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Meet the Gimp Man of Essex, who wears bondage gear to the supermarket all in the name of positive mental health

Josh Milton April 28, 2020
Spotted in a latex suit, a buckled hood and heavy black wellies, the Gimp Man of Essex is raising money for mental health charities, a cause he's ardently passionate for. (PinkNews)

Spotted in grocery aisles and shopping malls in a latex suit, a buckled hood and heavy black wellies, the Gimp Man of Essex is raising money for mental health charities, a cause he's ardently passionate for. (PinkNews)

In between the aisles hollowed out by supermarket shoppers, packing baskets with essentials as they bunker down during the coronavirus pandemic, all the Gimp Man of Essex wanted was a quiche.

The tinny, fluorescent lights of Tesco shimmered on his black rubber suit as he reached out to place washing-up liquid bottles and cartons of bottles into his trolley.

When he’s in his suit, he’s no longer a prosaic person humming along grocers and shopping malls in Colchester, England, but he’s “the Gimp Man of Essex” and he’s out to raise money for mental health charity Mind.

Photographs of him snapped by stunned shoppers have gone viral on social media in recent weeks, leading many to wonder just who the Gimp Man is.

But in a nation reeling from the harrowing impact of COVID-19, haunted by a devastating death toll, all the Gimp Man wants to do is give folks a reason to smile again.

Gimp Man of Essex dons bondage suit in supermarkets all in the name of mental health. 

Nobody knows the identity of the Gimp Man, but spying him in snaking queues outside Tesco’s is a regular sight for longtime residents of the Essex town.

“I like latex,” the Gimp Man told PinkNews, “I like the feel of it, it’s like an all-over hug, like putting a costume of ‘you’ on, but different.

“In public, I have a different persona – I am the Gimp and act differently to my everyday character.”

The Gimp Man of Essex has stunned shoppers, battled by the coronavirus pandemic, in Colchester, England, for weeks. All he wants is for folks to smile more. (Twitter)
The Gimp Man of Essex has stunned shoppers, battled by the coronavirus pandemic, in Colchester, England, for weeks. All he wants is for folks to smile more. (Twitter)

He first explored the BDSM community when he was young, enjoying the feel of latex. Leafing through a magazine that profiled a gimp suit, he saw himself in the glossy silhouette the suit provides.

The Gimp Man explained that wearing the suit has been a part of his life for the last seven years, but it is one that has long remained separate – his wife is a “vanilla” and latex is not “her thing” and, in fact, doesn’t even know her husband is the Gimp Man.

Then, the coronavirus happened.

‘Sometimes, you need someone to help pull you together.’

For years, the Gimp Man has raised funds for the Mid and North-East Essex Mind, but when the coronavirus pandemic collided with the country, he had to think of a new tactic.

“So,” he said, “I came up with the idea of the Gimp doing the shopping.

“At the moment, people are walking around supermarkets in masks. I thought I might take it a little bit further, give [the suit] a go and they’ll either turn me away or accept me.”

With images of people gainfully commuting to work with their unconventional ways of protecting themselves from the virus – from gas masks to plastic shoe boxes sellotaped onto heads – the Gimp Man, in a way, fits neatly into what the pandemic has made perfectly normal.

“I thought, to go out, I need a purpose.”

He explained that government guidelines demanding people submit to severe restrictions on their personal movement will undoubtedly erode mental health. It’s this second crisis slinking in the shadows of coronavirus – one of the mind – that the Gimp Man hopes to spotlight.

“I feel in the coming months,” he said, “I really feel there’s going to be a lot of problems later.

“And, really, we need people to come out and talk about it. To actually say they’ve got a problem, get help, not button it up, not how it’s been for years.

“You know, ‘Oh, pull yourself together’, what a load of old rubbish, you can’t pull yourself together. Sometimes you need someone to help pull you together.

“Sometimes just talking to someone helps unload the burden.”

‘I reckon there will be a lot of mental health problems come the end of the lockdown.’

The Gimp Man has, other than a couple of scuffles with security here and there, had overwhelmingly positive experiences shopping away in his black buckled outfit. Bringing smiles to paranoid shoppers clenching antibacterial gels and stressed checkout clerks.

“A lot of people want to talk to me,” he said, “but are a bit shy.

“I have found that being friendly helps to draw them in, and I then talk to them and before you know it we are having pictures taken and they go off happy.”

The Gimp Man added that in becoming the BDSM boy next door, he’s hoping to better normalise the fetish and kink communities, long shunned by understanding people as seedy and purely sexual when that’s far removed from the reality.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” he said, “if you see this, it doesn’t mean there’s a monster inside it, does it?

“Inside this is just an everyday guy, married with kids, mortgage, etc.

“If I can go out like this and people see that I am not a ‘rapist’ or ‘madman’, then it can only help get things accepted in the future,” he said.

“When people talk to me they realise that I am just a normal guy who happens to wear an unusual outfit.”

‘In public, I am a different persona, I am the gimp and act differently to my everyday character.’ (Twitter)

The Gimp Man is part of a wave of people whose livelihoods might have been upended by COVID-19, but are refusing to gingerly accept it.

Many Britons – from DJs to corner shop owners, to, yes, a man in a bondage suit – are striving to offer an alternative to the droll drumbeat of bleak news, one of hope and resilience.

Above all, the Gimp Man feels “on top of the world” when in his rubbery suit among crowds of smiling shoppers.

“I feel like I’ve helped a few people,” he said, “made a few people smile.

“Like a superhero rising to the top.”

More: BDSM, bondage, Coronavirus, COVID-19, England, Gimp Man of Essex, mental health, mind

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