This article covers the meaning and powerful symbology that a collar in BDSM represents, and specifically, within Old Guard Leather.
When it comes to the meaning of the collar in BDSM, we should ask ourselves first and foremost “who wears a collar in the general pop culture?”. Two ranges of individuals: pets and slaves. Without associating now pets to slave as it is of course not what we have in mind, we can simplify this way: wears a collar the individual that is led by another, and is under the care, control and authority of another.
The difference between a pet and a person, is of course the choice, aka consent.
Very often, a collar is associated with slavery in its negative, non consensual historical figure. A human being enslaved can be two things: an abused person that needs help, or a free person who have consensually decided to use his/her freedom, and invest it to dedicate it to submission towards a man/woman and the ideals that He/She incarnates.
Table of Contents
- Meaning of the Collar in BDSM & Leather
- The Three Collars of Old Guard Leather
- When can a Collar be removed
- Other Kinds of BDSM Collars
What is the meaning of the Collar in BDSM for a Leatherman?
One of the most iconic pieces of gear in the mind of every submissive is the collar. Why is that? What is about a collar that means so much to so many people? Like with the sacredness of every item in every human culture, it’s all about the power that mankind has embedded into it, generation through generation. Without said spiritual and emotional power, a collar, just like any other sacred object, is just a dead unanimated object.
This is also why with this website we are doing our very best to educate about the history and spirit of Leather, as without spirit and history, gear becomes just a dead expensive part of a shopping bag; which pretty much describes a large part of the “leather scene” nowadays. Would you be able to say that a chest harness as a specific power nowadays? No.
You’ve seen it on everyone, from the random grindr profile to any club scene, or a gay pride and more. Having it become a piece of prêt-à-porter gay fashion, it has lost its soul, and at best it can be a useful prop to define your chest better for an Instagram photoshoot.
For a Leatherman, the collar is an emblem of Ownership, total dedication and commitment and love through time, a symbol of devotion and an agreement between a Master and a slave, or an Owner and His human pet, pretty much like a wedding ring, multiplied a thousand times.
It symbolizes the permanent choice of the submissive to belong to the Dominant, maintaining its promise to Leather lifestyle and his submission towards his partner; it also implies the commitment and promise of the Master/Owner, who is going to Honor the gift and responsibility He’s chosen to take.
As the collar is the most important and meaningful part of a Leatherman’s Gear, it is not something that should ever be given (nor taken) lightly; an enormous amount of emotional and psychological damage can be done to both parties, when one of the two doesn’t take this meaningful and ritualistic object, and the meaning of it, as seriously as the other.
The Three Collars of Old Guard Leather
As in Old Guard Leather nothing is ever done or imposed randomly, one doesn’t just get a collar because he wants onw, or think he’s entitled to it. There are three different levels of Collaring.
The Consideration Collar, the Training Collar, and the Permanent Collar.
All of this Collars used to be placed on the sub during actual Ceremonies; we still do it this way in this Household, but not every Master has the same Ceremonies. Note that a Ceremony isn’t necessarily some “Eye Wide Shut” situation, everything hardcoded in a protocol that happens during the celebration of an important event, is a Ceremony.
Meaning of the Consideration Collar
Just like with many of the Rituals and Traditions in an Old Guard Leather Household, very important are the ones concerning the early stages of a relationship between a Dominant and a submissive. From now on, being this a website about Leather and BDSM, we will keep it to Masters and slaves.
The Consideration Collar is the first level of Collaring. Traditionally, it is a metal chain, and it means to the Community that the sub is not available/off limits, as it is in a position of exclusivity for the Dominant. It means a relationship, in its early days (or months) have started, but the Master is still considering if the submissive is ready for this kind of lifestyle or the training he can provide. Likewise, the submissive is in a period of exploration and consideration towards the Master.
Nowadays It is placed on the submissive temporarily, usually for the whole duration of the stay of the sub with the Master (be it a day-session, or a weekend or a longer meeting). The Consideration Collar is used, as the name implies, a symbol of the consideration that the Master is giving to the slave. It means more than a simple slight interest, but far less than an actual confirmation that things are going to progress with Ownership. Typically, it’s the collar that is being used during the first meetings, the getting to know each other better and in real life, the first sessions and so on.
During this important time, the Master has the chance to study and evaluate the submissive and understand if He has an interested, and is skilled with the right toolset, to train this slave or boy. At the same time, also the slave/boy has the opportunity to experience the Master in the flesh and to get a glimpse of what he is actually getting into. This way, both parties have taken serious consideration of each other, but are still both aware of the fact that this is a work in progress, not a well set relationship.
