About the material
The basic material of rubber is natural rubber which is harvested in form of latex milk from rubber trees (hevea brasiliensis). When drying this milk turns into natural latex. However in this form you can’t work with the material because it is very sticks, breaks under cold and will disintegrate under heat. In order to turn the latex milk into a usable material a process called vulcanization is applied to the latex using sulfur, pressure and heat. During this process the white latex turns yellow due to the heat and the sulfur. If another color is desired pigments are added during the vulcanization.
Generally speaking rubber is a very fragile and demanding material.
Latex milk consists of long polymer chains with free molecule endings. This “free” ends will join with the sulfur inside the material under heat and pressure but will stay free on the surface. Usually oxygen will dock on these ends causing redox which will change to color of the latex or can even destroy it (how to prevent this later on when I talk about taking care of you rubber). Also this effect is responsible of the friction when you put on a rubber piece.
Other harmful influences are ozone and UV-light, reactive metals like silver and cooper, plastificantes, oils and fats (this includes deodorant and perfume!) except silicone oil and great force.
On the plus side there is the flexibility and high thermal conductivity. But rubber mustn’t be overstretched because than it will not return to its original form.
The thrill of rubber gear
I am often asked what attracts me to rubber. There are a bunch of different factors. First there is the smell, than there is the touch of the surface, the feeling of the material tightly wrapping around your body. It is hard to put into words why rubber is something special. At best try it on at a local fetish dealer and find out for yourself.
Why is rubber gear so expensive?
Until the 1980s rubber was widely used in hospitals for various purposes like mattress covers or catheter because it was an easy to clean and quite robust material. But with the availability of cheap one-time products the demand for sheets of rubber decreased rapidly. Nowadays sheets of rubber which are suitable for skin contact and well made enough for lasting long are nearly exclusively made for the performing arts and fetish industry which leads to smaller quantities being made and thus increased price.
With its elastic properties rubber is a material which can only be processed by hand so there is a large chunk of manual labor cost in the price which can hardly be driven down with scale effects. Add to that the usual pervert’s mark up and you end with the price of rubber gear.
How rubber gear is made
There are two major ways of making rubber gear: gluing and dipping. For dipping you dip a form p.e. for gloves, simple shirts or a mask into liquid latex, get it out and let it dry. The advantage of this the speed large numbers of items can be made but it is very hard to create an even material thickness.
For any larger and more complex items like suits, multicolor shirts, etc. the sheets of rubber are cut into pieces using patterns and glued together. There are manufacturers who sew rubber together but since this will cost elasticity I would not recommend it.
Another non industrial way of making gear is using liquid latex. You apply the liquid on the body and let it dry a little bit. This can be a nice and very sensual experience especially when done together but make sure that the body area is completely hairless! Otherwise you will rip them out when pulling the rubber off.
Choosing a Style
You can have nearly everything wearable made out of rubber starting with everyday attire over special play wear like suits with codpieces and zippers on important places up to super hero costumes. Since everybody has a different kind and preference I will not recommend something here. However I heavily advise you to not order your first piece over the internet without trying it on! On the one hand some things look better on you in your fantasy than in reality and it sometimes can be quite shocking when you wear your dream piece and it looks horrible on you. On the other hand normal clothes sizes don’t transfer one to one into rubber gear sizes. Depending on the effect you want to achieve – ranging from loose casual fit to skintight – you will need to find the right size for you which again can be a pleasant surprise (when you need an S instead of you usual L) or shocking (XL pants due to your thighs instead of M).
Choosing the Right Material Thickness
This is a tricky decision. Rubber clothing comes in material thicknesses between 0,18mm and 1,6mm which leaves you with a lot of choices. The thinner the rubber, the better it will wrap around your body and the more you will feel touch through it. Also, thinner rubber is cheaper. However: It will tear more easily when you get stuck on something like p.e. a corner of the bar counter.
Thicker rubber is sturdier; when wearing it you feel the material presence much more and when you go beyond 1mm thickness on a made to measure piece the pressure it applies to your body can be an own kind of sensation during a bondage scene. Also I have made the experience that the thicker the rubber the more intense is the smell but that might be subjective.
But sturdiness can cause problems. The thicker the material to more draft is applied on the glue seams which are more likely to give in when moving a lot or with a lot of force.
Due to the material properties it can be hard to get into rubber because it will stick to your skin. To prevent this use talc powder or silicon oil on the inside. Both will create a non-stick layer on the rubber. Also silicon oil is used to give the rubber the nice shiny look many rubber fetishists find attractive.
When playing in rubber mind the material properties. Too much draft will cause rips or hurt the glue seams. You will soon get a feeling what you can or can’t do in your gear.
Taking care of your rubber gear
As written above, rubber is a material which needs a bit of care.
Rubber is best stored in a dark place on a clothes hanger made out of plastic to prevent exposition to UV light and keep it from getting wrinkles. If you have gotten wrinkles into your gear try a mild dryer program. Sometimes this will get them out. To prevent it from redoxing soak it in silicone oil about once a month. Because especially thin rubber tends to stick together apply talc powder inside and outside on your gear.
After each usage wash your rubber with warm water and some form of soap. But yet again, make sure that you don’t use something with oils or perfume in it. The most basic curd soap, non-sented detergents or hyper allergic washing gel are good. There is a special rubber washing solution called Hexi Blue available which was once made for hospitals and is now nearly only used for fetish purposes. It has a bit of silicone oil in it so it keeps you from soaking your gear in it. However Hexi Blue is quite expensive and hard to get.
What if I am a lazy boy?
There is a solution for dealing with the stickiness and partly with the aging and the washing. You can chlorinate the rubber so that the oxygen on the free ends is replaced with chlorine. This will cost you a bit of latex smell for the first months and will alter the feeling a bit since it doesn’t stick to your skin anymore but has the advantage that you can put your rubber on like a cotton shirt, it will not age as rapidly as unhandled gear and doesn’t need instant washing after sessions or stuff put on it for storage. Also you don’t have to soak it in silicone oil as often as normal rubber.