We meet Rubber Man in the first season of American Horror Story. The terrorizing character is the alter ego of Tate Langdon (played by Evan Peters), a man who promised his beloved a baby. Donning the body-hugging black rubber suit, originally purchased by a gay couple to fix their intimacy issues, Langdon-turned-Rubber Man kills them upon realizing the two won’t be adopting a baby for him to snatch anytime soon. Over time, the suit becomes a series player in its own right. Each time a character finds the garment in the “Murder House,” home to a variety of residents over the anthology show’s seasons, they try to throw it away. But the latex suit refuses to die, reappearing again and again, signalling the irrepressibility of evil.
Come to think of it, it’s not unlike the persistence with which fashion insiders insist on bringing back The Latex Dress. While you may assume this trend is more sex shop than haute couture, the jury disagrees. Despite the heat warnings and scorching temperatures all over the country, model Hailey Bieber and TikTok star Addison Rae took on the rubbery, sweat-inducing trend with apparent relish this week. While Bieber wore a baby blue Versace mini with a bustier-like top, Rae opted for a red Saint Laurent halter-neck number. Despite Bieber and Rae reviving this trend now, we all know who to blame for the indomitable path latex has blazed through pop culture: our lord of reality TV and bodycon highness, Kim Kardashian.
It all started in 2014, when Kardashian — then, in the middle of her Kanye-influenced style transformation — wore a dusty pink latex bodycon to the Australia launch of one of her fragrances. Later, in 2019, she attended the Met Gala wearing a Mugler cinched-waist corset. The look was topped off with a crystal-embellished latex dress, which gave Kardashian the aspect of a surreal mermaid visiting New York City for one night only. The dress was so tight that, ahead of the event, the reality TV star outlined a rather, erm, interesting plan to pee that night: wet herself and have one of her sisters clean her legs. (No word on whether this actually happened.) For the event’s after-party, Kardashian wore an equally constrictive bubblegum blue latex number by Mugler that featured silver-and-blue embellishments and a plunging neckline.
While all these outfits looked great on the Calabasas native, we all wondered: How does she get herself into them? The answer would come in 2020 when an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians showed the entrepreneur and her sister Kourtney squeezing themselves into latex jumpsuits for Paris Fashion Week. The process required Kim to continuously tug and stretch the sticky latex while two assistants adjusted the fabric over her body. Despite being a frequent wearer of latex dresses prior to this moment, the star did not seem to enjoy the ordeal. Amid her struggle with the skin-tight garment, she said, “I’ll never wear a condom!”
Other celebrities like Lady Gaga — an AHS alumni — have also worn the form-fitting ensembles, including a red latex dress and matching eyepiece the “Bad Romance” singer sported to meet Queen Elizabeth II, as well model Ashley Graham (who donned the trend while pregnant in 2019) and Beyoncé (who wore a latex mini as recently as June).
Sure, we’ve all renounced comfort for fashion at some point in our lives (I wore leather jackets in tropical weather throughout college just to channel my goth leanings). But why are people embracing latex with such fervour right now?
Look around: Our current reality is straight out of The Day After Tomorrow. For decades, horror movies and TV shows have documented the kinds of agonizing agents — ie. a deadly virus, catastrophic weather changes, etc. — that have long signalled the end of times. And, as we all learned, American Horror Story’s most hair-raising storyline couldn't come close to the everyday terror of living in a pandemic that refuses to take a bow.
Prior to last year, the Rubber Man suit seemed like a scary nightmare. Now it seems fitting for our modern time, where we are just dressing the part.