Often, the Consideration Collar is nowadays not made of a chain, and chains are used for different levels of collaring, but originally it was meant of being just a chain as the submissive didn’t earn the privilege of the Leather Collar yet. Normally, the Consideration Collaring Ceremony is held only between family members and extremely close relatives, and not with a larger public; especially today, where Old Guard Leathermen are so rare to be found, public Ceremonies have become less and less seen.
Meaning of the Training Collar
After a period of time, if the Master and the slave/boy are a good match and they consensually wish to proceed, the Master can decide to move the boy/slave/sub to the next level, which is the actual Training. This is a much more public act, as the submissive is now officially under the care and Training of the Master, and it means it already belongs to him; when I use the term belonging, I don’t mean it in an forced or oppressing way, but as in the meaning of belonging to each other, where of course by the nature of BDSM and Old Guard, the submissive wants to belong to the Master, and the Master wants to own the submissive.
There is though a strong difference to be marked here. Not every training is meant to lead the submissive to Ownership. The Training Collar indicates that for the time of the training (which can last a variable amount of time between some months to many, many years) the submissive is under the care and protection of the Master, and they do have a relationship, but it might as well be that when the Training is over, the submissive needs to go on with his road separately from this relationship. Does it mean that it has to be tragic or dramatic? No. The Master will always remain the Mentor of that boy and a very special point of reference for it, but not every boy in training is meant to become a salve or an Owned property. Sometimes, life just doesn’t go that way. On this topic, here’s an overview on how to deal with the end of a BDSM relationship.
This is what most Doms (but also subs) struggle with nowadays; they think that all of that hard work is meant to bring privileges and service to them, and that they should use their skills to Own as many subs as possible as a display of their power. Instead, a Leather Master uses His Power and skills to train and educate and form Leathermen, regardlessly of the final result of the life of the boy, because this journey is not about the Master, it is about the boy. The Master is the catalyst throughout Leather and its sacredness are passed on to the submissive, and not necessarily the submissive is in Training because his destiny is to serve that Master forever. The submission and service that the Master gets, are the natural results and payback for his hard work and his dedication. Think about what we have said regarding Old Guard Rituals and how a Master, in order to become such with proper entitlement, should go through Training, Mentoring and preparation until he’s ready to be a Master? This example should help in understanding why a Training Collar is not always aimed at an Ownership-based relationship. The Training Collaring Ceremony used to be held in the presence of a wide audience of significant people; the Leatherfamily, close and extended, and generally the members of the Leather Club.
Some people today decide to also use this Ceremony to give the name to the submissive in this occasion, other Masters prefer to save this for the Permanent Collaring. I agree with giving the name during the Training Collaring process, as taking extremely seriously the Permanent Collaring Ceremony, my subs would never have their new names which are an extremely important part of the sub’s path into acceptance and validation of their new life, in Leather. That is, of course, only if the submissive is ready to understand what it means to receive their new name, and they are committed for the long run.
What I mean is that the Permanent Collar, as you’ll read, is something almost unachievable today, because of our modern lifestyles and public commitments.
Meaning of the Permanent Collar
As the name suggests, the Permanent Collar is the last step in Collaring and represents the pinnacle of the Master/slave relationship. It symbolizes and confirms that the submissive has completed its training, and is now ready and fully formed to a life in 24/7 BDSM mind and soul space.
In my experience, very few people arrive to this point. Most of them drop out during the Consideration Collar time, and many others take different roads during the Training Collar period. Sometimes that’s fine, as said before, as it simply means that the sub has learnt more about himself during the training and is now ready to find whatever it is that makes his life complete. Some other times instead, it’s just because going through Training successfully with a Leather Master, especially and Old Guard one, is a very hard journey.
It is so hard because it involves so much introspection, so much humbleness, courage, bravery, honesty and trust, that not every man is capable of all of this. Some men might be worth the training and they might really be the right candidates to become 24/7 Leathermen, but it’s not the right time in their life. Some others are just weak and being toxic to the dominant without wanting to make any effort of growth.
In the very rare cases in which a slave, boy or submissive gets to the Permanent Collaring Ceremony, that’s where the most articulated Rituals and Ceremonies would come in place. The submissive would be in the presence of all relatives and family members, and would declare his promise to the Master and the group of people. The Master would implement at this point His own Rituals, often involving body fluids, blood or fire, or all of these together. The Permanent Collar would be placed and locked and the submissive would become permanent property of the Master, sealing their promise to each other for this life and the next. It is an extremely meaningful Ceremony which seals all other options of outcome from the Training. In modern times, this practice might be easily considered barbaric or impossible to comprehend.
When can a Collar be removed?
