Rubber is derived from the sap of rubber trees native to South America. Europeans began cultivating rubber for industrial and household use in the 1800s and by the early 1900s rubber was in common use in England. Rubber was used to make diapers, rain coats, boots and gloves. By the 1950s rubber had a devoted fetish following, particularly among straight men, many of whom trace the fetish back to their exposure to rubber as children.

But the rubber fetish subculture didn’t really take off until the 1990s, by which point it was attracting all genders and orientations. Instigator magazine has popularized rubber gear, particularly the fetish for rubber gas masks and hoods. Those excited by rubber often cite the particular smell and feel of rubber gear and rubber toys.

Latex clothing is made the sap of rubber trees, not to be confused with the more durable synthetic rubber. Rubber gear should be stored in the dark so it doesn’t deteriorate. Unlike durable leather, rubber is strangely delicate, sensitive to both sun and halogen light. Rubber will melt when in contact with mineral oils (such as engine oil, sun block, body lotion or lipstick) and can easily be punctured by sharp objects.

Rubberists suffer through a delicate handwashing and ritual polishing with silicone in order to maintain a high-gloss shine on their rubber gear.

Most enthusiasts wear their rubber skin-tight so as to experience it like a second skin. Baby powder or corn starch is used to keep it from sticking to itself and to help ease it on.

At the end of a scene skin-tight rubber can be removed in the shower. Although not everyone into rubber is also into watersports rubber is attractive for messier fetishes because it’s easy to wash clean, unlike leather.

Rubber and latex wear is not available at department stores, but can be found in Toronto at shops including Priape and NorthBound Leather, or through various online retailers. Recoil, based in London, is considered to be one of the best manufacturers of rubber fetish wear.

Nancy Irwin (she/her) is a rebel femme who occasionally fights for justice. A biker, world traveller, handy-dyke, play party organizer and switch who plays well with all genders. She makes a living in green spaces.

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