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Now a couple of designers working in conjunction with the Tom of Finland foundation, intent on keeping the flame of Touko-Tom fashion alive, have opened their first retail store, diagonally across from the Sam Chinita restaurant, a metal roadside diner parked at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 19th Street.
The Tom of Finland store has huge floor-to-ceiling front windows, which are very reassuring when you're selling vaguely homoerotic merchandise that might intimidate potential customers. This way, they can look and see a perfectly nice collection of heavy denim and Lycra "Tom" fit jeans ("low rise, snug in the legs, boot cut") for $88, belts with massive metal buckles that say "Tom" ($67), ribbed Ts with horizontal laces meant to restrain bursting chests ($42), and other tough-love necessities. Fiendish Finnish fellows decorate T-shirts and march up the sides of baggy shorts; a classic leather motorcycle jacket has been individualized with a lining that's decorated with a drawing of two hunky Toms.
The merchandise fairly screams Pavilion! Botel! Sayville ferry! and indeed, some Tom items are available at Island Specialties, a boutique in the shop-deprived hamlet of Fire Island Pines. But Tom of Finland is ready to break out of its niche: "There's no such thing as heterosexual or homosexual clothes, after all," says Gary Robinson, one of the designers, and at least one behemoth department store agrees: Tom of Finland is for sale this season at the Los Angeles branch of Bloomingdale's. "It's in the Beverly Center, in West Hollywood. We think we'll do fine."
To the Finland station: Tom takes on jeans. (photo: André Souroujon)