I’ve considered myself a member of the leather community for many years and I have been a proud member of a leather club for over 20 years. I have hundreds of friends who also consider leather a big part of who that are. Some even argue that it is a lifestyle. But would you wear leather to your high school reunion? Would you wear leather to a friend’s wedding? What if you were going to a big event with thousands of people in attendance and millions more watching on television? Would you dare to hit the red carpet in leather? Olympic skater Adam Rippon did just that recently at the 90th annual Academy Awards. The 28-year-old openly gay athlete arrived in a BDSM-inspired black tuxedo designed by Jeremy Scott of Moschino complete with a leather harness across his crisp white shirt, a leather bow tie, and a tux jacket with leather trim that featured cutouts at the shoulders to accent the harness. Many in the LGBT community applauded this bold fashion choice. Others thought he went too far. Adam told Cosmopolitan.com, “I can’t tone it down. I’m being me and being myself.”

Twitter went crazy with comments. Even model Tyra Banks tweeted: “Hoe, but make it fashion!” Other comments included: “He’s a moron. People should keep their bedroom activities in the bedroom” or “Is that a wardrobe malfunction or did he get dressed in the dark?” or my favorite: “Where’s Joan Rivers when you need her?”

I thought he looked great, but he also made me think. If we are proud members of the leather community just how proud are we if we remain invisible in public. I was reminded of an evening many years ago when I first moved to Baltimore. A person I was dating invited me to the opera. I dressed to fit in and put on my business suit and best shirt and tie. As I was sitting there in the opera house waiting for the performance, my friend Barry came down the aisle. He was in full leather. I can’t remember which opera I saw that evening, but I remember what I saw in the audience. A leather man who was not afraid to be who he was.

Years later I was with Sir Steve at the Bike Stop in Philadelphia when I was greeted by name by a very handsome man dressed like he just stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue. As he walked away Sir Steve asked, “Who was that?” I replied that he knew who it was. It was a current major leather titleholder. He was dressed for an evening of dancing with his boyfriend at another bar nearby. He had just stopped in the Bike Stop for a second.

When do we wear our leather? Once a dear friend set me up on a blind date. My hookup was taking me to DC for dinner and drinks. When I arrived at his house in Laurel he answered the door in a leather shirt, tight jeans, leather armbands, and boots. My first thought was: “This match could really work!” We had dinner at Annie’s and went to the DC Eagle. It was a very enjoyable evening. When we got back to his place he started to get a little more comfortable. As he took off his leather armbands he remarked, “I hope you are not into any of this shit because I’m certainly not.” He had dressed for the DC Eagle. It was just like me dressing for the opera. And that is my definition of leather drag. It saw him one other time, but that was it. Problem was: I am into that – big time.

Now don’t get me wrong. Just wearing a leather harness does not make one part of the leather community. Once at the leather mart during International Mr. Leather in Chicago I was watching a young man trying on a leather harness in front of a full-length mirror. As he admired his reflection he remarked to his friends, “I really like the way I look in this- but I don’t know. It’s $125, and I would only get to wear it once a year!”

I don’t wear my leather once a year and I don’t only wear it to leather events. I never travel without my leather club vest. I almost always have boots on. I always look at the “leather people” who are at pride events in khaki shorts, sneakers and t-shirts because it is too hot. I once even saw a current leather titleholder at Baltimore Pride dressed that way. When I asked him about it he said that he was incognito. The leather community cannot afford to be incognito. Wear you leather as often as you can. Go to that yuppie LGBT bar in your leather. You may raise a few eyebrows, but you may also peak some interest. Be visible – if you can harness the nerve.

Author Profile

Rodney Burger
Rodney Burger
Rodney is originally from Hagerstown, Maryland and for many years has lived in Baltimore. In April 2017, Rodney was sworn in for his 10th year as the President of the ShipMates Club of Baltimore. He has been involved in the leather community for many years, but often denies that he sold Jell-O shots at The Last Supper. He has been writing THE LEATHER LINE for the BALTIMORE OUTLOUD newspaper (Baltimoreoutloud.com.) for over fourteen years. He has produced the Mr. & Ms. Baltimore Eagle Contest and the Maryland LeatherSIR/Leatherboy Contest. In 2001 he was proud to serve as Maryland Mr. Drummer 2001. Rodney also does stand-up comedy and in 2013 was thrilled to perform at Philadelphia Leather Pride Night. He has been nominated multiple times for a Pantheon of Leather Award, was selected Leather Man of the Year in 2013 by COMMAND M.C. and by the Baltimore Leather Association of the Deaf in 2006. The 11th annual 12 Days of Christmas benefit show was dedicated to Rodney and his partner Sir Steve. He has been twice selected as ShipMate of the Year. He has judged Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2015, Atlantic States LeatherSIR / Leatherboy and recently judged Mr. Eagle NYC 2018. He is delighted to be able to bring news of his beloved leather community to his readers every issue.