People in the History of the LGBT Community in Milwaukee, WisconsinThe "Leather Scene"--
Leather, Motorcycle, Levi Organizations and Titles
We all know and instantly recognize the uniform of the leatherman-- all manner of black leather wear with silver studs liberally sprinkled in: vest, with no shirt or (usually white) t-shirt; black leather chaps over faded blue jeans; black boots; the cockily worn black leather hat. This was also the primary vehicle for the hankie code (the color and position of a hankie in the back pockets could signal whether you were a top or bottom, and what you were generally “into” sexually.) While sometimes identified with the motorcycle (and thus the genesis of motorcycle or biker groups), the gear is readily found in any "levi-leather" men's bar in the U.S. on any given night (although most often seen on a Friday or Saturday night). A close relative of this is of course the uniform look (sometimes military, but more often the police look).
A staple of the leather/levi scene, much like the drag scene, has long been the leather titles: sometimes bar-based titles (such as Mr. Eagle, Mr. Harbor Room, etc.), but more prominently state, regional, and national titles. As with the drag and pageant scene, there is a careful succession and hierarchy of titles; to compete at a national level one must usually have a state or regional title for example.
A comprehensive "history" of the leather and motorcycle scene in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, and a description of the hierarchy, is beyond our current capability to handle; if someone wishes to take a stab at describing it, we welcome the input! However, we do present here some historical perspective of the scene with the information at our disposal.
Leather titles and dress, and various other gay stereotypes, are all indicative of a gradual acceptance of gay and lesbian people into general society, and thus a lessening of the need to make ourselves stand out to make a statement. We can be more comfortable with who we are without being “in your face” about our differences. But let’s not forget how we got where we are now- let’s embrace and enjoy the occasional drag show, leather event, etc. Let’s recognize that those “stereotype” extremes were one factor contributing to mainstream society’s increased acceptance of us.
Leather Titles and Title Holders
Leather Organizations and Web Sites:
Credits: original contribution of information by Stephen Seefeldt.