A friend of mine brought to my attention that an observation was shared on an on-line boot board about what guys were wearing at the recent Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. The observation was, “They say that the Folsom Street Fair is the largest leather event in the world, but I’m sorry to report that only a small percentage of the crowd wore leather, and even a smaller number wore boots. It was shorts, jock straps, jeans, or nothing at all, along with thousands of sneakers, sneakers and more sneakers.”
My friend asked me what I thought about this. I have some ideas about how the demographics have changed in today’s culture among 20- and 30- year olds, compared with the culture and norms of the days when I was their age (1980s through mid 90s).
This is what I said to my friend in reply to his email:
Frankly, I am not surprised. However, I think today’s generation of emerging young adults have these issues (thinking aloud/ my comments aren’t confirmed or settled):
a) The current generation in their 20s & 30s are more comfortable as they are, and are not as interested in wearing a “uniform” of sorts — including leather, or even boots. Back in my day, wearing leather was considered a costume that one wore to be more macho and some of us found it sexually stimulating. Today, young people get their sexual stimulation by other methods (including more and more through synthetic chemicals and drugs that weren’t around back in the ’90s and before.)
b) Most of these young people are of the generation that they wore sneakers since they were infants and they don’t know much about other types of footwear. Even in Oklahoma where some of my relatives live, I see pictures of their children and teens wearing sneakers. Never boots and seldom leather shoes (except perhaps for dress-up occasions such as a wedding or funeral.) So these kids who become the young adults of today do not have experience with leather footwear and do not have an interest in it. They only know sneakers so that is what they wear. To them, sneakers provide the comfort and are casual, easy to get through airport security, easy to pack, and are just such a part of everyday life (for them) that they don’t think about anything else to wear on their feet.
c) Folsom itself has changed from a primarily gay leather-oriented event to a Metrosexual, multigenerational, open street fest. I read somewhere recently that the demographics of the attendees at Folsom changed from 80% men in their 30s & 40s (in the early 90s) to something like 50% male/female, and 50% gay/straight, and a range of ages. Not that there weren’t older people in attendance in the early ’90s when I went, but there definitely were not any children younger than about 20 back then. Nowadays, this event has morphed a lot (at least from what I can tell from photos on the ‘net.) Thus, with the change in the activity’s primary demographics, it is no wonder that more attendees wear sneakers, since yuppies, millennials, and the Y-generation — particularly the straight ones — only wear sneakers (see point b.)
d) Economics. Back in the ’90s and before, one could buy new leather and boots at fairly reasonable prices. One could have a job with an entry-level salary and still afford boots and perhaps a leather jacket, chaps, or vest. Today, the rate of increase in the cost of leather garments and boots has increased more rapidly than the rate of salaries paid to the same age group. Also, we have to face it (though you and I are different), but the priority for disposable income for today’s 20/30s young adults is for the cost of their digital world. They think nothing of paying $100 per month or more for the data plan for their smartphones. At that rate of monthly bleeding their income, they have little left to afford to buy new boots or leather garments which are four to six times more expensive today than they were in the early ’90s.
In particular, I think the role of shifting priorities for where to spend money is about the most significant. That is among several reasons why I do not have a smartphone, and do not plan to get one. The monthly cost to maintain that addiction is expensive.
I am curious if anyone else has ideas why more young adults these days wear sneakers and will not wear boots to an event like Folsom, regardless of their sexual orientation. Please include your thoughts in a comment.
Life is short: keep the budget priority on boots and dump the stupidphone. (Sorry, I know that won’t happen, but that is how I feel.)