I received an email the other day after a young man found my Guide to Leather Gear on my website. He said:
Hi just wanted to say thanks for your plain speaking straight up advice on leather gear and the leatherman community. As a newbie who has admired from the side but wasn’t sure what was important and what not your advice was real helpful.
Thanks, man. Glad my experience and straightfoward approach was helpful to you.
As the summer heat dissipates and leather weather returns, I am revisiting my advice on “leather for the newly curious”. Read on.
First of all, leather garments should not be a costume worn once or twice a year to some gathering of the Great Gay Leather Clan. While wearing leather at such events is de rigueur, I have long felt that since good quality leather gear is expensive, a guy should get regular use out of it.
One would think, “well, BHD, you ride a Harley. You have a ‘perfect excuse’ to wear leather more often.” Okay, that is true. But I do not ride my motorcycle as much as you think (or as often as I would like.) I do not ride my motorcycle when I have to transport my spouse or senior pals somewhere. I also don’t ride in the dark, in the rain (deliberately), or when the air temperatures are lower than 40F (4C).
However, I have a significant investment in leather garments so I wear my gear. Regularly. Often. Confidently. Most everywhere.
Okay, perhaps I do not wear a leather blazer, shirt, tie, and pants as a suit to work in my office (however, I do wear my nicer-looking motorcycle boots there), but I do wear all of these garments in various combinations as I go about my regular routine in my off-time.
Rule #1 about leather: it is an investment. Wear it with pride.
So if you are among the “leather-curious,” here are my recommendations for three staples of leather for any man’s wardrobe.
1. Leather boots. Naturally. No one should be caught dead wearing anything but boots when he is wearing leather. Sneakers look silly — even black ones. Affordable good quality black leather boots are easy to find. I recommend and prefer Chippewa boots because they are made in the USA and have plenty of styles to choose from. I cannot recommend boots made by Double H, Xelement, Harley-Davidson, Dingo, or similar because they are cheaply made in China with poor quality construction and questionably sourced leather.
2. A nice leather jacket. While Langlitz leathers are about the best US-made leathers out there, most guys find the pricing in excess of US$1,100 for a jacket to be extreme. You can find a nicely-styled, well-fitting leather motorcycle jacket for less than half the cost of a Langlitz from such sources as Fox Creek Leather of Roanoke, Virginia.
There are many others, including some fetish leather companies that appear on links page. The point is to consider purchasing a quality leather jacket from a company that manufactures their garments — not imports them from Pakistan. If unsure where garments are made when visiting a vendor’s website, send them a message to ask, or call them. Honest brokers will tell you. Those who have something to hide or are ashamed of outsourcing their gear will not.
Throw a leather jacket over a plain t-shirt, and your Mr. Cool. Yeah, you may think that I might recommend a leather shirt next, but that is not the next priority. Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy wearing leather shirts, but if money is tight, hold off on the leather shirt.
3. Next priority is a pair of leather jeans or chaps. I will focus on leather jeans for this post.
Leather jeans present a very versatile choice of leatherwear. More guys, both straight and gay, are wearing leather jeans these days just like they wear denim jeans. Leather jeans are functional and are a step up in dresswear because they look elegant and classy when fitted well. I have instructions on fitting leather jeans on my Guide to Motorcycle Leather Gear. It is customary for me to wear leather jeans almost everywhere during cool and cold months — shopping, attending meetings, visiting family and friends — no big deal. If you think someone is going to say something negative, get over your fears. Most people say nothing, and those who do often pay compliments.
There are many other types and styles of leather garments — but for the newly “leather curious,” I recommend the essentials — boots, jacket, and jeans. The rest can follow as you develop more self-confidence and save up to buy what you want.
Here are some important pointers when buying leather:
* Do not buy cheap leather from on-line retailers that sell gear made in Pakistan or China. You’ll be very disappointed. The leather is all shiny and smells great when you get it, but soon enough, the garment starts to fall apart at the seams. The leather discolors. Hardware rusts. Leather stretches. Blemishes become obvious. So by all means, before you buy leather (especially from on-line vendors), ask about the origin of the leather and where the product is made. If the leather is from Pakistan or China, then forget about it.
The good stuff uses leather made in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Germany, Mexico, or South America (to name most, but not all countries that produce quality leather).
You can usually tell quality leather origin in two ways: vendors of the good stuff will tell you on their website and on a label in the garment what the source of the leather was. You can also make a good guess by the price. If a price seems too good to be true, such as a pair of chaps or leather jeans for about US$100, then run! Something’s wrong — usually with the leather, but also with the construction.
* Do not buy a license. Huh? What I mean is, don’t buy leather that has a Harley-Davidson logo on it and think you have a high-quality product because you were charged an arm and a leg for it. Check the label in the garment — you may see a label indicating country of origin as being China, Indonesia, or Pakistan. You see, when a company that has a well-recognized brand name allows its name to be used in a line of related products (such as H-D branded leathers), the Motor Company is licensing the use of its name for that purpose. So what you’re doing is buying a license rather than getting even better quality gear for the price. That’s why you see me — a Harley-riding guy — with “non-label” gear and no H-D brand on it. I have the brand on my bike, and that’s where it should be. Not on my lapel.
For those who are interested in leather garments, I have two different tutorials that can help.
1) For motorcyclists (straight audience): Guide to Biker Leather Gear.
2) For gay men considering fetish leather: Guide to Fetish Leather Gear.
Life is short: gear up and get out there!