Why gay men wear Leather today?
Inside of the “kink community” the WHY behind the WHAT, regarding why gay men wear leather , is not something of which is felt the need of clarity; not that much. And this is a big problem. But here today I want to talk to the other fellows; the ones outside the community, wondering why on earth should I dress this way, and why. Most of the people outside the community find Leather hot and sexy, even when they are talking bad about it to their peers (because of course god forbid that someone around them think that “they might like it”).
I think, thought, that an explanation is needed both for the people gravitating towards the community and also for those ones already inside of it. As I stated before, there is no sense in doing the WHAT if there is no WHY. I can tell you why Old Guard Leathermen wear leather, and I am pretty sure you can ask anybody in New Guard “why do you wear leather?” and they won’t have a clue why. Most of them, they’ll admit to you they’re actually uncomfortable.
After World War II
The Leather BDSM community found its fortune and development in the US and central Europe right after War World II. BDSM and the roots of Leather Culture are deeper than that, but let’s say that in CONTEMPORARY CULTURE the explosion (and the beginning of social acceptance) of BDSM happened in that time. After World War II, life slowly started again to breathe and spread, and there was much more space for opening new clubs, bringing up new ideas and ideals, and meeting different cultures. Motorcycles were very common and profusely used back in the day, and especially US military officials still staying in Europe* were seen going around the towns and the harbors in their uniforms and boots. The culture of the motorcycle is a big part of what defined the Leather Culture. Plus, many motorcycle clubs opened and many of them were gay motorcycle clubs. From “The Satyr” in Los Angeles to the “New York Motorbike Club”, the “Warlocks” and the “California Motor Club” in San Francisco; loving to ride a motorcycle, the sense of extreme freedom it gives, paired with the extreme freedom of the end of the war and being able to work a sense of community around each ones sexuality, was a great thing. So you can imagine how quickly it started to spread, wearing leathers, among gay people of a certain community. Wearing leather became a political statement. It meant identifying yourself as part of bigger community, a community led by freedom, an independent and original (your own) sexuality, the need to create a sense of FAMILY and PACK and live accordingly to a chosen and embraced set of rules. You can deepen the reading about Old Guard Leather in this article. This thrown leather into pop culture, from where Marlon Brando and James Dean where seen by millions of people riding motorcycles, wearing Muir caps and dressing in tight leather and boots. And here you have it: the globalization of a “look”, which means a lot, but nowadays almost nobody realizes what it means.
*The US military was a strong presence, but the cultural stereotype from where today’s leather worship come from is also about German (yes, Nazis too) military, UK military, Holland military…
So yes, it tears my heart into pieces when I got to party and I see guys who are not leather folk wearing a harness, a leather jock strap, or chaps and sneakers and a Muir cap. Literally today each and every homosexual person around have seen a harness onto somebody and / or owns one. Leather shops are not helping in this sense, selling of course all kinds of new “gear” with pipings and random colors* that have no reason to exist or meaning whatsoever. Though they “look pretty”. It is an insult to the strong and brave heart of the community that led us here, and it has to be understood that the globalization and the turning into “fashion” of everything, has consequences. I used to find it difficult and embarassing when non leather folk people dressed in leather approached me and on my polite refusal of intercourse they said “we are part of the same tribe, what’s wrong with me”. No, we are not the same people. And I’m saying this not because I think I’m better than people around me. I’m saying this because where is lack of WHY, I’m not interested in the WHAT, as I know for a fact that we are not looking for the same kind of experience.
*About colors: did you know why leathermen (but not only them) wear colored items such as hankies or wristbands? And did you know that they have a precise meaning, and also wearing them on the left or on the right has a meaning? Long story short: left top, right bottom. And here is a list of which color indicates which “activity” or, if you wish, interest.
The importance of Hankie Coding, Keychain coding and more
After World War II, you couldn’t just go around town and sport out that you were gay; even less you could be public about your BDSM interests. At the time, you would have been jailed in the best case scenario, or sent to a mental hospital and forgotten there in the worst one. The standard gay society, on top of all that, was seeing Leathermen as a dangerous, counterproductive negative element, as they were trying to fit in more and more in the eteronormative schemes to be accepted by society.
Leathermen didn’t have an easy life out of their Leather Clubs and had to find ways to protect themselves. They have created specific codes to recognize each other and communicate efficiently their identity to the right people in their surroundings. At the time it was perfectly plausible and normal to have a hankie with you, especially from the most rural areas but not only that; So every color of the hankies had a meaning for a specific activity or tendency, and wether it was sported on the right or left it meant which side of the equation one would occupy; also, there were different meaning on how much tucked in or out the hankie was.
