Fleet Week Special: Swabbie Art

By Christopher Harrity

Originally published on Advocate.com May 24 2014 3:00 AM ET

We are smack gob in the middle of Fleet Week in NYC (May 21 through May 27). Fleet Week is a U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard tradition in which active military ships recently deployed in overseas operations dock in a variety of major cities for one week. Once the ships dock, the crews can enter the city and visit its tourist attractions. And so you have a city swarming with swabbies. Even Carrie on Sex and the City (almost) gets into the action. To help celebrate and support our seamen, we have assembled a collection of art and photography devoted to the men at sea.

Vintage sailors enjoying the fit of a good sailor's uniform.

Sailors selling it: Everything from submarines to soap to Camels.

Sailors by Tom of Finland: Tom had a certain appreciation for a sailor's strut. See more about Tom and his work at the Tom of Finland Foundation website.

Seamen in the lens: The sailor has been a model of inspiration for many photographers. Clockwise from top left: Pierre et Gilles, Mel Roberts, Bob Mizer of the Athletic Model Guild and Physique Pictorial, Bruce Weber

The homoerotic sailors of artist McClelland Barclay

Vintage seamen in love.

Sailors on stage and screen (clockwise from left): Brad Davis in Querelle; Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in one of two fetishy sailor films they made together, Anchors Aweigh; Cris Alexander, Adolph Green, and John Battles on stage in On the Town.

Sailors and Floozies, painted by gay artist Paul Cadmus in 1938, was supposed to be exhibited in a San Francisco art show in 1940, but the Navy wanted it taken down. After the press made a fuss about it, the painting stayed in the show. According to a 1940 Time article, Cadmus had this to say: “I  think the picture portrays an enjoyable side of Navy life. I think it would make a good recruiting poster.”

The Navy Wants Men, indeed. Various recruitment posters.

Famed Saturday Evening Post illustrator J.C. Leyendecker painted sailors lovingly.

Sailors make the cover: Adventure magazine shows the crustier side of the old gob, and Sam Steward (a.k.a. Phil Andros and Phil Sparrow) used a sailor as part of his promotion as a tattoo artist.

The art of Yannis Tsoucharis.

The art of Emlen Etting

Legendary mid-century gay artists Etienne (Dom Orejudos) and George Quaintance knew their way around some tight bell-bottoms.

So enjoy the week! Buy a sailor a nice ice cream cone. Be careful you don't drip any of that on those nice white pants.