Old Guard – New Guard?

I have received two email messages recently from younger guys exploring their own interests in leather. Each has said that he has found my website, in particular, my Guide to Leather Gear, helpful to him during his explorations.

The image on the right has been floating around since Al Gore invented the Internet: it shows a younger guy decked out in “Old Guard Leatherman” gear — Muir Cap, leather biker jacket, gloves, breeches, and tall boots — all in black. He’s a fine specimen of “LeatherManhood” as some might say.

Younger guys see pictures like that, and then look around at other guys their age who may be exploring leather, too, and don’t see anything quite like that any more. The “new guard,” according to Wikipedia, embraces a greater variety in approach to eroticism.

I have asked around, been around, and have seen the newer clubs and bar scenes. The line about “variety” is right: lots of younger guys are wearing all sorts of stuff, trying it out, exploring interests, seeing what he likes. This seems to involve rather spontaneous choices, such as “I left the latex pants on the floor next to the bed; I’ll put them on,” or “t-shirt and jeans, like I wore in college,” and things like that. Whatever suits the current mood.

“Old-Guard” Leathermen, back in the day (I can remember), would be rather fastidious about choosing exactly which leather garments went with what gear. He would never ever consider wearing sneakers, a t-shirt, or anything made of rubber or latex when he was gearing up to go out. It was always (mantra…): thick black cowhide leather breeches, black leather shirt, Sam Browne belt, black leather jacket, black gloves, and knee-high tall black engineer or patrol boots. Sometimes, for “leather-dressy” occasions, a black leather tie would complete the outfit.

Each generation sets a pattern of its own. The younger guys are establishing their own — definitely different from what I grew up with. For example, when I was in my 20s and 30s, the only choices for leather garments was like what Henry Ford offered for Model T’s: “the customer can have any color he wants so long as it’s black.” Nowadays, leather is dyed almost any color of the rainbow.

Muir caps are hard to find — nowadays younger guys wear ballcaps or buzzcuts.

Tall boots? In my day, a Leatherman had to have at least one, if not more than one, pair of tall black boots — a pair of beaten-up engineers or harness boots, and a pair of well-shined patrol boots for dressier affairs or wearing with a uniform. Today, there aren’t many younger guys who have tall boots, or choose to wear them. They’re happier in their black sneakers or shorter, less expensive, tactical lace-up boots.

Economics plays a major role, too. Back in my day, fewer college students had as much debt as many do nowadays. Many younger guys working their first job can’t afford to own or rent their own home to begin to establish their independence. While paying down massive debt, they don’t have the money to buy quality leather gear and boots that cost much more now than it did when I was their age. Plus, as I’ve blogged before, I think some have misguided thoughts about personal finance — spending money on eating food from restaurants and buying toys that aren’t necessary to live. Economics both in the income/expense ratio as well as economic priorities are quite different between younger guys and us old-guard guys.

While I embrace change, the only major change in the scene that I can’t tolerate is the thrumming noise blasted loudly inside gathering places like bars. They say that each generation comes up with music that drives the next older generation crazy. This is quite true. My partner and I can’t stand the noise we hear in bars. The repetitive loud vibrations give me a bad headache, even if I wear ear plugs. I guess that’s another reason why we choose not to go out any more. The noise (music) keeps us away.

Is there anything wrong with the emergence of “The New Guard?” Nope. They’re setting their own style (if you want to call it that.) While I personally still choose to dress “old guard” (if you will,) it is because I like the look, it serves me well, and I have a lot of the boots and gear that fit the image. I’ll stay with what I have, thanks. And to the younger guys — try it — you might like it — or try something else. Whatever, enjoy.

But also, “whatever,” be safe. Damn, the HIV/AIDS rates of infection continue to climb because the young guys didn’t have the experience we had when we were their age and we watched our friends die horrible, painful deaths. The feeling of “youth invulnerability” pervades. The perception that “the cocktail is a cure” — all b/s. Play safe. Have fun, but play safe — for both yourself and your partner.

Life is short: wear your boots and your leather, and play safe!