Crazy fashion trend: Men who dress up as rubber dolls [video]

With her long blonde locks, curvaceous figure and elfin features, 40-something Sherry is a woman few men would turn down. But there’s a catch. Sherry isn’t really a woman at all. Instead, she’s a retired property developer from California named Robert.

Robert is one of a growing number of men for whom time off means time spent dressed in an elaborate body suit, complete with breasts and a vagina, designed to make them look like the glamorous women they are not. Unlike transgender people, ‘maskers’, or ‘rubber dollers’ as they’re also known, do not feel born in the wrong body. For them, dressing up as a member of the opposite sex is a simply a way to have fun.

‘They’re not freaky people, they’re not weird, they’re just like you and me,’ explains Barbie Ramos, the owner of Femskin, a company that makes the $850 (approximately £518) custom-made silicone outfits worn by maskers.

‘They’re just like what they call “vanilla people” - that’s you and me - except for at night or on special occasions, they like to put on a mask. Why not?’

One masker who has no interest in being a nasty hag is Robert, who following a painful divorce, has spent the last 12 years dressing up as Sherry.

But while many of the maskers who appear in new Channel 4 documentary, Secrets of the Living Dolls, say it’s all about having fun; for 70-year-old Robert, matters don’t appear quite so simple.

'That's why I do this,’ he breathes as he pouts at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, ‘because I think I look amazing.
‘I just can't believe that's a 70-year-old man in the mirror and that's why I do this,’ he continues. ‘If I saw a 70-year-old man in the mirror I would quit this tomorrow. ‘

Asked what he sees when he looks at his dolled up reflection, he replies: 'An exciting looking female,’ adding: ‘If I saw a woman like this and she asked me to go hang out, I'd say yeah. ‘
For him, the appeal of Sherry seems to lie partly in the fact that for him, dating real women has been something of a disappointment.
‘You see, after all, I'm 70-years-old and I've tried dating, and when I'm dating, the women I meet are generally 55 to well up into their 60s,’ he explains.
‘Some of them are in really good shape for their age but they don't look anything like this and it's very difficult to date when you have this to come home to.’

But not every masker has a troubled love life. For Joel, a British bartender who lives with his girlfriend, Mel, dressing up is all about escapism.

But Joel’s masking career hasn’t always gone smoothly. While girlfriend Mel is happy to accept his alter-ego Jessie, he spent 15 years hiding her from his parents – and from his neighbours.
‘I wouldn't walk 20 steps down the road dressed as a doll because I know general society in the area we live in would be very, very against it,’ he explains. ‘Who knows what could happen?’
One masker who is far less reticent about his hobby is Jon, a Minneapolis father-of-six who works as a forklift driver in a warehouse.

According to Jon, not only does masking make him feel good, it also helps him to bond with his daughters.

‘I try to find ways to fit in and be involved with the daughters, and that sometimes means make-up and fingernails and things like that as well,’ he explains.

‘You don't have to have your guard up and necessarily be afraid of other people if you want to dress in a way that makes you feel really good. 

‘One guy in particular that I trust at work - he knows that I put on the boobies!’

But not everyone is quite so understanding. Jon’s wife Sunny is his second, met and wed after his first marriage broke up because of his penchant for rubber dolling.

‘This does affect my relationships because I make my priorities and sometimes other people are not happy about my choices,’ he admits.
So is it all worth it? Jon’s friend ‘Vanessa’, a 56-year-old who is also father of six, thinks it is.

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