Old Guard Leather is a definition that depicts a specific high-intensity and belief driven lifestyle based on values such as integrity, honor and discipline, which represented the roots of the gay leather subculture. There’s often a lot of buzz about Old Guard in today’s Leather community. Understandably, in today’s lgbt environment, a lifestyle based on discipline, commitment and integrity is hard to see as fun and accessible, and rightfully so.
Old Guard Leather isn’t a way to have fun and be kinky; it’s a way of life and creed that forged most of the sexual nuances and hyperpolarities that are the very base of gay leather symbology. That is, of course, unless Leather to you means just striving to achieve some extra followers on instagram or Just for fans.
Table of Contents
- What is Old Guard Leather
- Old Guard vs New Guard
- Did Old Guard Leather exist?
- Old Guard Leathermen and Old Guard Leather
What is Old Guard Leather
Old Guard Leather is a lifestyle and belief system stemming from Military life and Protocols, often including BDSM and Domination / submissions dynamics, heavily structured on traditions, discipline and hierarchy. You can read more on the roots of Old Guard Leather, it’s Protocols and definitions here.
Misconceptions about the Old Guard
If you’ve been in the Leather and “kink” scene since a while, by now you’ll of course have heard about the ongoing Old Guard debate; many people use this word, and in the vaste majority of cases they don’t really know what they’re talking about. With little guidance and with lots of the older members of the community who survived the HIV epidemic who are giving misleading information for their own personal agenda, many men have found a quick and easy solution when being confronted with opinions about their interpretation of Leather lifestyle.
It appears nowadays that all that is needed to be a Leatherman, is to buy some Leather gear; specifically, it seems that there is an automatic mix between “being kinky” and being a Leatherman. With that vision, I do understand how Old Guard values must be confusing and taking the fun away for this audience.
Some men nowadays think that what makes the difference between being Old Guard and having a leather fetish, is being part of BLUF or not being part of BLUF. That’s wrong as well. BLUF is a community which literally stands for “Breeches and Leather Uniforms Fanclub”; it’s a place, community and group that have a strong Fetish for Uniforms and Leather. While respect for the tradition of Leather, Boots and Uniforms are an important part of Old Guard Culture, they’re not the foundation of it, especially in today’s context. You can be a great fetishists for these symbols, but that doesn’t qualify you as an Old Guard Leatherman and viceversa.
The confusion on the Old Guard Leather topic is also increased by the choices of some influent senior people in the kinky community, who decided to completely cancel Old Guard history for their own benefit. Old Guard is about Integrity, Tradition, Discipline, a strong set of core values, introspection, growth and Strictness. It’s not an easy lifestyle, and until you’ve completed a learning curve that needs you to drop a lot of Ego and self assumption, you won’t be able to appreciate it.
Of course, that means that it’s difficult to make friends or fuck buddies in this modern society where everything needs to be ready-made, easily accessible, and mostly based on 3 things only: Popularity, Chemsex and costly ticket based parties or events.
Being an older gentleman with a Leather jacket doesn’t imply they knew anything about Old Guard back in the day. I have the feeling this is exactly the core reason why some of these senior people are pretending Old Guard never existed, conveniently blowing in the wings of misinformation. In nowadays gay scene is difficult to get laid if you don’t look like a muscle god and you’re not within your 40s; imagine how hard would it be to feel validated through sex and not feeling rejected if you also expected integrity and a sense of honor from your partners. So, many “Daddies” nowadays live like teenagers, as this is convenient to their needs. It’s not about any lgbt or inclusiveness based agenda. It’s all about the need of not feeling rejected or ignored.
Another frequent misconception to note, is that there is not “one” absolute and only set of Protocols and Rituals defining Old Guard; there wasn’t some saint or fool that spook the rules for all the Leathermen in the world; every “house” or tribe or pack had (and have) their differences, which were passed on through Rituals, Ceremonies and direct Mentoring. What is common to every Old Guard Leatherman is a Martial / military based doctrine based on discipline, integrity and honor based on the three S of Old Guard, which I’ll cover later.
History of Old Guard Leather
So what are the roots of Old Guard for Leathermen? Old Guard is a term that takes its name directly from the last small artillery detachment left in place after the Revolution in 1784 as a result of the Treaty of Paris.
After World War II, as men came out of war, the Army awarded them with motorcycles. As these men went back to the civilian life after war time, they could not fit in easily anymore, and needed to still have a space where to live as brothers, united by the same values, hard learnt hierarchies concepts, codes of conduct and Protocols. They missed the camaraderie and the strict way of life of the Army, so that’s how they started forming specific Motorcycle Clubs, which were truly where the Old Guard Leather culture and lifestyle was born.
Of course at the time the standard protective item for bikers was Leather wear, and Leather Motorcycle Boots. That’s why Leather Garments and Motorcycles (and the whole visual image of the Leatherman as we have it) resembles the specific look and items of the late 40’s / mid 60’s.