A collar can be removed, under specific circumstances and following specific Protocols and directions. We all live hectic lives and many commitments might make such that the collar can’t be kept at all times, forever, with no exceptions. This also depends on the size and visibility of the Collar. This is also why nowadays loose chains are preferred to thick leather collars, as a chain can be kept always hidden underneath a business shirt, while a Leather Collar of course wouldn’t.
The situations in which a collar is removed are three:
Temporary removal, Uncollaring, and when the Master passes away.
The collar can and should always be removed in cases where the submissive’s health or life might be endangered or are at stake: this means that if the submissive has to attend a medical examination or procedure for which the collar must be removed, it can be removed with the Master’s approval.
If the submissive experiences body pain due to unknown pre existing conditions in the upper part of the spine or neck, the collar should be removed and replaced with a different solution which wouldn’t trigger that problem.
In these and more specific cases where it is needed for the sub’s health and wellbeing, the collar can be removed with direct permission of the Master; only in those cases in which it is a real emergency and the sub can’t get in touch with the Master immediately, the collar can be removed without direct permission.
This is why a padlock should only be placed when the submissive is ready for the responsibility of having a copy of the padlock’s keys (usually kept in plastic seal boxes) and being trusted with having no temptation to use they key if not in extreme situations as stated above. So the Master would be the Key Holder, but the sub would always have a copy of the key to be used only in extreme situations. Any different use of the key will determine Uncollaring as a consequence.
Uncollaring is an extremely powerful and painful moment, but it’s not necessarily to be viewed as punitive. It means that the Ownersihp is finished and the submissive is free again.
Actually, the most punitive thing would be not to be given the Uncollaring in those cases where the relationship isn’t healthy for both parties, as without Uncollaring, none of the parties involved can have proper closure. Without closure, the trauma can’t be healed and the two people will stay forever scarred from that feeling of “unfinished business” which in these relationship can be extremely painful and damaging. The Uncollaring is therefor truly important.
So, granted that Uncollaring is a very severe act that can’t be taken back and is definitive, it’s also a right of both the Master and the slave. Not every time both parties agree on proceeding to Uncollaring, but it’s a given basic right to both of them. It’s very important as without it, the relationship can’t evolve in a mature way to a next stage; a Master and a sub might decide to proceed to Uncollaring even without having negative feelings at all. Sometimes, two people can start something meaningful and then their lives can take an unexpected turn, and Uncollaring might be something that saves their relationship, instead of dooming them.
Often times though Uncollaring happens as an extreme demerit after the sub has disappointed or betrayed the Master so badly, that the Master doesn’t intend to proceed in keeping the submissive. This is a Master’s right, when certain basic rules have been shattered or willingly disrespected. At the same time, the submissive can decide at any time he wants to be Uncollared if he feels that his life and emotional wellbeing are not treated in a safe way, or if he feels unhappy and doesn’t want to proceed on.
In both cases, the choice is irrevocable, and that’s why it’s traditionally asked up to three times if the person requesting Uncollaring is sure of what he’s doing. There is no coming back from Uncollaring.
The Chain or the Collar would be cut in half with proper tools during a proper Ceremony, and then burnt if fire. In our Household, we also bury the remains in the ground under our Cherry three.
It is very important to be said here that the Master has the duty and responsibility to take care of the submissive during this delicate time. In no occasion can the Master, disagreeing with the Uncollaring, use His Power or position to emotionally, psychologically or physically damage the submissive. Instead, for how hard it can be (that’s why it’s called integrity), the Master must support the sub and keep safe his emotional and psychological wellbeing by his actions and choice of words.
What happens if the Master passes away?
In the case of Illness or an accident or just because of age, a Master could pass away leaving His subs behind. This is the worst nightmare for any submissive, especially when the relationship is a very good one and things are working the way they should. So how did the Old Guard Leathermen prepare for this? What kind of Protocols are given to us to keep us all safe?
During the process between the Training Collar and the Permanent Collar, the Master would have chosen a Brother to whom he is the most emotionally close and with whom has the most serious bond, and would give to Him the responsibility of taking care of the boy if something happens to him. If the Brother is a Master, he would also have the privilege of taking on the boy under his care, if the sub wanted.
In the case the sub didn’t want to, the sub would be released. In both cases, the Brother acquiring privileges on the sub and being his caretaker, would cut the chain from the sub’s neck and burn it, performing the Uncollaring on the behalf of the passed Master, and eventually place a new chain on the submissive at the proper time if that’s the direction things would go.
To be left collared when the Master dies, or to be abandoned by an irresponsible Master with the collar on, is the worst of the worst dooms that can ever be put on a Leatherman. This is the invisible collar concept, and it is a very, very heavy collar that is then very hard to remove.
