Once upon a time there was a skinny misfit kid with a bad crew cut from outside a declining industrial city, no real friends, and a black leather jacket his grandparents got him for Christmas one year. He was always getting in to fights, was too stupid to know when to back down, and in general was a pretty miserable mean little fucker. Yes it sounds like some cliché teen movie, but in this case no future movie star or heartwarming tale came from the setting. Instead what it produced was me, whether or not I’m damaged is still open to debate on every level. The one hard luck element I was missing was I had a great home life.
When I saw that Jade had picked “Leather” as the Kink of the Week topic my cynical old heart didn’t go to sex, kink, or anything of the sort. Oh sure it would have been easy enough to not be honest about what I thought of and instead talk about cuffs, paddles, floggers, and leather belts. After all it’s supposed to be about kink right? No one would have thought any less of me. Those toys I know a thing or two about and perhaps even own. Instead though the first thing I thought of was my misguided youth and how leather, in particular black leather played a big part of who I am, who my friends were & are. In short my very identity beyond my kinks.
It started with that jacket when I hit double digits, Yep the 4th grade was a big year for me. My first leather jacket, I bought the Dirty Deeds album by AC DC at the mall, and met my friend Bobby who was in true Hollywood movie story line fashion one of two new kids at school. I liked Bobby and we’re still friends to this day, both of us only slightly more acceptable outcasts than we were then. The difference is we don’t give a fuck. In truth I’m not sure he ever did.
Soon enough the bands I liked were all dressed in leather. Not the late 80’s assault of stupid colors like purple, green, yellow, and orange but good old basic black with the occasional bit of red. So while all the cool kids were riding around on Yamaha dirt bikes in brightly colored motor cross wear and listening to Duran Duran or the latest pop sensation I was riding an early 70’s Harley / AMC abomination on trails and the road (Illegally – no license, etc); when it was running and listening to Priest, Sabbath, Ozzy, Maiden, Motor Head, and eventually some American metal.
Looking back it was predictable that similar tastes in music and clothes would create friendships. Now it might be considered a sub culture, then it was just a group of other odd ducks who didn’t care you were different.
Thus began my long romance with leather.
As a child of the 80’s I thought nothing of excess. Seriously who didn’t drink hard, sleep around, and have friends who were always a mile high? Oh that wasn’t normal? Well then moving right along. Honestly I can’t recall dating a girl whether a Gear Head, a Rocker, Dancer, or even a Cheerleader who didn’t wear leather skirts and pants. Big hair, loud, fast, and leather clad from early on it’s how I liked my music and my girlfriends. I was no stranger to the textile long before kink, as a grade school kid I wore the hell out of that leather biker jacket that eventually gave way to a full length leather trench coat, leather waist coats, and more modern motor cycle jackets. Bobby’s older cousin Missy a hard core punk type who spent far too many late nights in the clubs around town lived in black leather and safety pins, her style and blatant sexuality had an effect on me. And I’ve written about Tracy enough already.
In context of BDSM a girlfriend gave me my first pair of leather pants. By then I had moved beyond BJ’s and Sex in the back seat of a car. Yes in the lexicon and context of “traditional” leather culture it didn’t make me leather and I had no right to wear them. Of course I didn’t know shit about leather culture, there was no internet back then and all my heroes; musicians, outlaws, and mobsters wore black leather.
And while the future soccer moms of my generation were buying their mini-skirts, and pants in Wilson’s and Hornes (a long gone department store) at the mall my later girlfriends were buying leather teddies because they were hot never thinking there was anything more to it than it made them feel sexy. What the fuck was fetish wear? I had no clue I just knew what I liked. Of course I was shopping in Biker, Krishna, or Army Navy Stores buying whatever I could find that was different, black and adorned with metal. A trip to NYC was like going to Mecca because of the selection of styles and cuts but my best finds ever were in the Canadian City of Hamilton. It was like leather heaven at the time.
The fact remains that even though I have a closet full of suits it’s still black leather that I use to define myself, though these days most often it’s in the form of dress shoes. When all my preppie business friends were tooling around in brown leather bomber jackets back in the 90’s I was wearing a leather trench or tattered black leather waist coat. Before military style boots once again became all the rage for the young and fashionable I was still stomping around in them because their style and black polished skin meant something more to me even if no one else got it.
Looking at who I stayed in touch with over the decades; it’s not the team mates, summer camp roomies, or even kids from the neighborhood. Nope, it’s the misfits, long haired, freak shows. It’s my old leather crowd, the guys and girls I got kicked out of places with for being nothing more than different. The one McDonald’s refused to serve becuase of our looks even though we had shirts and shoes on. The ones with the crazy dyed hair before you saw it on kids in suburbia and the ones who piercings when that was thought of as something only bikers, gays, and psycho paths did.
Oh and for the record most of us turned out ok, some (or most) of us even lead fairly normal respectable lives. Still when I run into them occasionally or my phone rings even after years of being apart because of what we shared once upon a time usually there’s an instant connection. A sense of community, then again even in the context of kink isn’t that what being leather is really all about, a group to belong to, having a special sense of community?