A question I’m often asked is how our community will evolve, or even survive, in the future. Old-guard leathermen especially talk about its impending demise. The number of true ‘Tom of Finland leathermen’ seems to decrease with every fetish event that takes place. And parties with a strict leather-only dress code do not fill bars the way they used to ten years ago.

Knowing where we’re heading starts by knowing where we’ve come from. When the need for a masculine image arose in the 50s and 60s in the US, it was as a response to society’s perception of gay men as feminine. It didn’t take long for gay men to adopt a strong look to show off their masculinity. Military uniforms and leather were their answer. The macho appearance those gay men adopted mimicked the most obvious masculine traits in society at the time.

Knowing this, it becomes clear why the style was adopted. And it also explains why that style isn’t common today in society, or our community. It’s simply not necessary to make that statement anymore. Today we dress in leather to show our fascination, affection, and love for a material and the community behind it.

That brings me to a Mr Leather election I was asked to judge some time ago. From the five candidates, one stood out for me. He was a young guy, in his late twenties. Ripped leather shirt and a leather baseball cap with puppy ears. Not the typical look you would expect from a potential leather titleholder.

His fellow contestants all presented themselves in true leatherman style, the way we’re used to. But not only was this guy’s look different, he also had a story to tell. He was very new to the scene, but he was about to leave his mark on the scene. At least, that was the gut feeling I had.

He didn’t win the election, one of the other great candidates did. The reason he didn’t make it was because the American judge didn’t see a real leatherman in this guy, and scored him accordingly. I gave him a nine, but only because nobody is perfect enough to deserve a ten. When he left the room, I couldn’t stop myself from loudly expressing my admiration for this guy. In my opinion, he personified the future of our community.

Coming back to the topic of my editorial, it is not difficult to see where our community is heading. It is already happening right under our noses. Look at the younger generations. They’re puppies, they’re superheroes, and they mix any, and all, fetishes in one outfit. The rules of the game have changed. You either play by those new rules or get overtaken by your fellow players.

Enjoy the game!