Friday, April 12, 1996

Getting Into Leather, Part 1

(Published in Lavender Lifestyles Magazine, Issue #23, April 12, 1996)

This issue starts a two-part series I’ve been intending to write for quite some time. Many of you have made requests along these lines: “You really make the leather community sound like a great group of people—how do I get involved?” If that’s what you’re wondering, read on. This issue we’ll discuss leather and related paraphernalia. Then, when we have you properly outfitted, next issue we’ll discuss places and ways to wear it.

There’s an amazing assortment of leather and leather-related merchandise out there competing for your purchase. Leather is made into vests of all kinds, shirts, jackets, coats, jeans, chaps, shorts, jocks, hats, harnesses, boots, armbands, wristbands, belts, and the list goes on. Then there’s denim and latexwear and uniforms and western-wear.

I’ve heard of people who discover leather and immediately spend an enormous amount on a complete leather wardrobe. Let me suggest that you do differently. Go slowly; savor each piece as you acquire it. Start simply with a good vest and a good pair of boots, for instance. Wear them with a black t-shirt and blue or black jeans (which you probably already have) and you’ll be perfectly comfortable at almost any leather function you want to attend. As you become more acquainted with the leather lifestyle you’ll be able to determine what other items you want to own; you’ll probably also decide that certain items are not for you. You may discover you really enjoy uniforms, for instance, or you may decide that you don’t really want to own a pair of chaps because they’re too much bother to put on and take off.

What’s a “good” vest? Think “biker” and you’ll be on the right track. It should be rugged as opposed to dressy—black leather, not brown or any other color, and not suede. The back of the vest should be leather rather than fabric. For footwear, again think rugged as opposed to dressy, and again think black. Military-style boots, construction boots, cowboys boots, motorcycle boots, even hiking boots can work. Wingtips, even black ones, won’t quite cut it. Whatever you do, don’t wear white tennis shoes—nothing works faster to brand you as a “tourist,” or someone who doesn’t know the scene.

Where do you find all this wonderful stuff? The possibilities are endless. Local leather shops are a good place to start (that’s another way of saying “Support our advertisers”). Other than that, just be on the lookout for wonderful things and you’ll find they throw themselves at you and say “BUY ME!” At least that’s been my experience. I’ve made amazing finds everywhere from the streets of New York City to designer boutiques to the Minnesota State Fair! One other possibility: If you’re attending the International Mr. Leather Contest in Chicago you’ll want to check out the Leather Mart.

Another shopping tip: Especially when you’re new to this, it helps to go shopping with someone who’s more experienced in the scene. If you have a leather mentor, invite them along. (If not, you have a perfect excuse to find one.)

Where does one shop for items such as these?

The first piece of leather I bought was a black leather vest, and that’s a good place for most people to start. I’m up to three vests now, each one for a different purpose. Let’s see what else I’ve got in my leather closet: biker jacket; trench coat; pea coat; German cycle jacket that converts to a vest; body suit that I wore onstage in the ‘94 International Mr. Drummer competition; biker hat; leather jeans; gloves; half-harness; armbands; wristbands; the hand-in-bondage watch you always see me wearing . . .

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