Ever listen to Kiss FM in the daytime, when they have those adverts for club nights that take up the entire ad break? The ones that talk more about the music they don't play than the music they do – you know, "No hip hop! No jungle! No ghetto-tech! Just GARAGE, all night!!!" Well, the other thing they don't want you to do – other than listen to music that isn't garage – is to turn up wearing a hat, a hood or trainers. From the Wetherspoon's of Mansfield to the members only joints of Mayfair, most British bouncers just can't get with a look that suggests you're a teenager on the precipice of shedding an energetic youth to embrace a stage of adolescence where you fall asleep having RSI weed dreams about PlayStation games every night.
But then I heard about a club night that actively encourages people to show up looking like Devlin. This was apparently a night where not only could you get away with wearing a pair of Reebok Classics, it was almost required. My laissez-faire attitude to party wear has seen me turned away from more clubs than Joey Barton, so this seemed like it could be the joint for me. Even if it was technically a gay sportswear fetish night.
The night was part of Fetish Week London, and was introduced to me by the associated website trackies.com, which is a kind of Grindr for guys who tuck their tracksuit bottoms into their socks. The clientele is a strange mix; there's plenty of lads who seem to be the real thing, with screen-names like "FitScallyLad" and profile pictures that look like they were taken on Wythenshawe sink estates for "BRITAIN'S WORST FATHER" features in The Sun.
But then you've got people who are either stock image harvested fakes or tourists, like "Jules" here. Guys who don't really go in for the look themselves, but are obviously into the slightly dubious working class fetishisation element of the subculture. Although saying that, there's something quite romantic in the fact that somebody like Jules and "FitScallyLad" could fall in love, let alone meet in any other scenario outside of a McDonald's happy slapping.
There's also quite a lot of group shots on the website, no doubt with some of the participants unknowingly roped into the photos. Poor guys, they probably all think they're filming a video to terrify the online thugs of Britain with their Stockport-based grime collectives, but in reality, it's probably just Jules printing it off for his scrapbook.
Anyway, this seemed from the outset like the kind of place a vanilla breeder like me could show up to without being quizzed on underground code while the doorman peered into my soul to ascertain if I was genuine or not.
First of all, I'd need the outfit. It was advertised as a "sports cruise party", so I managed to pilfer some trackies, some K-Swiss trainers (thanks, guys!) and a football shirt left over from the (now defunct) VICE girls' team. The overall effect made me look more like a semi-pro footballer forced to train in a park after being released by Fisher Athletic than a Kenneth Anger dream boy, but hey, this was apparently the look that would get me past the bouncers.
The night's proceedings would take place in the small London enclave of Vauxhall, which is essentially a train station, two coffee shops and a dozen or so of the city's most hardcore gay fetish clubs. This was a weekday excursion, but on weekends, most Vauxhall clubs don't get going until sunrise. And I can guarantee you that nothing will make you feel like a lame hetero like somebody trying to sell you ketamine while you're traipsing home whining about how you're still not in bed at 7AM.
The allocated venue for the "sports cruise party" was a place named The Hoist. It's famous for its "SBN", or "stark bollock naked" nights, which yeah, well I'm sure you can work out the dress code there. Uniforms are also popular at The Hoist, and I sussed these guys as fellow punters straight away, you can't get many scaffold poles in a Polo.
After milling around outside for a bit with my photographer Nick, I decided to enter the breach. What's the worst that could happen, we thought? We'd just go in, hang out, drink some brewskis, have a little bop to Skinnyman and take some pictures of happily obliging chaps feeling up each other's Ellesse sweatshirts... right?
It's fucking Vauxhall, of course we weren't right.
Getting in was actually far easier than I'd expected; the bouncer checked our ID and waved us straight in. Camera still stowed away in the bag, we crept towards what we thought was the dancefloor. But it wasn't, it was the changing room.
We then noticed that it wasn't just troubled young guys in Adidas Poppers, doing poppers, like the site suggested. It was more like lots of Swedish bodybuilders in Lycra doing GHB. The "sportswear" the flyer had advertised was actually more WWE than JJB Sports; everybody had bright, college-style wrestling gear on, with a few super-tight Chelsea kits floating about just to retain the sense of place. I got shy and tried to avert my eyes from all the bare butt surrounding me, but my vision found only blowjobs.
I wasn't shocked because it was all man on man, it was just the sheer flagrancy of it. I'm pretty sure I'd have had the same reaction if I were at some PTA swingers party in Sittingbourne. There's something very disorientating about people making hardcore fucking faces while others politely clinked cava glasses a few feet away.
The guy taking the entry fee at the interior entrance looked like a roid rage Peter Gabriel with a chin piercing, and when I asked if he could possibly give me a receipt to expense, he smirked slightly and pointed to a queue which seemed to be for renting the requisite wrestling gear. While I was tapping my feet in the disrobing queue, I was reminded of the first time I went paintballing as a kid. I was worried, queuing up with guys who drink protein shakes to rent a uniform I knew I wouldn't feel comfortable in.
At this point, Nick withdrew his artillery cannon of a camera from the bag. And within seconds, the mocking doorman turned to us and waggled his finger. It was safe to say we'd been rumbled. This was no student night in Newcastle. Amazingly, it seemed dudes who go to underground fetish nights are surprisingly camera shy.
I cackhandedly rushed towards the exit, pretending to take a phone call. I didn't, I just needed to breathe. As I was heading out, a small chap on my left placed something furry in my hand. I turned round slowly to look at him, expecting the worst.
"Here's your cum rag, mate," he said, smiling like a friendly waiter handing out a hot towel at an Indian restaurant.
And here it is, the offending item. I may not have got a receipt to invoice the finance department with, but I'm sure a crumpled jizz rag will suffice, right? Nothing says proof of purchase quite like a jizz rag.
Walking back to the tube, I felt simultaneously the youngest and the straightest I've ever felt. I've made a habit of getting drunk in places most people wouldn't go to, but The Hoist was just a step too far. It was like Just William somehow found himself upstairs at Studio 54.
Alas, I am a hardcore fetish n00b.
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive
Photos: Nicholas Pomeroy
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