Does your hubby have a pin-up calendar hanging in his man cave? Are you vexed by or just plain bored with the notion of bikini-clad models and sports cars? Janet Schürmeyer and Magdalena Schaarwächter, a pair of German artists, have an alternative. This month, they released a calendar called Autowäsche: Milestones of Men’s Underwear Meets Automobile History.
"Wherever there is polished steel and chrome, there are also naked breasts," explain the artists. "It’s a cliché you not only find in calendars but in car magazines as well. So we decided to make fun of it." Autowäsche, for example, is a made-up word—a fusion of the German words for "car" and "underwear."
Schürmeyer has long been an aficionado of vintage cars and has owned nearly half a dozen over the years. To complete her design degree, she created a car magazine oriented toward women. She then teamed up with Schaarwächter, a photographer, to create Autowäsche. Each month in the 2013 calendar depicts a mostly naked man posing beside a vintage car. He is dressed in various types of underwear: from tighty-whiteys to a very bizarre legging/g- string/codpiece contraption.
In previous versions of the calendar, the models were all friends of the artists. "They knew us and understood our sense of humor, so we really just had to ask: ‘would you do this?’" Schürmeyer says. But the women soon began receiving letters from random guys around Germany, saying they wanted to model. The current edition now includes friends and strangers. Not that all the men are immediately comfortable posing in their undies. The artists generally gave guys a warm up period before they start each shoot, "to help them act naturally in their pants," Schürmeyer says. But the project isn’t exactly aiming for naturalism, so the artists always encourage the men to improvise.
"Some of them were not that shy," Schürmeyer says. Through improvisation, the men displayed "new and unexpected impulses." And that’s part of the point. Far from objectifying their models, the photo shoot—and the calendar as an art object—is meant to liberate and make people laugh. "This isn’t about sexuality, it’s about humor," Schürmeyer says.
In September, a 1926 Model-T Ford is parked in front of a historic train station. The artists wanted their model to wear period-appropriate undergarments, so they settled on a style of truncated long johns, which were popular in1913. The upper portion of the underwear suit is unbuttoned to reveal ample chest hair.
March features an Easter theme. The model wears yellow galoshes and swimming trunks, enormous bunny ears, and large buck teeth. He lounges against the hood of an orange 1971 Fiat 500 F, surrounded by plastic eggs. The artists’ intention may be more about humor than sexuality, but Mr. March’s creepy "come hither" eyes present a discomfiting fusion of both.
June features a gas station stud dressed in cowboy boots, an unzipped fur jacket, and sunglasses. He holds a windshield wiper and a soap bucket. With his cherry red 1974 Daf 66 Marathon Coupe 1300, he could not look cockier (pun intended).
January was inspired by a cartoon sketch called "The Bathtub," by Loriot, a famous German animator, who passed away in 2011. In the cartoon, two bulbous-necked men sit together in a blue-tiled bath tub.
"Pleased to meet you," one of the men says. "Can you please tell me why you are sitting in my bathtub?"
"I came from the ping-pong room in the basement and was wrong about the room number. You can easily get lost in this hotel."
Schürmeyer knew of a car nicknamed "bathtub," a Mercury from the early 1950’s that was built to be a cheap competitor to Lincoln. She found one in a pale blue color that didn’t quite match the cerulean of Loriot’s cartoon, but kept the spirit. The artists then constructed a bathroom set, including wall-to-wall tiles. They made chessboard-style floor title out of paper and added a couple of key finishing touches: two rubber duckies, a bath mat, and slippers. Like in the cartoon, the male model wears a red and white swimming cap. An important divergence from Loriot, of course, is the model’s physique. He is sleek and thin, and his abs aren’t half bad. He blows kisses to his rubber ducky.
In addition to the calendar, photos from previous calendars (2010, 2011) have been printed onto frühstücksbrettchen, i.e."boards for breakfast," which double as serving and cutting boards. You can even choose a kitchen-themed image, in which a man wearing tighty-whiteys and a tank top, dangles a gigantic earl gray tea bag in a massive tea cup. It’s pretty silly and pretty awesome.
You don’t need an excuse to buy any of these Autowäsche images, but consider this: February is fast approaching and that means Valentines Day. So If you’re bored with roses and chocolate, give your special him or her a copy of Autowäsche. Or if you don’t want your honey looking at sexy German men for the next year, you could always don something skimpy and sprawl across the hood of your Volvo.