"HARNESS" column for Beefyboyz.com - August 2003
My First Night in a Leather Bar - Part 2
Last month I described my first night in a leatherbar, and how I was on the point of leaving when a stranger gave me some advice on body language. However, not understanding the visual signals being used was only part of my anxiety. Despite having a tremendous desire to be part of this group of people, deep down I believed that I had no right to be there.
Most adults will admit there are times when they feel that they don't fit in with a group of people because of their appearance. Perhaps we see ourselves as too old, or too short, too fat, too tall, too ugly, not muscular enough or not tanned enough to feel at home. When you walk into a leatherbar as a newcomer another selection of messages also pops into your head, starting with the words "I'm not a leatherman because ..."
I don't own enough leather gear .... I'm not into bondage or SM .... I don't ride a motorbike ... I don't like kinky sex .... My friends would disapprove ... I don't have any facial hair .... I'm not into role play .... I don't smoke cigars ... I don't like pain ... I don't own any Tom of Finland drawings ....
I'm sure you can add your own reasons, the list is endless.
Looking round the lobby of the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago the weekend I won my IML title, I could have felt like that. Every third person seemed to be dripping with muscles, tattoos or fur. And I have been made to feel out of place in a bear bar - I remember being told bluntly: "you shouldn't be here" on an early visit to a well-known bear haunt in London. Why? Because I wasn't as big or chunky as the guy who so rudely said it. Fortunately, a dozen bears promptly came over to me and rubbished his remarks - after all, even though I didn't look like a bear, bears are the type of person I go for and I've felt welcome in bear bars ever since.
The good news is that, just like the bear scene, the leather community is big and broad enough to accept you. If you want to join, I'm sure there's a corner where you'll feel comfortable. Here's a list of some of the categories of people that I've noticed in leather bars to help you see where you might fit in. And if you don't see a category below that describes you, feel free to make up your own:
- People who like leather for the sake of it - The touch, smell and sound of leather turns them on. They are the group most likely to own leather upholstered furniture.
- Bikers - For these guys leather gear is an accessory, not the main fetish. Not all of them identify as "leathermen" but they are still very welcome in leatherbars. Some venues will even give free entry to genuine bikers who have the crash helmet to prove it.
- Hanky Code Guys - people who have an element of "colour" in their outfit, whether that's a red jockstrap, yellow stripes down their leather jeans or a grey hanky hanging out of their back pocket. There are hundreds of colours in the hanky code, but the main ones to be aware of are black (SM), grey (bondage), red (fisting), yellow (watersports) and navy blue (fucking).
- Circuit Boys and bodybuilders - warming up for the next "black" party. For them S&M means "Stand & Model". They will of course be standing in a well-lit part of the bar with a bare chest and wearing a half-harness.
- Men in full leather - No matter how hot the bar is, they'll still be standing in knee high boots, leather breeches, shirt, jacket and cap. Most likely to be members of the Breeches and Leather Uniform Fanclub.
- Lovers of bondage & SM - Not everyone in a leatherbar is into kinky sex, but if you are then the leather community will make you feel at home.
- Guys who like dressing up - For them it doesn't matter if they wear a military uniform one week and rubber the next, fetish clubs give them the chance to experiment with their wardrobe.
- "Straight acting" types - Masculine guys who like jeans and plaid shirts, DIY and being outdoors. They prefer the macho atmosphere of a leather club to a dance bar. In their internet profile they're most likely to be seen posing by a stable door or 4x4.
- Dominants and submissives -also known as Masters and slaves, Top and bottoms, Daddies and boys, Owners and dogs .... if you want to get into this group you'd better know the rules. For example, if a submissive guy is wearing a collar around his neck he is probably "owned". And always ask the Dominant's permission if you'd like to play with his sub.
- Finally, and most importantly for this website - LEATHERBEARS! Big men with hairy chests offset perfectly by a leather vest. But how do you know if the hairy man you're cruising is more of a leatherman or bear? There's an easy way to find out - give him a bar stool. If he uses the stool as a rest for his drink, cigar, booted foot or to lean his boy over - he's more of a leatherman. But if he SITS on the stool he's more bear!!
I've met men in every category who think they are more genuine or valid as leathermen than the other groups. But in my mind, the only true leathermen are those who treat other people with honour and respect. We ALL have something to add to this community.
Have fun, and look after yourselves and the people you play with.
International Mr Leather 2003