International Mr. Leather 2019 Fashion

posted by Madame Bubby

I passed by a booth at the leather market, and I noticed witches' hats. Yes, the kind with the peak. I heard a woman cackling. No, I am not making the above up, and I am not recounting a surrealistic dream.

And this booth was also selling a particularly hot item at the mart, a leather crown (for Baby Boomers like me, it resembles the head gear of the character Jughead in the Archie comics).

jughead leather crown

To be honest, I've noticed changes in the types of items sold at the market over the years, but this one was certainly, let's just say, interesting. The leather market is no longer solely a gay male space, or for that matter, a “traditional” gay cis leatherman space, with guys wearing the iconic Village People gay macho gear.

Village People

Through the years, as a diversity of genders have competed in various contests, the overall inventory of the mart and those who attend it has changed to reflect a more fluid, self-defining identification with and practice of kink.

Thus, the witches' hats could reflect, however superficially, a Wiccan influence, and many gay leathermen have rejected traditional monotheistic religions in favor of other forms of spirituality, often veering toward transmutations of beliefs and rituals prominent globally before Christian domination and colonization. In fact, the polyamorous life of many leatherfolk meshes well with a fluid polytheism.

Other kink/fantasy trends that have integrated themselves into International Mr. Leather include costume play. Think Renaissance fair, think Lord of the Rings, think Game of Thrones. Opera masks, capes, pirate boots with the cuff.

Renaissance men's clothing

I also noticed a couple of furries, though the fox had to take off the head (the mart tends to become hot and claustrophobic).

Leathermen and furries at IML

And, surprisingly, because I had thought it was not trending, steampunk fashion. I noticed a couple of guys with this gear attached to their hats.

One of the events this year was a discussion of the superhero fetish; this event makes sense, as the culture is replete with multiple constructions, reconstructions, and deconstructions in this genre. The line to get into Avengers: Endgame merges with the line to get into the mart.

Men in superhero fetish attire at IML

Even the conventional leather gear is taking on the colors of the rainbow. No longer black and red leather shirts: I noticed bright yellow and a green that somewhat resembles a lawn turf.

Uniforms composed of cloth are now composed of leather. I noticed a boy scout uniform produced completely in leather, and a couple of leather football shirts. Leather for those who can afford it or who want to combine looks and textures, while the cloth will fulfill the fetish/fantasy on its own terms.

Overall, dizzying! A traditional Old Guard type might lament the diffusiveness and lack of authenticity he sees in these fashions, while a millennial might rejoice that she can find something that fits her sensibility and budget. Leather gear has always been expensive. In fact, I noticed substantive price increases all around), and I am not trying to perpetuate the broke millennial stereotype, but the traditional leather scene has tended to attract older, established guys who possess the time and money to be kinky.

But who can really determine not just how to appear non-normative, but be non-normative? The leather kink world thrives on the tensions between hierarchy/freedom, appearance/reality, norm/taboo.

Perhaps the kaleidoscope of colors and textures shows this tension as the scene embraces generations who assume sexuality develops on a spectrum, and for whom reality shifts at a dizzying pace between a cyberspace primarily visual and private: pics, gifs and memes, and the physical, public space of the mart invaded by all the senses: the smell of leather and sweat, the sound of boots, the touch of meaty hands and moist tongues.

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What's in a Street Name? Plenty!


I've lately decried what I consider to be an increasing lack of free choice in one's daily life (unless one is rich). In fact, there's one particular part of one's life, an important one, over which you have no control: your address. I doubt most people would move to a place because they like the name of the street. If one moves there, one is stuck with the address, like it or hate it. 

Butt Hole Road sign

However, in 2009, the residents who lived on Butt Hole Road in Leicester, England, did have the name of the street changed. Apparently they were also sick of the constant mooning pics going on in front of the street sign. In contrast, the people who live on Butthole Lane (also in Leicester, England) like the name and defiantly refuse to change it. By the way, in both cases the word “butt” is either Anglo-Saxon or Middle English, and means a target, not an ass. Oh, well … 

In the United States, the most common street names are mostly numbers (boring!) and innocuous ones named after trees like Maple and Oak. Main and Church are up their in popularity, harking back to the small town culture of America, still predominant up to the middle of the century. 

In fact, according to the link above, “road names are pieces of history. They encode the culture and geography of America. In Arizona, popular street names are Apache, Palo Verde, Mesquite. In New Mexico, Cedar and Pinon top the list; In Colorado, it’s Aspen and Spruce.” For example, in Chicago, I've noticed Native American names like Winnemac and Milwaukee as well as the ubiquitous Lincoln because Chicago is in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln. 

Milwaukee Avenue sign in Chicago

So true, but I've often wondered about how one might feel about certain street names in this time of widespread cultural transformation. Words change meaning as contexts change. For example, might an atheist feel upset that he or she lived on Church Street? Or a woman living on King Street? Perhaps now certain gay guys might feel piqued that they live on Queen Street. In this case, perhaps, one could be too “pc.” 

I also found out that some newer housing subdivisions have been able to choose new street names. Perhaps in this case one could buy or rent a place because one like the name. For example, in Sterling Heights a subdivisions boasts street names from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I myself would love to live on Rivendell Lane. For me, it evokes an image of a pastoral paradise more than the common and boring tree and park-related names one often sees in suburban housing developments. 

Rivendell illustration

In the second paragraph, I mentioned that the word butt in those street names did not refer to the ass. Yet the sexual names abound (perhaps not intentionally). I've discovered a Manlove Street and a Cumming Street that intersects with Seamen Street. And Morningwood (again, not intentional!).Broomrape Lane is the address of four families. Really, people, try very hard to get that one changed. Most people don't know it refers to a flower. 

Broomrape Lane sign

So, what is the name of the street where you live? My street is the name of a famous opera where a gypsy seduces a soldier. I don't know if that was the inspiration for the name. It's located between two streets with Native American names, and there's some Scottish ones in the area too. Just be sure to often walk down mine, especially is you are cute and single. 

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