Friday, March 12, 1999

Circuit Boys and Girls in Rented Leathers

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #99, March 12, 1999)

Is leather a fashion statement or a way of life? Warning: This is a trick question.

Leather is not one OR the other. Wearing leather or other fetish wear is always a fashion statement, and a pretty strong one. The real question is whether, for a given individual, it’s only a fashion statement, or if it goes further and reflects a way of life. But even for the most hard-core and dedicated member of the leather community, the act of dressing in leather and other fetish wear makes a fashion statement.

What is the primary goal of fashion? At minimum, it’s to look attractive. But those models strutting down the runway in Milan or Paris aren’t stopping at attractive—they’re going for sexy, seductive, alluring. Fashion is about sex appeal, and it’s also about the power over others which comes with being sexually appealing. But, of course, nobody ever talks about it in such blatant terms—that wouldn’t be polite. No, we spend huge sums of money on clothing because “we just want to look nice.”

Leather and other fetish wear is about sex appeal and power, too, but it’s not hidden behind a veil of politeness. When I wear leather or other fetish wear I am sending a very distinct message about myself and my sexuality—what I have to offer and what I’m looking for. This is epitomized by the unashamed convenience of the hanky code, an invention that has yet to catch on in “polite” society.

For some people, wearing leather goes further. It becomes a reflection of a way of life, a set of values, a world view, a type of spirituality. Other people use it as a fashion statement and nothing more. I’ve been at many large leather gatherings where at some point I’ve heard some of the former people trashing the latter. The old-guard, heavy-duty SM player will smugly and disrespectfully refer to the “circuit boys in their rented leathers.” To be truthful, at one time some of you may have heard ME refer to someone that way.

“Circuit boys in rented leathers” is the cliché, but it undoubtedly happens in women’s, het, and pansexual situations as well. Sometimes it’s obvious that a person doesn’t know how to wear the apparel properly; I once saw someone wearing their harness backwards, which many people in the bar that evening found amusing. Other times there are more subtle clues that a person isn’t used to wearing leather—things just don’t look right. Another giveaway: Everything they’re wearing looks brand new and straight off the rack. To paraphrase the Saloon ads: “Your leather will betray you.” And when it does, reactions from “real” leatherfolk may range from mild amusement to an indignant tirade.

Lately I’ve tried to be less judgmental. Hey, everyone has to start someplace. The first piece of leather I ever wore was a borrowed harness, and I was totally unprepared for the feeling I got when I put it on. I felt transformed. At the risk of being politically incorrect, it was like Cinderella must have felt as her rags were changed into a ball gown. Wearing that harness to the leather bar that evening (Rod’s in Madison, Wisconsin) I got cruised like I had never been cruised before. It was heady stuff. (Yes, I was wearing the harness correctly, smart aleck—see below.) Shortly thereafter I bought my very own first piece of leather. Now I’ve got a whole closetful.

Some of the people being ridiculed for their “rented leathers” are having experiences just like that. Some of them are in the process of their leather coming-out and will become tomorrow’s leather community stalwarts.

And some of them aren’t interested in discovering a deeper part of themselves—they’re wearing leather because they know they look hot in it and they want to get laid. They may not fully realize the statement they’re making by wearing leather, or they may not care. But just because they may appear clueless today doesn’t mean they’ll always be that way. If they aren’t ostracized, they might eventually come to a fuller understanding and appreciation of leather as a culture and a way of life.

Rather than criticizing or ridiculing, how about mentoring? When I wore that borrowed harness, I wore it correctly because its owner showed me how to put it on properly. When a harness is worn backwards it shows a need for education, not ridicule.

Big Plans for Fantasy Weekend

Big news about the Minnesota Fantasy 1999 Contest: it’s expanding to include the first-ever Ms. Minnesota Fantasy title. More big news: This year’s International Mr. Fantasy contest, usually held in Omaha, Nebraska, will instead be held right here in the Twin Cities the weekend of August 20-22. The Fantasy contest distinguishes itself from other contests by being fun, erotic, and non-political.

Both Mr. and Ms. Minnesota Fantasy 1999 will be chosen during what is shaping up to be a huge weekend:

Friday, March 26: The Fantasy Party Bus Bar Cruise leaves The Minneapolis Eagle at 7 pm, and stops at five destinations. The Fantasy Dance Party starts at The Minneapolis Eagle at 10 pm (the Party Bus returns at 11 pm) with music by Savage Aural Hotbed and a chance to meet the contestants and judges. Space on the bus tour is limited, but the Fantasy Dance Party at The Minneapolis Eagle has room for everybody—the bar is being expanded for the weekend with a heated Big Top tent in the parking lot!

Saturday, March 27: The Big Top opens for the pre-show cocktail party at 8 pm, and the Contest and Show action gets underway at 9 pm. You won’t want to miss this one—the staging will be spectacular and fast-paced. In addition to contestant fantasies, entertainment will include Savage Aural Hotbed and Ballet of the Dolls, both of whom have given knockout performances at past leather events. The contest will be followed by the Fantasy Victory Party until closing.

Sunday, March 28: The weekend closes with two big parties: the Fantasy Tea Dance at The Minneapolis Eagle Big Top 5-9 pm and the “End-Up” party at The Tank @ The Saloon 9 pm-1 am.

Weekend packages ($45) including all events and a souvenir T-shirt are available at The Minneapolis Eagle or by mail; single-event admissions are also available. Call Wolf Productions for more information or an order form. If you’re interested in competing for either the Mr. or Ms. Minnesota Fantasy title, contact Dale Willman.

Mark Your Calendar

For events in the next two weeks, see the Out & About Calendar. Here are some other events planned for the weeks ahead:

April 3: Black Guard Fantasy Fling ’99: Titleholders and other leather community members will pay a visit to The Main Club in Superior, Wisconsin, 9 pm-close.

April 11: Mr. and Ms. Minnesota Leather (Joshua Smith and Mario) present “Family Reunion,” a fundraiser for a variety of good causes. You’ll be hearing a lot more about this, so get it on your calendar now.

April 23-24: Minnesota Mr. Drummer and Drummerboy Contest weekend.

April 24: Atons Road Trip to the Cell Block in Chicago.

Memorial Day Weekend: International Mr. Leather Contest in Chicago. Make your travel plans now, the host hotels are already filling up. Visit for more information.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Saturday, March 13

Atons Leather/Levi Night
Patrick McGovern’s Pub, 225 W. 7th St., St. Paul. Cocktails at 7 pm, dinner at 7:30 pm
Presented by the Atons, but attendance is open to all. To make reservations call the Atons Hotline. Certain people, you may recall, consider the layout of downtown St. Paul’s streets confusing—so if you need further directions to Patrick McGovern’s Pub, call them.

Sunday, March 14

Atons General Meeting
The public is invited. Call Atons President Sam Carlisle for details.

Sunday, March 21

Leather Tea Dance
Saloon, 6-10 pm
Featuring 60’s/70’s/Disco music and a live appearance by porn star Jackson Phillips (who also will be appearing Saturday night, March 20.)

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