It’s interesting, I was preparing a blog post in my mind about two encounters last night when I read on Straight-Acting’s Blog (no longer on-line) that he was commenting on the same type of thing: wearing leather in public and what people may say or do. I have blogged about this before, but this bears repeating in a new context.
While he specifically mentioned me as being “a brave soul,” (thanks, man!), I really do not consider that wearing leather while going about my daily business is as much “brave” as it is in recognition of the fact that I really don’t care if other people say anything or have an opinion about the leather garments I choose to wear on my personal time. People are as much entitled to their opinions as I am entitled to wear leather in public. As long as my leather does not directly imply sex — such as wearing codpiece leather jeans, or a jock with chaps, for example — then wearing leather is considered something more like fashion that never goes out of style. And, as I have often said, leather garments are practical. They provide warmth, comfort, as well as style.
The encounters to which I referred last night was with two members of a club to which I belong. We met to plan out the season’s schedule for motorcycle rides that the club will offer to its members. One of the guys at my table asked me, “do you wear anything other than leather?” The tone of his voice implied some form of … I don’t know … perhaps one might say, “indignation.” Not wanting to respond defensively or get into an argument with this guy, I gave him a very bright and warm smile and said, “not if I don’t have to!” I was so positive about it, he stammered as if he did not know how to respond. I guess he wasn’t expecting that type of “peppy” reply. He then changed the subject.
During a break, another guy came up to me and said that he was “mad at me” because he is is a big and tall man, and has had trouble finding leather gear to wear for motorcycling that fits, provides flexibility, allows for ease-of-movement, is made of quality leather, and looks good. He made his comment lightheartedly, and not with anger. He said that he had found my website and reviewed the various leather gear and boots that I own. He was “mad at me” because my gear fits well and looks good. (Implying that if it looks good on a big guy like me, then he can find leather that will fit him well, too.)
He said all of this without sounding judgmental whatsoever, which is something that I listen for when talking about leather with straight bikers. I know I am fortunate that the straight bikers with whom I ride are easy-going and accepting of having an openly gay leather-clad and tall-booted guy in their midst. I know from slams on some public forums that few straight bikers are as open-minded.
My fellow club member said that he had tried to order a leather jacket from a company whose products are made in Thailand, but was disappointed with the product when he got it. He described to me what process he went through in deciding where to order leather gear over the internet and the challenges he has encountered.
I explained that well-fitting leather gear for motorcycling is related to two main issues:
1) Fit. One size does not fit all! Sizes on the internet of jackets and pants are widely variable. The sizes of leather garments does not correlate with the size of a pair of blue jeans or a shirt. These are estimates, but not something to be used to choose leather gear purchased over the ‘net. For us big and tall guys, the only way to go is to be measured properly and have gear crafted custom to fit. Having done that, as well as purchased gear estimated to be my size, I know first-hand that “going custom” is not that much more expensive. After all, you’re buying something that will last a lifetime, so the investment is worth it.
2) Quality. As in quality of the hide used to make the garment. If the leather is made in a country where the skins are subjected to harsh chemicals in the tanning process and have scratches, abrasions, or holes from insect bites (after all, leather comes from a once-living animal), then the gear made from it will look bad. And, regretfully, there is a correlation between leather garment manufacturers who choose to use low-quality hides and the quality of the resulting product during production. Cheap threads, single-stitching, thin hides that stretch: all of these factors go together.
Ultimately, I explained, “you get what you pay for.” If you buy cheap, expect poor quality. I don’t like to slam any earnest business person in another country, but it is rather obvious from seeing leather garments made in Thailand, India, and Pakistan that the stuff is inexpensive because inferior quality leather is used in the first place, along with less attention to quality production methods when the gear is cut and assembled.
I explain all of this in my Complete Guide to Leather Gear on my website.
While I do not consider myself courageous to wear my leather investment in public, I recognize that few choose to do that for various reasons. They have concerns about what others may say or do, or how they will respond if asked or challenged, such as Straight-Acting was queried by the London Tube Police.
I appreciate the freedoms that I enjoy in the United States, where self-expression is considered a birthright. There are many pressures to conform to society’s norms, whatever those norms may be. When you realize that these norms are conceived by a certain group of people — straight people who often have very narrow viewpoints — and then choose to ignore the norms because they are baseless conformations, it is very liberating. That truly is how I feel.
Why let others’ stereotypes and self-conceived perceptions cause you to act, dress, or behave in certain ways? If you are not hurting anyone, then as they say in New York, “fuggetaboutit”… be confident, stand tall, choose your leather wisely, and wear it where you like within the limits of respect for others and the environment where you are. For example, the only leather I wear to work are boots and occasionally a leather blazer, jacket, or vest. But I do not wear leather shirts or jeans to work. It’s not appropriate there. However, on my own time, out and about in my community at meetings and events, or even at the grocery store, there I am in leather… and (of course), boots!
Life is short: wear your boots and leather!