Friday, April 26, 1996

Getting Into Leather, Part 2

(Published in Lavender Lifestyles Magazine, Issue #24, April 26, 1996)

This two-part series just expanded into three parts. This issue’s focus will be on leather events—and we’ve got two mammoth ones coming up. So whether you’re a newcomer or an old hand, read on and get ready! (Next issue we’ll focus on other ways for newcomers to meet people in leather.)

“How do I join the leather scene? How do I meet other guys in leather?” I hear questions like these constantly—and always from other men, never from women. (Do they know something we guys don’t?) Anyway, to everyone who has written, phoned, or asked me in person: thank you for your interest. I hope you find the material in these columns helpful.

There was a time when people joined the leather community through a relatively formal system of apprenticeship, mentoring, and sponsoring. But the leather community has lost so many people to AIDS that the mentoring system was almost completely destroyed. There are still people out there who are willing to act as masters, daddies, mentors, trainers, etc. But for now, it’s up to you to find them.

It’s been said that getting into leather often represents a second “coming out.” I always thought the phrase “coming out” was shorthand for “coming out of the closet.” The closet was the place where we hid all the gay (or leather-related) feelings that society told us we should be ashamed of. When we came out of the closet, that meant we stopped being ashamed of being gay (or being attracted to leather).

I’ve recently been reading “Gay New York,” a fascinating gay history book by George Chauncey. It turns out the “closet” is a concept that came into being between 1930 and 1950; the term “coming out” predates it by quite a few years. In the 1920’s, and even before, there was no “closet” to come out of, and “coming out” had much more pleasant connotations; it meant being formally presented to gay society in much the same way as a debutante was formally presented to upper-crust society at a “coming out” ball.

My advice for those who want to get into the leather scene: make leather events and fundraisers your “coming out” events. They’re fun, they’re entertaining, they’re educational, and they’re perfect places to meet people. This weekend and the next will see two spectacular, not-to-be-missed leather events (details in the gray box). So put on that new item that you just bought and are dying to wear, lace your boots up high, and come out!


Mr. Minnesota Leather IML Fundraiser

Sunday, April 28, 4-9 pm, Gay 90’s Dance Annex
Michael deLeon, Mr. Minnesota Leather 1996 and dancer with Ballet of the Dolls, is putting together a fundraiser unlike any other. The Dance Annex will be hosting many out-of-town dignitaries including two of my favorite leatherpeople, Bob Fifield of The Leather Journal (who will present a fantasy) and Kay Hallanger (International Ms. Leather 1991). Savage Aural Hotbed, the amazing band that makes music with circular saws and plate steel (among other things) will accompany a dance performance by deLeon and Stephanie Fellner. Other attractions: a dance performance by Les Femmes Cabaret; a drag show featuring reigning ISCIC empress Tiffany Cartier and friends; a Celebrity Bar Staff Auction; Rent-a-Slave; body piercing, leather/toys mart, boot black, food, tap beer and door prizes. Sounds like after this party we’ll need the whole week to recuperate before . . .

“Labyrinth of Leather”
Sunday, May 5, 5-9 pm, Gay 90’s Dance Annex
Hosted by Ms. Minnesota Leather Darlette Knox and Leatherman of Minnesota Thomas Casey and featuring Mr. Minnesota Leather Michael deLeon and other leather titleholders. Also featured: leather/levi/western clubs; S/M and bondage demonstrations; education and information areas; piercing by Body Arts. There will be displays by artists who “capture the essence of leather in portraits and craftsmanship.” A “Leather Swap or Shop Meet” will let you swap or trade your leather items with other attendees or make purchases from local leather vendors. Food and beer, lots of entertainment, great door prizes and two bonus events: a special auction of handcuffs and hand and leg irons from around the world (get your bid number early—merchandise now on display at The Sidewalk Shop), and at 8 pm the host titleholders and the Minnesota Leather Den present the 4th annual, biggest, barest, “Bare As You Dare” contest! (Please note: contestants must meet all requirements of state and local laws).

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 . . .