Fred with Tires

Fame came early to Herb Ritts. One of the best-known fashion photographers before he was out of his twenties, Ritts was an instant darling of the newer generation of edgier designers. With his ability to make almost any subject look dramatic and interesting, Ritt created what he called Retro-Neo-Deco style and almost singlehanded wrestled Neo-Hellenistic male form back into fashion.

The image that comes to mind when Ritt’s name is mentioned was Fred with Tires, the above image of an impossibly muscular young man clad only in jeans that sag slightly below his waist. A rough and virile sexuality set against an evocative environment, the image became a runaway hit as a poster and was named one of the photos that changed fashion. The original photo shoot was intended for an Italian designer, but when Ritts received the clothing, he and his stylist rejected it and dressed his model in overalls instead. The pictures were not what the magazine requested, but it was so powerful they ran them anyway causing a sensation.

Ritt eschewed realism in making Fred appealing in the midst of all the sludge and grunge — makeup turned into grease and tires into something intrinsically mysterious. There were many details/entendres: converging lines of the torso, diverging lines of arms and tires, the oversized zipper, but the photo was not really posed. Ritts remembers:

“Each time I did assignments or editorials, I realized that I wanted to do something more. I saw that it wasn’t just about the clothes. Starting in 1984, I had an assignment for Franca [Sozzani], for a magazine called Per Lui, which was the counterpart of Lei. Lei was the most forward magazine in the early eighties, and it was because Franca was so great in encouraging everyone. I did a story called “The Body Shop”, which is where Fred with Tires emerged from. Franca had sent these really hideous raincoats, and I just hated them. I had hired an editor, a freelance named Michael Roberts, who now works at the New Yorker. We ended up going to Western Costumes and getting vintage jeans and overalls. We decided to do the body shop story at a greasy gas station. It was great fun. We turned in the pictures, and Franca almost had a heart attack. But she ran it, and it was a huge success. I still don’t know why it happened. It was just one of those honest pictures. I remember when we were shooting it. Poor Fred, who was a student, had to swing these heavy tires around, and at one point he was so tired he just turned around and stood there. It was the last frame of the shoot.

Indeed the photo happened in a moment of repose when the exhausted model just stopped and was saying, “Do I need to continue doing this? It’s killing me.”

(I rewatched Zoolander this Friday, and being who I am, instantly noticed a pastiche of this photo: Owen Wilson’s character who is a male model has a photo of him holding two tires).

18 thoughts on “Fred with Tires”

  1. Another important, and unnamed, reason for the success of this image is that the model happens to be one of the most famous and successful gay porn actors of the 1980s. Going by the stage name of “Jeff Quinn,” he worked for most of the high quality gay male studios, including Falcon Studios, Catalina Video, Huge Video, and Laguna Pacific Video. He appeared under the name “Rhett Routley” in the December, 1985 issue of Playgirl magazine as Man of the Month/centerfold, and by 1987, in another nearly dozen magazines aimed at a gay male audience.

      1. not true. I went to high school with Fred, and he didn’t graduate until the late 70s. This definitely was from the 80s

    1. The guy with the tires is not Jeff Quinn. All you have to do is google both and just look at the different features in their looks. Yes they do look similar but the guy with the tires has more muscles. (yes maybe Jeff gained some muscles after he quite the movie business) but they also have different size and shape of ears and that’s where it becomes obvious that it’s two different guys.

  2. wheew, this guy really have those very huge muscles and he has that masculine look, very manly but then It’s so disappointing to know that he is a gay porn actor…so discouraging. 😦

  3. I don’t care if he is gay or straight or who he is, alls I know is that I have a poster of him hanging in my bathroom as I sit on my throne. I look up and see him everyday and I love him. I used to work at a tire shop and I found the poster cleaning an apartment. I believe it is an original print so I hung it on the wall in the office for several and I can’t tell you how many peo0ple commented on it especially the women, so many people wanted to buy it from me, but I can’t seem to let go of it. I fell in love with the man.

    1. I had this poster on my bedroom wall when I was in my teens…along with other popular B&W prints from the early to mid 80’s.
      This one by far was my favourite as he is just soooooo handsome.

  4. 300% he is not Jeff Quinn…but he does look a bit like him in one photo but if you see the entire series…it is not Jeff Quinn

  5. Also, the law of proportion lets you know he’s not that tall. Look closely and you can tell where his feet are really located.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s