The Ins And Outs Of Leather


Leatherman Steve Ganzell on your first leather purchase. The dos, the don’ts and finding what turns you on.


While there are probably a million reasons that fetishizing leather is kinda weird, there is usually one reason that is overwhelming for those of us in the leather community. It turns us on. We find it hot, sexy, and erotic. Not everybody shares that perspective, but if you do, there comes a moment when you decide that you are going to do something about it. You take that dramatic first step, you screw up your courage, you take a deep breath, you grab a credit card, and you go shopping.

I was asked what advice I would give somebody who was about to make some of those first purchases. I have seen some of the bad choices that folks have made and so here are a few thoughts.


Leather guys tend to be a rebellious lot. Trying to get them to agree is sometimes like trying to load jack-rabbits on a flat-bed truck. There are certain themes that can lead to groan inducing conversations that go on for hours. It is important to understand that no matter how long the conversation goes on, there will be no consensus. Some times we do things a certain way because of tradition. Tradition is not the same thing as rules. There is a difference between being creative and doing something differently and wearing white sox and brown shoes with your tuxedo because you don’t know any better.

You can usually fit in with the leather guys if you wear boots, 501s and a black t-shirt. You will start to notice certain traditions. Little by little you will notice things that turn you on. For example, you start to notice that there are guys wearing really  tight gloves. Not because their hands get cold but because they find them erotic and a fun addition to their sexual play. You will discover the things that you find hot and erotic.


Most guys can’t afford to buy full custom made formal leathers (if you can, please contact me through this magazine) so start one piece as a time. Some things convey something to other folks in the community. For as many supposed rules there are just as many exceptions. You may want to ask if you are unsure.

It is very rare to find good cheap leather. The problem with cheap leather is that is usually looks cheap. There are folks out there who are willing to rip off designs and make them out of urine-cured-cat hide and with poor workmanship. Trust me…it shows. Well-made leather stands up to all kinds of abuse. The older it gets the better it looks. A little care and it will last for a long  me. When the cheap seams rip out or the leather tears, it makes the 6am walk of shame back to your hotel room at IML a lot more challenging.

You will wish you had waited to buy the good stuff rather than listening to the giggles of the hotel staff. So rather than be impatient and buy the cheap version, think about saving and getting the good stuff. BUT, at some point you will be tempted to either buy that vest or harness or chaps on Ebay, or from some vendor in a country you have never heard of before. When the stuff finally arrives you will notice it is a cheap knockoff of what you really wanted. The chaps will be all baggy and make you look like a shlub. The vest will be made out of pieces of leather joined together with stitches that look like it was made by Dr. Frankenstein. You will wish you had saved the money to get what you really wanted. It is worth the wait.


There is a certain leather esthetic. If you are struggling to understand this I have a suggestion. A lot of our esthetic was documented in the erotic art of Tom of Finland. Take a look at Tom’s drawings and notice what and how things are exaggerated. The pants are not just  tight, they are impossibly  tight. The difference between that leather vest your dad wears to ride his motorcycle with the other accountants on the weekend and the vest you want to wear to a leather bar is that esthetic.

You may be really drawn to leather harness with studded epaulets. It may really turn you on. But after you have been 86d from every bar in town for causing injury to other patrons, you may wish you had come with something more traditional. There is a practical aspect to some of this. A Sam-Brown belt can not only make your Levis a little more “leather” it can keep your pants from hitting the floor if you unbutton them…you know like when you’re tucking your shirt in…yeah that’s why.

At some point along your leather journey, you will notice that you are about to pay more than you intended for something that is not all that practical. You are going to do it because that thing, whatever it is, turns you on. You know that wearing it will change how you walk, how you stand, and how you feel. At that moment, you will truly understand the nature of fetish and be well on your way to becoming one of the folks who feels exactly the way you do.