The Lords of the Leather will be celebrating its twenty seven years as part of the Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans. The Lords of the Leather is dedicated to the leather folks who come to make Louisiana as diverse and colorful as the previous years have been.
How did the Krewes Lords of Leather come about? The Old Leather is a term used in relation to the brief history of the leather culture. There was an emphasis laid on the ethics and aesthetics of this period. The leather culture first originated from certain parts of the gay culture which began to flourish in major US cities after the Second World War. Within the gay community there were a number of stereotypical preoccupations and behaviors. Some of these shared a mutual military interest, its honor codes and hierarchy as well as having short cropped hair, owning a motorcycle and wearing leather attire. This unique influence as well as several films glamorizing certain outlaws and bands added to the significance of the leather culture.
These elements combined and inspired a new culture of hyper masculine mode and interaction among gay men in the community. They were known as leathermen thereafter. These leathermen formed their own social institution distinct from the people in the gay world and continued to pursue a similar social life and interest with others who shared these same interests. The first clubs to be formed under the leathermen were motorcycle clubs. These were already existent in the 1950s. These clubs used to hold public events with other clubs where men could meet with their own and members of several other clubs. The leather bars in today’s world bear the resemblance of this age old tradition. Many of these clubs still display the emblem or banner of these motorcycle clubs and leather institutions.
Not all leathermen were part of public events. There were some groups of people that did not belong to any club or institution, instead they belonged to private networks and attended exclusive parties. The conduct was a regimented style within these clubs and followed the protocol of hierarchy and quasi-military conception. Very few obtained membership to these clubs while prospective members were let in if a current member sponsored them. Their membership was conferred by a pledge. The bottom was taught by the top of the hierarchy on elements of comportment and dress style. A few leather clubs have continued with their regimented traditions even today. Yet, not all clubs in the 1950s were bound by these rigorous codes. Many of them were less formal and to a certain degree ungovernable by attempting to impersonate James Dean or Marlon Brando. There were multiple facets to these leather clubs. But, with the sexual revolution of the gay liberal movements and women’s liberation the leather culture was further transformed and broadened.
By the 1980s the leather culture saw greater integration which included pop and rock culture as well. This concept led to bathhouses, leather bars, private clubs and informal networks than in the previous two decades.