Leather Fetish

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Leather fetish indicates a desires or practices involving all leather based styles of dress that are to do with some form of sexual activity.

The wearing of leather garments is only one way that participants in this culture self-consciously distinguish themselves from other sexual cultures.

Leather can be highly prominent in the gay community and can be associated with gay men, also known as "leathermen", but it is also reflected in many ways in the worlds of Lesbian, Bisexual, and Heterosexuality.

Many people associate leather with BDSM (Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sado/Masochism, also called "SM" or "S & M") practices and its many subcultures, but for many, wearing black leather clothing is an erotic fashion that expresses heightened masculinity or the appropriation of sexual power, as well as a love of motorcycles and independence; and/or engagement in sexual kink or leather fetishism.

Leather is also associated with many musical subcultures, for example, the Heavy Metal, Gothic and Industrial scenes.

Early Clubs

Gay male leather culture has existed since the late 1940s, probably growing out of post-WWII biker culture. Early gay leather bars were subcultural versions of the motorcycle gangs with pioneering gay motorcycle clubs including the Satyrs, established in Los Angeles in 1954, with Leather Clubs for gay men starting in Amsterdam and Berlin during the 1950s.

These gay clubs, like the clubs of straight motorcycle culture in general, reflected a disaffection with the mainstream culture of post-World War II America, a disaffection whose notoriety — and therefore appeal — expanded after the sensationalized news coverage of the Hollister "riot" of 1947.

Muir Cap

Another thing that helped to bring this scene to more mainstream attention was the 1953 film The Wild One starring Marlon Brando wearing jeans, a T-shirt, a leather jacket, and Muir cap, playing on pop-cultural fascination with the Hollister "riot" and promoted an image of masculine independence that resonated with some gay men who were dissatisfied with a culture that stereotyped gay men as effeminate. To that end, gay motorcycle culture also reflected some men's disaffection with the coexistent gay cultures more organized around high culture, popular culture (especially musical theater), and/or camp style. Perhaps as a result, the leather community that emerged from the motorcycle clubs also became the practical and symbolic location for gay men's open exploration of kink and S & M.

Traditions

Throughout history Leather fetishists are seen in a variety of traditions. These traditions varied widely between regions, causing much debate today over which traditions are the "original" or "true" traditions, or whether the "romanticised versions of leather history" ever existed at all.

mainstream movies, for example, Matrix, have also bought Leather Fetish to a more mainstream audience

As time has progressed and BDSM has become more mainstream, the traditions of leather have adapted.
In more recent times, the world of leather fetishism has many facets, but most are linked to semi-alternative sexuality.
Others do not necessarily associate their leather lifestyle with BDSM, and simply enjoy the sensory experience of leather, or just some music culture that can be linked.

a classic image would be, Leather Boots and other Leather footwear

Common Representations

The more specifically homoerotic aesthetics of men's leather culture drew on other sources as well, including military and police uniforms.
The pornographic imagery from Peter Berlin of Berlin, such as the 1973 film Nights in Black Leather, also reflected and promoted the leather subcultural aesthetic. In the 1970s Berlin had a huge leather scene with several leather clubs in the gayarea around Nollendorfplatz. In 1975 Europe's biggest gay fetish event started, Easter in Berlin Leather Festival.


Aspects of leather culture beyond the sartorial can also be seen in the 1970 murder mystery novel Cruising by Jay Green. The novel was the basis for the 1980 movie Cruising, which depicted aspects of the men's leather subculture for a wider audience.

Cruising Jay Green.jpeg

Rob Halford, the lead singer of heavy metal band Judas Priest, openly identifies as gay and wears black leather.


Distinct aspects of Heavy Metal fashion can be credited to various bands, but the band that takes the most credit for revolutionising the look would be Judas Priest, primarily with its singer, Rob Halford. Halford wore a leather costume on stage as early as 1978 to coincide with the promotion for the Killing Machine (Hell Bent for Leather in the USA) album. In a 1998 interview, Halford described the leather subculture as the inspiration for this look. Shortly after appropriating the leather look, Halford started appearing onstage on a roaring motor bike. Soon, the rest of the band followed. One of the most famous, in music, to represent the leather subculture and the "leatherman" image, would be Glenn Hughes of the Village People.

Leather and BDSM

In recent decades a leather fetish has been associated with the BDSM culture more than something that grew from the gay community. Although, some of the most publicly visual S & M communities have been a subculture of gay communities, as evidenced by International Mr. Leather in the US (established 1979) and SM Gays in the UK (established 1981). Meanwhile, other subcultures have likewise appropriated various leather fashions and practices. This kind of fashion is highly evident within fetish clubs, also a large amount of Bondage wear is made from Leather.

From a fetish club in Washington DC, called Bound, photo by Dj Rex

The Leatherman's Handbook by Larry Townsend, published in 1972, epitomizes the association of the leather with BDSM. Townsend described in detail a community of gay males who wore leather and casually engaged in sadomasochistic sex with one another. Recreational drugs and alcohol were frequently used. Pairings were often just for one night or a few days. Participants often took a dominant role in one encounter but a submissive role in another (a practice known as "switching"). Townsend describes very little in the way of social hierarchy or organization within this culture, though he does convey a definite sense of community.

The Leatherman's Handbook by Larry Townsend.jpeg

Those who wear Leather

Gay men may have been the most visible symbol of the early days of the leather community, but into a new century and there are numerous women who would identify as "leatherwomen", there is also the "International Ms. Leather" (IMsL) event as their reaction to International Mr. Leather (IML). A great example is Joan Jett, who has a leather pride sticker prominently displayed on her guitar.

Relatively few lesbian women or heterosexuals were visible during the early emergence of the leather subculture. Pat Califia, who was a lesbian activist in the San Francisco leather subculture, is credited for defining the emergence of lesbian leather subculture. In 1978, Califia co-founded one of the first lesbian S/M groups, Samois. Califia became a prolific contributor to lesbian and BDSM literary erotica and sex guides.

Although Samois may have been the first lesbian BDSM group, lesbian BDSM groups emerged in Los Angeles and New York in the early 1980s. Leather and Lace, a woman's BDSM support and social group, was founded in Los Angeles in 1980. The women of Leather and Lace learned the "old guard" traditions from the Men's groups. Leather and Lace had a code of conduct, a uniform that could only be worn once a member earned the right. Also in New York, there was LSM. Only members of the club were allowed to know that LSM stood for Lesbian Sex Mafia.

The people who enjoy a Leather Fetish, in recent times, include people who have a preference for aggressive or masculine sexual styles, these people would also love things like motorcycles.

Berlin is today the Gay Fetish Capital of the World, with a huge number of different fetish clubs open all days of the week. In this city you can find all preferences you are looking for, like leather and bondage hotels, clubs, shops, bars and fetish festivals.

Internal Links

Other Fetish Wear would include;-

  • Or go and see what you can find on our main Fetishes page