The same goes for Motorcycle keys and the keychain. Right or left had the same meaning as above, while keys on the back, on the side or on the front meant wether the person was actually cruising, if they had a place to stay or if they were looking for a place to stay; Wether the key was tucked in or out of the pocket also meant if they were looking at the moment or not. A more detailed and precise description of these traditions will be written in a dedicated article on this website.
Why do you wear Leather?
There is surely a tiny bit of fetish in it, it is a political statement but most of all, it’s about tradition and meaning. It is wearing a uniform. It is honoring the roots of the big family I live in. When you’re wearing your leather you should feel pride, feel power, feel commitment and feel like you’re not alone. Without the structure of a real Leather community, I believe 90% of people wearing leather simply feel judged and more lonely. Instead they should feel like part of something bigger; In my case, I know I’m part of it because this is my nature, and there’s nothing better than finding your people.
I guess that many people have other reasons to have a kink about leather. From the boots and law enforcement apparel and all it can mean to many of us, the idea of Domination it conveys, and of course Uniforms for Old Guard people.
I understand the passion for leather gloves, which again brings up to other symbolisms and ancient meanings. In other words, wearing leather recalls to people the world of bikers and the world of the Army. Both very sexual topics to us men. These topics do convey, because of pop culture, the idea of forced Domination and other erotic landscapes our society is drenched in.
To me? As being an Old Guard Leatherman, to me it’s about Tradition, Honor and belonging. To me it is an honor to wear my leather.
Please … more of this food for thought
Would love to read more about it or you. Very interesting thoughts of a man knowing what he thinks of and why he thinks so going back to look for its roots. Great esteem towards your writing!
My Name is Rob and I am a Dutch guy living in Berlin, Germany.
I was really touched by your Story, because I had the same experience when I was a child. I was one year older than you were, when I was in a shop with my mother and I saw a pair of Brown leathergloves for children. The Moment I saw them, I needed them. I had no idea why (at the Age of five one doesn’t have a clue about the existance of fetish) but I needed them badly.
So I stole them, having a real Situation with ma mum when she found them 🙂
I started loving my father’s gloves and I put them under a drawer to take them out when I was in bed. I was about 7 years then.
When I was eight, I did my first communion (no idea if this is correct English) and I got my first suit. Afterwards I loved to wear my White Shirt, tie and my gloves playing Gangster and hostage with my buddies. Binding them at a tree “Smoking” a chewing gum cigarette and Holding a toy gun.
At nine I had my first erection during a “Scene” and when I was 13 I entered a sex shop and saw drawings of Tom of Finland for the very first time. And then I knew what I Need.
When I put on my leather, I become my true self. I relax and feel happy and proud. It is not about being fashionable or handsome. It is about Feeling the leather, Hearing it when Walking and playing with buddies and being proud to be a true leatherman.
It just males me feel so good to be part of this community by nature.
Unfortunately the Scene in Berlin is getting smaller and smaller. Oh I know, during Folsom Europe and Easter there are loads of guys in Berlin wearing leather. But during the rest of the year most guys run around in Sneakers and jockstraps.
And even during those Events there are Little true leathermen. Many guys buy their fancy leatherthey day they arrive and they are “vogueing” in the Lab (Berlin Club), at the PIG Party etc. They are dressed up like a leatherman, but they are not.
I love to call them “Alexis Carringtons in Leather”. There is one Thing that betrays them… It’s their eyes. When they lean against a wall, one leg angled with a bottle of Becks on their thigh, one could think “Fuck he’s a real leatherman!”.
But when you look into the guy’s eyes, you’ll notice that he is not himself. Confident, comfortable, strong. Such men just Dress up to attract real leathermen. But ist’s a fake.
When I take someone home many men immediately start undressing. I never undress and alway sleaze fully geared. There’s no exception. Sex without wearing leather is no sex for me. I Need gear (I also fancy the great U.S. cop uniforms) Those men who do the same are very, very rare nowadays.
And when I force them to put the gear on again, they do but one notices that tey are not comfortable. Although I am a demanding TOP it still doesn’t work when the heart is not involved. I like to force and I love to dominate, but such Scenes only work when both want it. Otherwise it becomes shallow.
I hate it when I fuck a guys throat and he wont kneel but just hunkers down. I tell them to kneel and than they often say “But than my leather will get scratches and get dirty”. I walk away because I am turned off.
