Completing our month of event interviews, Gaylife talks to Andrew Moran, organizer of the 2015 Manchester Leather Weekend (which takes place at the end of the month), about the roots of gay leather culture….
Gay male leather culture has existed since the late 1940s, when it likely grew out of post-WWII biker culture. Early gay leather bars were subcultural versions of the motorcycle club with pioneering gay motorcycle clubs including the Satyrs, established in Los Angeles in 1954, Oedipus, also established in Los Angeles in 1958, and the New York Motorbike Club. Early San Francisco clubs included the Warlocks and the California Motor Club, while early clubs in Sydney included the South Pacific Motor Club (SPMC). Leather Clubs for gay men started in Amsterdam and Berlin in the 1950s, and in Sydney from 1970.
These gay clubs, like the clubs of straight motorcycle culture in general, reflected a disaffection with the mainstream culture of post-World War II America, a disaffection whose notoriety — and therefore appeal — expanded after the sensationalized news coverage of the Hollister “riot” of 1947. The 1953 film The Wild One starring Marlon Brando wearing jeans, a T-shirt, a leather jacket, and Muir cap, played on pop-cultural fascination with the Hollister “riot” and promoted an image of masculine independence that resonated with some gay men who were dissatisfied with a culture that stereotyped gay men as effeminate. To that end, gay motorcycle culture also reflected some men’s disaffection with the coexistent gay cultures more organized around high culture, popular culture, and/or camp style. Perhaps as a result, the leather community that emerged from the motorcycle clubs also became the practical and symbolic location for gay men’s open exploration of kink and S&M.
Then leather bars started to open up all over the world where guys could socialise in a safe environment in full gear, and major leather events are now organised in cities all over the world.
In recent times BLUF (Breeches Leather Uniform Fanclub) has played its part in leather history, and it continues to grow day by day, now with over 3000 members worldwide.
BLUF started in October 1997 as a website for men into full leather uniforms. It was started by a guy called Leon, he was living in Montreal at that time and had just discovered the joys of the Internet. He joined Leather Navigator, which at that time was the only internet platform for leathermen. Being disappointed with the absence of any kind of dresscode, he started BLUF. At the beginning, almost all new members were American. The site consisted in those days of a Picture Gallery, a List of Members, a List of Admirers (for those that couldn’t meet the dresscode requirements), an Online-Magazine and (a little later) a Forum.
In September 1998 the first BLUF party was held during Folsom Weekend at the Loading Dock in San Francisco. Although we only had about 150 members then, the party became a huge success and is still remembered as one of the best in BLUF history. Around November 1998, the first in a series of BLUF@TheHoist parties was held in London, recruiting many guys from the UK as a result. In 1999 Leon moved back to Amsterdam, and in the autumn closed down the site because of financial problems. Some of the members got together and convinced me to re-open the site and give members the opportunity to donate money to keep the site running. This brought in enough money to pay the bills. More Europeans joined the club and slowly, the emphasis shifted from North America to Europe.
Over the years, BLUF’s membership grew steadily, passing 2500 in the summer of 2008 and in the same year winning the ‘Large club of the year’ award at Pantheon of Leather XVIII.
In the summer of 2009, after twelve years of running BLUF, Leon decided to take a back seat, and Nigel volunteered to become webmaster, having previously taken over the hosting of the site in May. The current site was unveiled at a party hosted by RoB during Amsterdam Leather Pride, on October 30th 2009.
BLUF members all over the world now organise events aimed specifically at the leather community.
As for the leather scene in Manchester, well that most certainly started in 1982 when Manchester Super Chain MSC for short, was formed. And members would meet socially in the village.
Manchester, sadly, has never had a specific leather bar or club, but a few venues over the years have welcomed guys into leather and other fetishes.
Notably in the early days, Napoloens affectionately known as Naps, and The Rembrandt.
Then came along Rockies, which changed its name to Chains then it became the much missed club, Legends (now demolished).
The Rem continues to thrive as a men only bar, with new additions Company Bar and The Eagle. And then of course we have ‘Alert’ which was originally called Barracks when it was started in 2002. Alert has continued to cater for the fetish community for over 13 years, and is held on the forth Friday of the month at Alter Ego on Princess Street.
Up until 2005 Manchester had never had a specific leather dress code event, until I came along.
I was a member of the previously mention club BLUF, I was inspired by attending a BLUF night at The Backstreet Club in Londons East End. So I set to work on organising BLUF nights in The Tunnel at Legends.
I organised these events twice a year for 3 years. I then decided, regretfully to give up organising them as I felt I had gone as far as I could with them. But they continued for a further 2 BLUF nights with 2 local BLUF members taking over.
Then in 2012 Manchester Leather Men was formed by 3 local Manchester guys who were into leather. It was formed as a group to support men who were interested in leather and going out on the scene in leather. But the 3 guys parted company and the group went quiet for a few years, until last year when it was re-launched as Manchester Leathermen. The group is going from strength to strength with new members joining all the time. And they have regular social meetings on the 4th Friday of the month at The Rem. More recently, Manchester Leathermen has recently merged with MSC.
Going back to my story in all the leathery stuff though. On a trip to London Pride last year, I was spurred on to start organising leather events in Manchester again.
So in September last year I did my new night HIDEOUT at The Backdoor on Richmond Street. This was a strict leather dress code night, the only specific leather night in the north of the UK.
The next leather weekend from 24th – 26th April is the biggest event I have organised to date. Working with the support of some events that already exist in Manchester. These being ALERT, Mancsbound and MSCP Group (Manchester spanking and corporal punishment group).
I hope to see you at some of the events, you can find the schedule on page 126 of this magazine.