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Men in leathers
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The leather culture typically includes both a style of dress and practice. Gay male leather culture grew out of post-WWII biker culture.

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Some men returning from World War II with no desire to return to their hometowns received surplus motor cycles, leather jackets, and other military gear before setting out to re-establish their lives. For many gay men, the military had provided camaraderie and a closeness to other men that they sought to continue once they returned. The 1953 film The Wild One starring Marlon Brando wearing jeans and a T-shirt with a leather jacket and cap riding a motorcycle created an iconic image that was adopted by the first gay leather people. The masculinity associated with military uniforms, both Nazi and the Allied forces, also influenced the aesthetic. The first gay motorcycle clubs evolved from such groups of men that bonded together. The first gay leather bars were the club houses of these early biker clubs that opened later to the public.

Hombres en cueroThe early gay male leather subculture is epitomized by the Leatherman's Handbook by Larry Townsend, published in 1972, which essentially defined one specific order of the Old Guard leather culture. This code emphasized strict formality and fixed roles (i.e. no switching). There is another order of the Old Guard that emphasizes discipline, honor, brotherhood, and respect and promotes an even stricter lifestyle promoting education, knowledge, and privilege based on successive ranks or levels. Leather submissives start as novice trainees and systematically earn their leather while progressing through the levels of third class, second class, first class, and senior trainee. Once a submissive completes his training and earns the Senior title, he is ready to go into part time or full time service as a houseboy in an Old Guard Master's household. When gay leathermen cruised in the early 1970s, they began using the bandana code to indicate what kind of sex they were interested in having (some still use the code today).

A source of graphical illustrations of leathermen can be found in the books and work of Tom of Finland, and the erotic films of one of his models Peter Berlin, such as his 1973 classic Nights in Black Leather. Leather culture is also inspired by the chains and leather or denim and leather look espoused by heavy metal bands. (Although it is arguably more likely that these groups were more influenced by the gay and straight biker clubs themselves.) The first practitioner of this look in a heavy metal context was Rob Halford, the lead singer of the influential NWOBHM band Judas Priest, who wore a leather suit on stage as early as 1978. Halford, a gay man, picked up the image from leather-culture bars on tour. The rest of the band quickly joined in, and so did subsequent metal bands.


  In 1970 the murder mystery novel “Cruising” by Jay Green was published it was followed in 1980 by the movie ”Cruising”. This the fictional account of a series of gruesome killings in 1970's New York. A serial killer brutally slays and dismembers several gay men in New York's leather district. A young police officer named Steve Burns is sent undercover onto the streets as decoy for the murderer. Working almost completely isolated from his department, he has to learn and practice the complex rules and signals of the Leather sub culture. Cruising tells the story of his adventures and misadventures as he searches for the killer. The movie stars Al Pacino as the cop, Paul Sorvino, and Karen Allen,

Rumor has it that William Friedkin's original cut ran 140 minutes. There is an increasing demand for a home video release of this version, if it exists. Apparently, Friedkin delivered this cut to the studio and this cut was condemned by the MPAA for ultra-provocative content. In an effort to make the scenes of gay "leather bars" as real as possible, actual gay bars were used in the film that existed in New York City at that time. These locations are still in the meat packing district of New York. Movie extras in full black leather and chaps, including other provocative sexual attire were actual gay patrons of the bar recruited for the scenes a few days before filming began.

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New Guard leather culture appeared in the 1990s, as a reaction to the restrictions of Old Guard style. New Guard, or new leather, embraced switching and often combined spirituality with their play. An increasing number of clubs evolved as well. In north America, with the possible exception of Quebec, leather continues to be associated with men above the age of 40. In Europe younger men have combined the aesthetic and exploration of power with the skin head movement and social-fraternal organizations like BLUF. In this younger community the model is less biker, and more about sensuality and power, a more blurred line exists, where leather fetish can be combined with latex fetish, skin head or athletic gear.Today, while some may still use the term strictly in the old fashioned sense.

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