don't make the man. In fact, if I had my druthers, we
wouldn't wear clothes! I prefer people butt naked, their
skin and muscles exposed to my cruising eyes.
I'm not going to get my way anytime soon. The best I can
hope for is string bikinis at the beach or jockstraps
at the local bar's full moon night. Of course, get'em
back to my bedroom and the clothes will come right off.
But as I said, clothes are here to stay and we'd best
make the best of them.
of the objections I hear repeatedly by those who profess
to want to know more about leather but can't figure out
where to start is that they can't or won't go into a leather
bar because they don't know what to wear. I think that
that objection hides deeper, unstated fears. Let me, though,
answer it on its face value.
get past the bouncer at most leather bars, one has only
to be wearing clothes as simple as levis and a flannel
shirt. Boots help, of course, but if you don't have any,
don't worry about it. If it's too hot for flannel, try
a solid dark or plain white tee shirt. Stay away from
cologne as well, and you'll fit in with no problem.
truth of the matter is that bars are in the business of
selling alcohol and they want your money. Dress codes
aren't as strict as you fear. Even where dress is more
stringently monitored, most places have a front bar where
almost any kind of clothing is acceptable. In those places,
the heavy leather look is needed only to get into the
those circumstances, simply removing one's shirt often
suffices to satisfy the "leather look" and gain
one admission to where the real action is. If you're still
undecided about what to wear, do a little bit of research.
Stop at the bar you're thinking about, early on a weekday
night. At those times you'll find it relatively empty
and the dress code will be very much relaxed, if not entirely
there ask the bartender to explain the dress code to you.
Tell him what you'd wear and see if it "passes muster".
You see, it never hurts to ask. Even if getting to the
bar mid-week is impossible, you can call on the phone
and ask the same questions. It's not as hard as you think.
"dress codes" though leave us a wide range of
options. In fact, dress codes vary a great deal from bar
to bar as well. One bar might be more relaxed, simply
looking for its patrons to have a leather or levi look,
devoid of sweaters, alligators, and cologne. Another might
require a "significant" piece of leather apparel,
i.e., vest, pants, harness, or a uniform. Nothing says
you can't borrow some leather either.
usual bar attire is less defining: bare chested, levis,
boots. Sometimes I wear a vest, sometimes not. But that
is a signal as well. My tastes are more versatile, less
closely defined. That is obvious by what I wear, or by
what I'm not wearing.
don't carry a hanky in either pocket, since I'd have to
stuff them full of every color in the book (well, almost
every color). I like to keep my options wide open and
get into the other guy's fantasy. In actual practice,
hankies are not worn as often as they once were, except
by those into fetishes such as fisting or water sports.
a recent Novice Night Brett, a handsome man in his mid
thirties spoke up. He's six foot two or so, beefy but
not fat, clean shaven. He came dressed in a cowboy hat,
leather jacket, levis and boots. A hot looking top for
problem," he said, "is that everyone thinks
I'm a top, when in fact I really prefer the bottom role.
gives is that Brett didn't understand the signal value
of the clothes he was wearing. Clothes communicate to
the world where we are and what we want to be. Everyone
in the room agreed with me. They each had taken one look
at Brett and figured out he was a top. They were telling
the book by the cover.
discussed what was going on and unfortunately Brett didn't
quite get the idea. Seems he liked the clothes he was
wearing and he liked the feelings he felt when he wore
them. Eventually though we convinced him to exchange hat
and jacket with the guy standing next to him. He traded
the hat for a leather baseball cap, the jacket for one
in levi, somewhat torn and shabby.
visual transformation was instantaneous. Sure he was still
tall and handsome, but now he looked ready to serve, once
again demonstrating the signal value of what we wear.
leather community is diverse. When this subculture meets,
either in bars, at parties, or at club meetings, the visual
signals of the sub-culture are obvious. Understanding
and using the "language" is one of the ways
to fulfill your own desire and to tune to the desires
we run into a unique contradiction: leather is filled
with men and women who are individualistic, iconoclastic,
and self-determined. Relative to general society, they
are independent renegades, non-conformists par excellence.
But when assembled for their "leather rites"
their common attire speaks volumes about their common
unity, their need for acceptance and belonging, and their
prevalent desire for things "masculine."
about dress and "dress codes" are not monolithic
throughout the leather community. Personal preferences
still emerge, though it is always within the context of
suppose I'll get myself into a lot of trouble for saying
it, but leather isn't fashion, it's attitude. I trust
it's not the put down, put off attitude of exclusivism
and separatism, but rather the mind set that says it's
acceptable to be who you are and to be so proudly.
more to leather than just a self-accepting attitude. There
is a subculture of trust with its own signs and symbols,
clothing, fetishes, and activities.
I have to return to the reality of "dressing for
success." We've got to be able to communicate our
attitude and our fantasy to others. As leather folk we
do that within the context of "leather" itself.
And so we have to know and practice the style appropriate
to the roles we wish to experience and the men we wish
here, then, there's a balance: we conform to be understood.
We stand out to be ourselves. In any case, we end up back
at finding ways to signal with our clothes what our fantasies
are for that night.
of the secrets to success is knowing what you want and
dressing accordingly, that is, dress for yourself and
the partner you searching for.
your leathers, your levis, your hankies, your "whatevers",
but wear them proudly, not with attitude but with recognition
you of your own true value. The result will be success,
even if in the end you're undressed!
1999 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied
in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay,
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