Ireland’s 2016 entrant in the International Mister Leather competition, Dr Conor Vaughan Buggy discusses the origins of leathermen in Ireland
From the origin of leather lovers in the US in the 1940s and ’50s, to one of Ireland’s first forays into fetish with G.A.G. in the 1990s, Dr Vaughan Buggy brings us through the history of the gay sub-culture.
Scott begins by asking where the leather community came from.
“Oh my god,” Ireland’s International Mister Leather 2016 entrant exclaims.
“Well there’s lots of ideas about what was the original kind of concept, but I think really you have to look at the US in the late 1940s early 1950s.”
“After World War II, biker culture became quite a thing especially in the early 1950s and a lot of gay men began to become attributed with that grouping.
“Almost as a backlash, not as a backlash against the more effeminate gay culture, but they wanted to be seen as more masculine and they thought that this kind of culture was more masculine.”
“So that’s kind of really how it started,” Dr Vaughan Buggy.
“So it was almost like a pushback against stereotypes,” Scott asks.
“Exactly,” he replies, “and in doing so they became a stereotype. So it really was biker culture where it started and it was exactly the same way in Europe.”
Dr Vaughan Buggy describes how in the US, San Francisco was one of the first places where leather lovers had a place to express themselves. From the ’50s onwards, it began to spread, and by the 1980s the Folsom Street Fair started.
But where was Ireland and the rest of the world when this leatherman movement was taking place?
“Before I get to Ireland let’s talk about Europe. It was very underground, it wasn’t as public as it was in America,” Dr Vaughan Buggy said.
“But Berlin and Amsterdam led the way in making it much more accessible and much more open. I think it was 1975 or 76 when the first LeatherMen Berlin at Easter festival happened, and that still continues on to this day.”
“Here in Ireland, it was non existent until really the 1990s. I mean yes it existed, there were men who were into leather and fetish, but there was no way it was going to be exposed significantly on the scene in Dublin.”
“I mean very rarely you would come across a gay leather man on the scene in Dublin.”
“And then in the 1990s, there was one or two randomly held fetish events which were very, across all fetishes, it was rubber, latex, leather, bondage the whole lot. I think Rory O’Neill set up one of the first ones, Panti, that was called G.A.G., that was in the early 1990s.”
“But then in the late 1990s and early 2000s there was a few activists here in Dublin in particular who were very heavily involved in the fetish scene in Europe and then they brought it to Ireland.”
Dr Vaughan Buggy tells Scott about the evocatively named group LUBE (Leather Uniform Bear Encounter), formed by Joe Harnett, the first Irish man to participate in International Mister Leather in Chicago.
“Joe in particular he basically put an ad. out into GCN asking could anybody interested in leather meet up in Outhouse, and that took place in the early 2000s.”
Then from 2004 onwards, there was Folsom in Berlin.
To learn more about leathermen and Ireland, listen to the podcast here.
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