in the exhibition in simple box frames. They would look just as good on the wall in a rococo frame as worn while doing the ironing!

So where did your fascination with jockstraps come from?
I grew up in the town of Hawick, in the Scottish borders, a big rugby town. All the players wore them but I was always the last to be picked at games – this is my revenge!

Have you always liked them or is it a more recent attraction?
Always – even when I wasn’t sure what they were. When I asked an uncle who played rugby for Scotland what a jockstrap was he said, ‘They are like Y-fronts but with the arse cut oot!’
“There are statements to be made about a man’s relationship to his identity, visual appearance and his cock and balls.”

Is it just the strap itself or the jock wearing them that appeals to you?
Now then! That’s a tricky one. Here comes the fetish bit! As a garment I do find them exciting but it may take a PHD to find out why certain garments are fetishised! As for who wears them, well, to me there’s nothing nicer than a big ole hairy bear in a jockstrap!

You coined a rather fun phrase, ‘Oh, he’s got his diamante jockstraps on inside out’. Where did the phrase come from?
When bar hopping in the 80s if any one looked uncomfortable, grumpy, moody or was downright rude in a pub I’d say, ‘Oh just ignore him he’s got his diamante jockstraps on inside out’.

So have you ever worn a diamante jockstrap?!
Oh yes! The first one I made was when I was living in Frith Street, Soho, in about 1982, it took me for ever to sew little diamante crystals on a black jock. My boss’s wife from the design council came around one night and my boyfriend went down a storm serving drinks wearing it all night!

What other jockstraps have you made?
There is the ‘Jewel Support’ range – all sparkly with rhinestone crystals; the ‘Masked Balls’ with Venetian masks; the ‘Cuckoo Cock’ – all Thyrolean!; the ‘Evil Eye Balls’ – covered in Turkish evil eyes. The list goes on…

Isn’t anything overtly macho – from cars to leather chaps – really pretty camp?”

Tell me about the fisting jockstrap!
Okay, red handkerchief equals an interest in fisting. Now then, there are loads of jocks on the market for this market in leather (my mother would not approve – you can’t boil wash leather!), rubber etc, but I have not seen one actually made from a red hankie. So here’s one you can wash with the added benefits of hooks and loops to ‘accessorise’ with lube, nail clippers, gloves, poppers etc.

Do you see jockstraps as being macho or, frankly, a bit camp?
Well isn’t anything overtly macho – from cars to leather chaps – really pretty camp? In the queue to get in to the Hoist between Christmas and New Year there were three enormous blokes dressed head to foot in dead cow which was visually rather threatening but all they talked about – in the campest of voices – was how much port you should put in your cranberry sauce!

Gay men have become obsessed with underwear. Why do you think this is?
If you grew up being made to wear paisley patterned nylon Y-fronts (in brown and purple) bought for you by your mother – say no more! Actually I buy them because one day I may purchase a magic pair that makes me look like the guy on the front of the box…

So are you a jock, brief or trunk man?
90% briefs, 10% Jocks – but it’s so cold at the moment so what about mink long johns and a polo neck jockstrap!

And finally, what’s next for Colin Corbett?
It would be nice to get a few commissions and a commercial range!

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