Leather to me represents confidence and fierce toughness. Donning black leather is an assertion of power and strength in society. People often conflate leather with sadism and masochism, but that’s not it; S/M can be a part of leather but are not leather itself. Leather is a ‘Community’ first.
I remember during my teenage days I would see Daddys and Jocks on social media wearing leather, which looked really appealing to me. Seeing them would do something to my body (maybe I was responding to a kink or a fantasy!). I felt aroused and excited at the same time. With time, when I explored my sexuality, I realised that I related with the leather community on some level. Then, at my first Delhi Queer Pride, 2017, I saw a man wearing leather boots, jacket, pants and gloves, a jaw-dropping visual experience that was an awakening of my love towards the leather community.
Leather involves a culture of sexual practices that use leather garments like boots, trousers or chaps, belts, shirts, jackets, overcoats, captain hats, all in premium, black leather. The sex tends towards BDSM, ranging from rough horseplay to sadomasochism. Looking back at the history, leather has been an integral part of the Queer community because during WW2 gay men were banned from joining the army and were shamed for being effeminate. So, they indulged in motorcycle clubs wearing leather to display hyper masculinity and ruggedness.
Leather is also a part of the pageantry world. Late Joseph Macchia, a then-50-year-old, cancer survivor, won the title of “Mr. Eagle 2018”. The title of ‘Mr Eagle’ is given to the leatherman who wins the competition involving rope bondage, flogging, quiz on leather history and so on. It also involves posing, flexing and cat-walking in gleaming fetish gear ranging from formalwear to jockstraps to harnesses. Besides that, ‘Samois’ was the first lesbian BDSM group that was run by Pat Califia who introduced leather subculture amongst lesbians.
Lastly, many cities organise Leather Prides like San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair, Berlin’s Easter in Berlin (Europe’s biggest gay fetish event), and New York City’s Folsom Street East.
I asked people around me for their thoughts on leather – the material and the community around it:
“For me I’ve had poor body image and confidence to an extent where I wouldn’t even look at myself. But leather accessories makes me feel empowered, I feel this badass vibe that no one can treat me like an othered person. Even most of my clients are struggling with the same issues. I hate that people just sexualise it without any knowledge. It means so many things for so many people.” @the_rabbit__hole (Entrepreneur running Leather clothing online)
“I think leather is sexy, it gives me bold confidence. It also makes me feel hot.” @georgerenish16 (a friend who wore leather at Delhi Queer Pride)
“Leather is hot. I have purchased certain leather accessories. I’m into kinky stuff so leather makes it fun. Haha” @wallichiana (art faculty and an artist)
“Winter is the best time for me to wear leather. Ofc leather is something which brings out a whole new personality. It’s always a slay in leather.” @gypsymilady (Online clothing)