My first night in a leather bar was almost a disaster. I knew that I was attracted to the leather scene but when I got there I was scared and bewildered by the clothes and body language of the leathermen in the bar. I ordered a drink but don't think I finished it before nerves got the better of me and I tried to leave. Fortunately someone grabbed me and asked what was wrong. I explained that I didn't know what I was doing there, didn't know how to dress or act and felt extremely foolish. He marched me back into the bar, adjusted my posture, gave me a few bits of advice and then stepped back to see what would happen. (And that's another article ...)
What follows is the advice I was given that night, along with a few other observations I've picked up along the way. It's not meant to be "the definitive guide of how you should act in a leather bar". In fact, if you feel comfortable on the leather scene and have no problem making friends then move right along - this month's column isn't for you. But if you're new to the leather scene or feel invisible in bars, you may like to try some of the following suggestions:
2) Make sure your posture is open and you are facing the correct direction. If you fold your arms and hide against a wall it's no wonder people are avoiding you. Turn to face the centre of the room and put your thumbs in your belt loops. If you're holding a bottle, rest it on your thigh. If you're holding a pint, keep it at waist level. The higher you hold your pint glass, the more nervous you appear.
3) Slow down your movements. Make them measured. Confident guys walk slowly and act like they have no need to hurry. If you race round no-one will have time to approach you.
4) Dress as much like the person you want to attract as possible. 4 out of 5 people who spend time cultivating an image do so to attract other people who have the same image. If you want to maximise your chances of befriending a skinhead - shave your head. If you want to meet bears, grow a beard. If you want to be taken seriously by leathermen, wear some leather.
5) If you spot your dream guy, watch him for a while and see who he looks at. If he seems to notice people who look like you - go for it. Don't wait for him to approach someone else. However, if he only looks at people who look nothing like you it's best to move on, otherwise you'll waste your evening.
6) Invest in some unscented soap, shampoo or shower gel and use it before you go out to a leatherbar to wash off any aftershave, cologne or deodorant. Leathermen are usually put off by artificial smells and hair gel.
7) If you are wearing shorts, dog collar, or anything predominantly on your right hand side (keys, hankies, wrist cuffs, arm bands etc.) you are giving off the signal that you are submissive, and are unlikely to attract the attention of guys dressed the same way. Likewise, if you are wearing full leather, muir cap, or anything on your left hand side (arm band, keys, chains, paddle, flogger, handcuffs etc.) you are giving off the signal that you are a Top. If you want to appear neutral or versatile, wear the same on both sides.
8) If you want to be noticed by a leather Top who's dressed in muir cap, lots of leather and is "dressed to the left", make sure you have a submissive posture. Stand with your hands behind your back and bow your head. Don't talk to him until he talks to you, and then call him "Sir" in your reply. It doesn't matter how fantastic your body is, if he's made that much of an effort to look like a Top he wants you to show him some respect.
9) Read books by leather authors so you understand what the leather scene is all about. The Leatherman's Handbook by Larry Townsend is a great introduction. And Painfully Obvious by Robert Davolt is a good antidote to anyone who takes The Leatherman's Handbook too seriously!
10) Finally, try talking to someone. Why should everyone else always have to approach you? Offer to buy someone a drink. Even if nothing comes of it, if you can chat to three people who will say "hello" to you the next time you meet, you'll soon stop being the new kid in town.
I hope that helps. Next month: My first night in a leather bar - part 2.
International Mr Leather 2003