Travelling To MAL in Washington, DC?

Well, it’s just about here — as I call it — the “second-largest gathering of the Leather Clan in the USA” (largest gathering still being International Mr. Leather in Chicago on the last weekend of May). I have had a few guys contact me to ask if I am going to MAL, but as I said in a previous post, I am not. There are other things going on in my life that make MAL a no-go for me this year.

For those of you who ARE traveling to DC to attend MAL, especially those traveling by air, let me share some quick tips, based on my “Air Travel with Leather Gear” tutorial.

  • Rule number 1: Less is more. You do not have to bring every pair of tall black boots and item of leather gear you own with you. Plan to mix-and-match to produce a variety of appearances with a few items of leather gear. After all, it is just a weekend, and unless you have entered the contest, you don’t need a lot of different leather items and pairs of boots to wear throughout the weekend.
  • Essential gear for MAL, in my opinion, includes:
    (a) leather breeches or jeans; denim jeans and boots are okay, too. (You’ll see lots of guys in regular blue jeans and boots; not everyone wears full leather all the time.)
    (b) leather shirt;
    (c) black long-sleeve t-shirt;
    (d) leather vest;
    (e) good solid black leather belt;

    (f) warm leather jacket, but preferably of the cheap variety so it is not as attractive for theft;
    (g) hat — legendary Muir cap preferred, but a plain black ball cap will do — do not bring or buy a cap that has “special police” or something like that on it–you’ll look like Deputy Dawg who just fell off the turnip truck;
    (h) one pair of “show” boots, like Dehners or similar, and one pair of comfortable walking boots, like regular harness boots, to wear on the plane, while transferring from the airport to the hotel, and also to wear while being a tourist (hiking boots are a good alternative.) Cowboy boots will work, too. Just not sneakers — not to a leather gathering!
    (i) leather gloves — it will be cold at night, so gloves will keep your hands warm. Some guys also like to wear gloves with full leather, too.

  • Optional leather gear includes a pair of chaps which you can wear over jeans for a different “biker-leather” appearance, or to have on if you intend to play in leather. ‘nuf said.
  • Good quality socks. Believe me, your feet will get tired from all the walking and standing you will do. Socks that are made of a combination of three materials–cotton (for comfort), rayon/daycron/nylon (for durability), and wool (to wick away sweat)–are very important.
  • If you will be wearing long-sleeved shirts, then you don’t really need an arm band, do you? Same is true for gauntlets, wrist bands, etc. However, you may consider a leather wrist band in which you can keep cash.
  • What you don’t need: floggers, handcuffs, police batons, whips, chains… etc. Really, this stuff is heavy, invites unwanted attention by the cop-wannabe-TSA boys, and unless you have made previous arrangements, it is not likely that you will use any of this stuff. It’s just for show, and the trade-off for carrying all that weight for toys you won’t really use isn’t worth it, in my opinion.

Also, some guys who really aren’t into the leather “scene” may be attending out of curiosity. By all means, go! There is no “rule” that one must dress in leather to attend MAL (unless you are a competitor). If you are curious about what this event is all about, drop in (pay the price of a day pass or a ticket to the MAL contest, or dance.) Wear denim jeans, a black shirt, boots, a leather jacket, and perhaps a ballcap, and you’ll fit right in. No worries.

Okay, so you have read my recommendations for what to bring and what not to bring on this trip. For those who do not own much (or any) leather garments or boots, there will be a leather exhibit area at the hotel if you want to check out and buy some new gear. If you plan to make any purchases, be sure to leave room in your luggage (or make arrangements for return shipping).

Now, here are some tips about DC, specifically:

  • Plan for the weather: as it looks now, it will be cold but not frigid. Above freezing during the day, below freezing at night. No rain or snow. Since no accumulating snow has fallen in DC yet this winter, there are no patches of ice or mounds of snow to traverse.
  • There will be ongoing maintenance work on the subway (Metro) system that may make traveling by Metro quite inconvenient. Check Metro’s website for updated information. Remember, Metro is not cheap as it used to be, but it is less expensive that taxis or renting a car and paying for parking.
  • The DC Eagle is 1 walkable mile from the Hyatt; the Green Lantern is two miles away; and it is about 2.5 miles to gay area of DC, Dupont Circle. Have comfortable hiking boots, use a taxi, or use shuttles when provided to get to these destinations. Unfortunately, the Metro is not convenient to get between the host hotel and these venues.
  • If you buy anything at a drug store or convenience shop, plan to pay an extra five cents tax if you take your items in a bag. Bring your own bag or stuff your pockets with your purchases to avoid paying this nuisance tax (which also applies now in the “monkey-see/monkey-do” county where I live in adjoining Maryland.)
  • Smoking is prohibited inside any building in DC, including bars and restaurants. It’s even prohibited within 25 feet of a doorway — and sometimes the cops enforce that law. Just be prepared.
  • Cops also have been giving out jay-walking tickets, if you cross a street outside of a marked crosswalk. Just be careful — lots of nuisances out there.
  • Since your last visit — even if it were last year — be careful if you are driving in the city. They have installed many more red light and speed cameras. DC has reciprocity with many states and has arrangements with rental car agencies — so a ticket will catch up with you, eventually. Just stop at the lights and obey the speed limit to be safe and avoid getting a surprise in the mail in the next few weeks or months.
  • As with any big city, crime can happen, so keep your eyes open. Walk in a group if possible, and don’t do something stupid like use your iPhone on the Metro, where snatch-and-run thefts have occurred. Think about it: walking around in full leather advertises that you’ve got money. Leather isn’t cheap. Thieves know that, so be cautious about what you are flashing around (electronic gadgets, etc.), avoid walking alone anywhere at night, etc. Just use common sense.

I’m sure there is more. There is always more. Generally speaking, plan to travel smart — pack the essentials, but not your whole gear trunk. Enjoy your visit, and thanks for contributing to my local economy. Sorry I won’t see you there!

Life is short: travel safely and smart!