The “Invisibile Collar”
Up to this point we have extensively discussed the meaning and power the Collar holds. When the submissive is seriously committed, the Collar becomes untouchable part of the submissive’s identity. This means that regardless of the presence or absence of the physical collar, the sub can literally still feel the weight of it on the neck, and most of all, around its heart.
Often times during my Training, but this is also what my boys confirm, when I wouldn’t behave at my best or I felt like I let down my Master, I would feel the collar around my neck choking me or becoming very heavy. In the cases the Master passes away or abandons the submissive without proper Uncollaring, it leaves the submissive in a limbo from which there is no easy way out; depending on how strong is the sub’s creed into Leather, it can be literally impossibile to put remedy to this situation.
As we said, the Collar is the most significant secret object to a submissive. It holds meanings that go deeply into the subs’ identity, and beyond a specific relationship, even if the Collar came with a specific relationship. The only way the submissive could break the Collar’s power would be to take action with its direct will and full agreement to disregard the power of the Collar, but by doing so, it would be denying everything he believes in.
So the choice would be wether to feel like Leather and its lifestyle has no power on the sub anymore, which would be a tragic loss and a large damage to the build identity, or to stay loyal to the sub’s values, knowing he will not rebel his position towards the meaning of that Collar. That’s because even in the case the Master wasn’t to be trusted and worthy of the name, or wether if the Master was a great one that passed away, this hasn’t have to do with the Master. This has to do with sub and the quality of the feelings involved in that Collar from the sub to a greater meaning, which is not the specific Master completely, but also the sub’s devotion to Leather lifestyle and Protocols.
There is no greater pain and doom to an Old Guard Leatherman to be collared and then left without guidance or directions by his Superiors. That’s why a true Master would always know to arrange that the sub can be properly Uncollared directly by Him, or by the chosen Brother, as a true sub can accept Uncollaring fully, only when it comes with the participation and validation of the Dominant.
Other kinds of BDSM Collars
Other interesting kinds of Collar that you can find during your BDSM lifestyle are the following which have a more build-linked purpose and their use depends on the specific submissive and the activities involved. We are going to list just a few of these here.
From it’s original to the most common seen Leather Spiker Collars, originally this was a Wolf Collar; it was the protection Collar placed on Shepard’s dogs and Hunting dogs to save them from attacks of other predators, such as Wolves. As the dogs would guard the animals during the night, they would often be the first target of Predators, who could then get on with feasting on the sheeps or other stock. These animals typically aim for the neck with their bite.
That’s why the spikes are there. Some modern BDSM slave wolf collars versions have very long spikes which are actually metal rods, preventing the slave from laying on the ground, forcing it to stay on his feet or all fours.
A Posture Collar is an item in the Bondage and BDSM realm that is very distinctive; coming straight from the Medical Fetish environment where these collars are used to keep the neck steady after an injury, they are used for discipline or simply as a mean of Bondage for the slave, forcing it to a very strict and rigid position without possibility of free movement. It’s a Collar that not everybody can wear.
This is a Training Collar that is particularly indicated for Dog Training or when the sub needs to feel the physical presence of the strictness imposed by discipline. Typically, if the slave pulls his chain or leash, the Torquator Collar would tighten into a choke around the neck, plus the metal spikes of the chain would push into the skin in a painful grip. This is particularly interesting in animal – human dynamics where the animal must learn to stay by the leash. It doesn’t substitute formal and mental training of course.
Why is there a need of a Collar to formalize the relationship's dynamics?
There's no actual "need" of anything that is not structured by the wishes, culture and needs of the Master and his slave; on this website, we talk about Old Guard Leather. In this culture, the Collar is one of the most meaningful and powerful symbols in the entire gear. Mankind has this tendency to lock into something physical what is emotional and meaningful; as an example, in most cultures of the world rings and bracelets are used to show the belonging of two lovers to one another and their commitment. In BDSM, the Collar works very similarly,
Does the Collar have the same meaning in every BDSM relationship?
To most serious BDSM people, the collar conveys to different degrees the important symbolic value we have been discussing. Yet, as the "kink scene" is taking over the stage because of their large number, the collar is becoming more of an outfit to that crowd, than actually meaning something solid.
Isn't wearing a Collar 24/7 dangerous?
Smoking is hazardous, anonymous sex is dangerous, and of course wearing a Collar 24/7 may present hazards, depending on how prepared the Master and the slaves are to deal with the obstacle that a 24/7 lifestyle presents. A skilled Master, however, knows which kind of chain or collars are the least dangerous for continuous usage, and will make sure that the submissive's sleeping place is free of potential risks of getting stuck with the Collar, strangled and such.
In my 17 years of living the lifestyle 24/7 never once I heard of someone getting injured because of a 24/7 Collar.