Leather subculture

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Old Guard New Guard
Leather can have various references:
  • Leather subculture is about BDSM, or that part of it that associates closer to S&M and fetish or to Homosexual BDSM.
  • Leather fetishism describes an attraction to people wearing leather, or to items made from leather.
  • Old Guard leather (also Old Guard but not to be confused with fascist movements of that same name) is the gay leather subculture from which much of BDSM originally derived.
  • New Guard leather (also New Guard or just New Guard) is a more sexually-liberated and less protocol-driven version of the Leather subculture.
  • Leather Family describes a family or family-sized-group living in an alternate lifestyle often based on the leather subculture or on BDSM.
  • Leather Community is used to loosely associate people living in the leather subculture or even into the wider BDSM. Roughly equivalent to "BDSM Lifestyle"
  • Started in the USA and now including leatherfolk as far away as Canada, there is the National Leather Association: International
  • There is a Leather Pride Flag.
  • Leather queen is a homosexual man who is into the leather subculture,
  • Leather (noun) is a common material for making various equipment including blindfolds, handcuffs, whips and clothing.

Source material

  • This article is based on an article titled "Leather" at Wipipedia

The leather subculture denotes practices and styles of dress organized around sexual activities and hedonistic eroticism ("kink"). Wearing leather garments is one way that participants in this culture self-consciously distinguish themselves from mainstream sexual cultures. Leather culture is most visible in gay communities and most often associated with gay men ("leathermen"), but it is also reflected in various ways in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and straight worlds. Many people associate leather culture with BDSM (Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sado/Masochism, also called "SM" or "S&M") practices and its many subcultures. But for others, wearing black leather clothing is an erotic fashion that expresses heightened masculinity or the appropriation of sexual power; love of motorcycles and independence; and/or engagement in sexual kink or leather fetishism

Both the style of dress and the kinds of BDSM activities characteristic of a community may differ between gay, lesbian, and straight communities, and between Old Guard and newer generations of players. While most people who engage in the leather culture style of dress are also affiliated with BDSM practice, not all BDSM practitioners wear leather culture apparel.



Homosexual/gay male BDSM leather culture grew out of post-World War II biker culture. Leather culture is also inspired by the chains and leather or denim and leather look espoused by heavy metal bands. The first practitioner of this look in a heavy metal context was Rob Halford, the lead singer of the influential NWOBHM band Judas Priest, who wore a leather suit on stage as early as 1978. Halford, a gay man, picked up the image from leather-culture bars on tour. The rest of the band quickly joined in, and so did subsequent metal bands.

The early gay male leather subculture is epitomized by the Leatherman's Handbook by Larry Townsend, published in 1972, which essentially defined the Old Guard leather culture. This code emphasized strict formality and fixed roles (i.e. no switching). Very few lesbian women or heterosexuals were visible during the early emergence of gay male leather subculture. Patrick Califia (formally Pat Califia) was inspired by the gay male leather culture and is credited for defining the emergence of lesbian leather culture. In 1978, Califia co-founded one of the first lesbian S/M support groups, Samois, and is best known for prolific contributions to the body of lesbian BDSM erotica and sex-guides.

Old Guard Leather Culture

Old Guard leather was a term coined in the late 1970s to differentiate the mores of the majority gay leather scene from the more relaxed New Leather style which was emerging.

Gay male BDSM leather culture had grown out of post-WWII biker culture. The early gay male leather subculture is epitomized by the Leatherman's Handbook by Larry Townsend, published in 1972, which essentially defined the Old Guard leather culture. This code emphasized strict formality and fixed roles (i.e. no switching). Very few lesbian women or heterosexuals were visible during the early emergence of gay male leather subculture.

Some BDSM people with no connection to or knowledge of Old Guard leather now claim to be members of it, or even "Old Guard trained." These assertions are often similar to the myth of Ancient European Houses, involving claims of highly secret BDSM organisations of great age which a prospective submissive may be admitted to.

New Guard Leather Culture

New Guard leather culture appeared in the 1990s, as a reaction to the restrictions of Old Guard style. New Guard, or new leather, embraced switching and often combined spirituality with their play. An increasing number of pansexual clubs evolved as well.

The leather community has been considered a subset of BDSM culture rather than a direct descendent of gay culture as a whole, despite the fact that in years past much of the organized SM community was in fact homosexual. Today, while some may still use the term strictly in the old fashioned sense (confusing it with old guard, the "leather community" or "leather culture" includes all BDSM practitioners, gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, or pansexual whether high or low protocol).

Leather Family

A small community of people into BDSM or D/s or Leather whose bonds often mimic that of a birth family. A Leather Family often has a "Head of Family", and some sort of hierarchy between members. A D/s Household provides an alternative model.

Leather Community

A broadbased, catch all term for people into BDSM

Mainly identified as "Leather" by gay and lesbian BDSM practitioners.

Museums and exhibitions

The 10,000 square foot, two-storey Leather Archives and Museum, based in Chicago, has much information and details on the beginning of the BDSM community.

In addition to activities in Chicago, the LA&M serves the leather world by preserving material from all leather communities, sending “traveling” exhibits around the country, and providing email and telephone research assistance.

In 2005, a traveling exhibit was for the first time in Europe for an extended time, traveling the continent organized by Matthias "Leatherbound", European coordinator for the Leather Archives and Museum.

In 2005, Viola Johnson started traveling with her collection and telling stories from her 35 years of personal involvement in the leather subculture.

See also

External Links


There is small controversy among the BDSM community about the popularity of wearing leather. There are those who believe the wearing of leather and other popular BDSM apparel has come to represent something of a uniform for those practicing BDSM, discouraging personal creativity and variety in dress. Others note how expensive both leather clothing and leather BDSM equipment is. In the year 2005, a new pair of leather pants costs up to $400. The cost of participating in leather culture prevents many low-income people from participating in the ways that might be expected of BDSM practitioners, due to the popularity of leather apparel and equipment. Finally, there are those who are concerned for animal rights. Many animal rights activists within the BDSM community point to vinyl and latex as alternatives for the leather look.

Additionally, "Leather BDSM" connotes

See also

External links

Leatherpen.jpg  This article talks about issues within the Leather Community
Also see the article on Leather subculture


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