Since custom leather gear is the way to go, the best place to get it is from a store that specializes in crafting it, fitting it correctly, and having sources of good skins. These days, many of the good leather crafters have websites to help you in deciding what you want and can facilitate placing an order electronically. However, using the Internet to buy custom gear has its challenges too. Read on for more.
Here is the snippet from my “Leather 101” page on my website about this topic:
If you are nervous about going into a leather fetish store, don’t worry about it. These shops are in business to sell leather. I remember the first time I went into one of those stores (in San Francisco), my heart was beating a mile-a-minute. However, I soon got over my fear of the unknown. The staff were helpful and friendly, but not pushy. They don’t want to scare you off. The best places to go are fetish leather shops or motorcycle leather shops. Go to a store that specifically sells leather, preferably one that makes its own products on premises. Look around, see what catches your eye, then ask questions and let someone help you.
Do not go to a motorcycle retailer like a Harley-Davidson dealer. While the majority of Harley-Davidson’s income is from sales of its licensed products and leather goods (not from selling the motorcycles themselves), H-D labeled leathers are vastly overpriced just for the name. You can get custom leather gear at lower prices from fetish leather stores. Also, don’t go to stores in the mall that sell some leather goods. These stores sell off-the-rack stuff for the masses, and are more “fashion” oriented than having anything worthy of a true Leatherman.
Despite being tempted by lower prices, DON’T buy leather gear from websites that cater to straight bikers. Most of the gear found on these websites is almost “one-size fits all” and looks like it. The gear hangs funny on everyone except the handsome model in a tough-looking pose. Pants, chaps, and long-sleeves of leather shirts are often too long or too short, requiring alteration anyway, and the leather is from a country where quality is doubtful. This is particularly true about International Male, Jamin’ Leather, and LeatherUp.com. Believe me, I have purchased leather from each of these on-line retailers, and have been very disappointed each time. (Once, each; never again!)
Don’t buy fetish leather via eBay for your first foray into leather gear. Remember, items on eBay belonged to someone else. Leather gear stretches to accommodate the (former) wearer’s body. Just because you are a size 34 and the eBay posting says the leather pants are a size 34, it does not mean they will fit you. They could be larger just from natural stretching. They could be (and often are) baggy in the seat and thighs. The problem with eBay is that seldom can you return something if it doesn’t fit right. Leather gear needs to fit right, or it’s not worth the investment. I’m not saying that you should never buy from eBay. Just know that you may not get something that fits well and you are stuck with an “as is” sale. Also, used gear is used gear. Don’t pay more than half of what the item new would cost. It’s not worth it (provided you don’t have a fetish for some other guy’s used gear. If the smell of used gear gets you off, then forget this warning).
However, you say, “I live far away from a store that specializes in crafting and selling fetish leather.” (Or I’ve heard, “I don’t want my wife/parents to find out about my fetish interests.”) “Can I use the Internet?” Well, you can, with care and a thoughtful plan.
The rest of this section is written about buying new leather gear from a reputable fetish leather merchant via the web. I have some of the stores that I have visited and ordered from listed here on my website. If you would like to see additional listings, there is a longer list of stores worldwide here.
People have asked me what fetish leather stores I recommend. While there are some really good stores around, in the past few years I have settled on 665Leather of West Hollywood, California, and Northbound Leather of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Back in the day, I bought most of my custom leather gear from Mr. S. in San Francisco, and they still have good stuff, but it is very pricey. They also seem to be more interested in selling toys (that scare the bejeebers out of me!) than leather nowadays.
Tomorrow: I begin my gear-item by gear-item description of what to look for. Check back!