Leather is not about being “pretty”. It is protection gear. Like the author already wrote., were the first gay bare biker Clubs. As far as I know did gay men write contact adverts with some codewords, because being gay was still a crime in those days.
Biker Clubs where another possibility for men to meet and the only material for biker gear was leather, because synthetric fibres hadn’t been invented or weren’t used yet. So leather was rough enough to protect when having an accident with the bike. And if there’s a scratch or some liquids *grin* drip on the, oh so precious, designer leather, what the hell. Take a Cloth and whipoe it off.
And the signs of being used makes leather more beautiful. use greas to Keep it in condition and the scratches are history.
I have no idea why it has become some fashionista Thing to wear leather.
My first BLUF Party in Berlin was a big disappointment. When I arrived I saw a crowd of men all in black leather and I thought “I’m in heaven”. Well not really…
It was like a cocktail party with fingerfood. There was no sexual tention at all, because the gents were talking about brands, styles and prices. “Who tailored your uniform? Ah really? He’s so good. I love his style. What did you pay?”. Like the profile of a BLUF member who writes in his dislike list “Cheap Leather”…
What the hell is that about? I rather have a masculine guy in $100 leather than a dressed up, disguised one in a $6000 uniform. Leather is not about being fancy, posh, pretty. It is about pride, masculinity and being part of a community of proud men with values.
I love men who are naturally comfortable and proud to be a leatherman and all that comes with it. I am longing back to the times when the leather community was authentic.
Thanks a lot for reading this long epos.
Hello Rob. Couldn’t agree more with what You said. Each line, expexially about leather events and BLUF, which sorry people, for many reasons sometimes I feel like “Bullshit Lines Up Fashionable”. Though I am a young Master and I respect the elder leather men and don’t want to be misunderstood. I will write a longer post about this later. For now, really hope to grab a beer together at Folsom if you’ll be there. We’re bringing the youngest of our slaves, he’s never been there. Big hugs
Buonasera a Lei Rob. La Sua storia mi ha molto colpito, ed è una conferma che da tempo cercavo: si nasce Top/Master e Leatherman, e di questo sono molto contento perchè da tempo porto avanti questa ipotesi ritagliando un posto d’ èlite nella gerarchia per uomini come Lei ( Sir Lupus anche vi rientrerebbe stando ad un articolo che ho di recente commentato). Nulla da togliere a coloro che si sono “polarizzati” (da slave/bottom a Master /Top, cosa che io non reputo naturale, ma è un mio pensiero, non me ne vogliano i “polarizzati” per questo), ma i ” purosangue” hanno una marcia in più! Ma venendo al suo racconto…sono sconcertato, da quanto ha scritto riguardo le Sue esperienze, e pensavo che la situazione fosse meno grave di quel che immaginassi, ho dovuto ricredermi; mi sale molta rabbia a leggere che uno slave non si inginocchi perchè ” la sua pelle si graffia o sporca” tralasciando che…uno slave non dovrebbe vestire come un Master, e che, la divisa, la pelle, il cuoio sono solo del Master, uno slave dovrebbe vestire solo jeans e t-shirt bianca ( o altro colore), massimo avere al polso un bracciale a fascia in pelle nero, dono del suo Padrone e nulla più. Mi ha riportato alla mente, inoltre un episodio del Natale 2019 dove ero a Firenze con un’ amica, ed ero vestito sportivo/elegante, molto sobrio, come sempre…e avevo un giubbino di pelle marrone scuro (ne possiedo due e mi piacciono molto, li indosso però raramente perchè ci tengo); c’ erano nei paraggi appostati una coppia e un loro amico credo, più il loro cane, vestiti alla “fashion leatherman”. Di virile non avevano letteralmente nulla. Ho provato un disagio che non saprei definire, e loro se ne sono accorti nonostante mantenessi una certa forma di indifferenza ( oltre che distanza), pensi che…anche il loro cane era agghingherato, “come si fa a non vergognarsi di essere quello che non si è?” Questo echeggiava nella mia mente…Spero che Lei, Rob, incontri uno slave che sappia gratificarla, e spero incontri il Suo slave, la parte complementare, come auguro a me di trovare il Master per cui sono stato creato e spero sia un “purosangue” come lo è Lei e Sir Lupus! E’ dura ma dobbiamo ritrovarci, dobbiamo trovare la nostra gente. Saluti.
Great thninikg! That really breaks the mold!