LEATHER: Safety, Sexuality or Both? ©


Safety, Sexuality or Both? ©

By Florida Night Train©


After my research on the topic of motorcycle leather gear/clothing, I don’t think I will ever again look at these products the same as I did in the past. I can tell you, unless my leathers are truly protective in nature, my vest is now tucked in the closet for good.

Leather has a long and storied history within BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism, and Masochism) communities, especially and particularly in the context of motorcycle culture. The association between leather and BDSM can be traced back to the mid-20th century when returning World War II veterans, many of whom were motorcycle enthusiasts, brought with them a love for leather gear and the camaraderie of military life. Back then, MCs, biker bars, became venues for self-exploration and self-expression.

In the post-war era in 1954, motorcycle clubs like the Satyrs Motorcycle Club in Los Angeles was the first gay MC. In Greek mythology, a “satyr” is a male nature spirit with ears and a tail resembling those of a horse, as well as a permanent, exaggerated erection. Early artistic representations sometimes include horse-like legs, but, by the sixth century BC, they were more often represented with human legs. Comically hideous, they have mane-like hair, bestial faces, and snub noses and they always are shown naked. Satyrs were characterized by their ribaldry and were known as lovers of wine, music, dancing, and women. They were companions of the god dionysus and were believed to inhabit remote locales, such as woodlands, mountains, and pastures. They often attempted to seduce or rape nymphs and mortal women alike. They are sometimes shown masturbating or engaging in bestiality. Interesting choice of name for an MC given that last piece of information.

The Spartans Motorcycle Club in San Francisco became hubs for gay men interested in both motorcycles and BDSM. These clubs (satyrs and spartans) provided a sense of community and belonging for individuals who often faced societal stigma and discrimination due to their sexual orientation and unconventional lifestyle.

Leather gear, with its rugged aesthetic and connotations of strength and masculinity, became symbolic within these communities, serving as both a form of personal expression and a means of signaling one’s membership in the subculture. Leather jackets, pants, boots, and caps became iconic symbols of BDSM identity, worn proudly at motorcycle rallies, leather bars, and fetish events.

Over time, the leather community expanded beyond motorcycle clubs to encompass a diverse range of individuals with varying interests and identities within the BDSM spectrum. Today, leather remains a powerful symbol of BDSM culture, representing empowerment, self-expression, and sexual liberation for many practitioners around the world.

That being said, leather has been an integral part of motorcycling history since the inception of the sport. From its early days in the late 19th century to the present, leather has played a crucial role in providing protection, comfort, and style to riders.

The roots of leather in motorcycling can be traced back to the late 1800s when motorcycles first started gaining popularity. As motorcycles evolved from bicycles with attached engines to the powerful machines we know today, riders also began to realize the need for protective gear. Leather, with its durability and flexibility, quickly emerged as the material of choice for motorcycle apparel.

In the early 20th century, motorcycle racing became a popular sport, and leather jackets and pants became essential attire for racers. These early leather garments were often made from horsehide due to its toughness and resistance to abrasion. As motorcycle speeds increased, so did the need for better protection, and leather proved to be up to the task.

During World War II, leather played a vital role in protecting motorcycle dispatch riders who delivered messages and orders on the front lines. Leather jackets, pants, and gloves became standard issue for military riders, further solidifying leather’s association with motorcycling.

After the war, returning soldiers brought their love for motorcycles and leather gear back home, contributing to the growth of the motorcycling culture. The iconic image of the rugged biker clad in leather became synonymous with freedom, rebellion, and adventure.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Hollywood movies such as The Wild One and Easy Rider popularized the image of the motorcycle outlaw, further cementing leather’s place in motorcycling culture. Stars like Marlon Brando and James Dean became style icons, and their leather-clad personas inspired generations of riders.

As motorcycle technology continued to advance, so did the design and construction of leather gear. Manufacturers began using thicker hides and incorporating features like armor padding and reinforced stitching to enhance protection. Leather racing suits became standard equipment for professional racers, providing both safety and aerodynamics on the track.

The 1970s and 1980s saw the rise of specialized motorcycle gear companies dedicated to producing high-quality leather apparel. Brands like Dainese, Alpinestars, and Schott NYC became household names among motorcyclists, offering a wide range of leather jackets, pants, suits, and gloves designed for various riding styles and conditions.

In the late 20th century, advancements in materials science led to the development of synthetic alternatives to leather, such as nylon and Kevlar. While these materials offered benefits like lighter weight and improved breathability, they could not match the durability and classic appeal of leather.

Despite the availability of alternative materials, leather remains the preferred choice for many motorcyclists, particularly those who prioritize protection and style. Modern leather gear incorporates cutting-edge technologies like perforation for ventilation, stretch panels for mobility, and impact-absorbing armor for enhanced safety.

Today, leather continues to be a symbol of the motorcycling lifestyle, embodying the spirit of freedom, adventure, and individuality. Whether cruising down the open road or tearing up the racetrack, riders around the world trust in the time-tested durability and timeless allure of leather gear. As long as there are motorcycles on the road, leather will remain an enduring icon of the two-wheeled world.


“The Deep Psychology of BDSM and Kink” by Douglas Thomas