You can deepen your read about the origins of Old Guard Leather and the traditional wear on this article on why leathermen wear leather.
Why is Leather attractive to many gay men as a look
Now, I realize that today asking most people in the kink scene “why do you wear your leather?” feels provocative; they would have no clue on what to answer. Some of them would answers “because it’s a turn on”. And why is it a turn on? Where does this “look” come from?
Sure, it became most popular thanks to Tom of Finland’s drawings and art, which is definitely an authentic gay cultural milestone and historical landmark. But Touko’s work isn’t about Leather or about Old Guard. Some of of Touko’s drawings are about a biker wearing Leather, yes (Kake). But they have to do with sexual liberation, sexual fantasy, and cruising, during an extremely oppressive time for gay men. The reason why Kake wears Leather and those men look that way, is simply because in that historical time, men wore Leather and had a motorcycle.
The diffusion in gay clubs of Tom of Finland’s magazines made that look popular in the mainstream gay scene, and today’s commercialization of everything has led to what at the present time, is the “kink scene”.
But truly, behind that, for those who sexualize Leather regardless of the looks, it’s because of its power. That power comes from the symbolism embodied trough years of celebration of masculinity and domination, passing trough Military, Law Enforcement, and more.
Old Guard Leather Values
What differentiates immediately a guy wearing Leather and an Old Guard Leatherman, is that the first person wears leather, the second lives a lifestyle based on three core values, set by men who used to wear Leather daily: Strictness, Structure, Stability. These, are the Three S of Old Guard Leather.
Strictness is fundamental to provide a Structure, the base of any lifestyle built on Honor, Creed and Commitment. Strictness has to do with Discipline. Old Guard lifestyle comes straight from Military life; it is about an energy flow that is part of mankind since the Ancient Greeks and way before; men always in history learnt to live through spending time with other men, Older Men, who would have taught them about Philosophy, Combat, and also Sex. This all has to do with one single core value that is so much lacking nowadays in society, and in the specific in the modern gay society: Education and Respect. Education is strictly linked to Respect and Structuring of personality and what defines a man as such.
Strictness is about teaching to the young a set of rigid rules, which all have a strong meaning and have been set in place through history because, through a trial and error process, men have figured out that some things in life are customizable and linked to personal opinion, but some others require a set of rules, a path to follow, to lead to a greater goal, which is the structure. Young men are chaotic by nature; while chaos is an important element in the balance of the Universe, as without chaos there is no life nor evolution, at the same time chaos without control leads to destruction (instability).
One of the reasons why I love Old Guard so much, is that things work in a logical way that you can observe in everything, even in chemistry.
Since we mankind have a strong difference from animals in our capability of processing thought into action through intention and project, we need to channel that chaos into a structure, in order to build anything. Now, because with society we have given an order to things (be it names, descriptions, social orders and such), it is needed a system to encode hierarchy.
The concept of Hierarchy we’re talking about of course comes, like Old Guard, from Military life. But is it really something made by men? Take a look at how any Mammal living in packs behave. Wolves, Deers, Monkeys, Lions, even Dogs. They all live by a Hierarchy made of an Alpha, Leader of the pack, who have earned that title, and a set of other members lined in a hierarchy down to the Omega. These packs have an horizontal Hierarchy; everybody is important and needed, but also everybody has their own roles and missions to keep the pack alive and functional. So, because we are nothing but evolved mammals, we have encoded this nature into a set of definitions that work for human life. We can soften the most brutal aspects of Nature, and we should, but we can’t defy nature.
Strictness is fundamental to create an encoded path to follow. Wether you live in mere chaos, or wether you need a Structure to live by to give your life meaning, purpose and goals. What are the goals you live by? Why do you wear your Leather? What defines you as a Leatherman as a life choice, and what does it give back to you? 90% of the modern “leathermen” will stutter and get confused when prompted with these sort of questions (or attack you), as the modern lack of structure behind the Leather lifestyle has made these symbols completely sterile and empty; it’s a fetish, and willingness of feeling included in a social trend, and little more.
Structure is needed in Leather sex and BDSM relationships especially, since because of their extreme intensity, they can have severe or deadly consequences when handled without structure, both on the physical, emotional and psychological level.
Through Strictness and Discipline, you create a set of rules and values, which create a Structure, a Framework that is needed to build a hierarchy where everybody is taken care of, a horizontal distribution of roles and power, in which everybody has their specific part to play and role to live for, giving serenity, peace and a sense of “home” to all the parties included. You can’t achieve this without structure. Let’s compare it to the way and adolescent lives and how a grown man lives.
An adolescent is pervaded by chaos and the need to explore, conquer and achieve experience on his own; he will rebel parents, he will despite their teachings, and that’s part of nature as well, as the adolescent needs to learn by himself that without strictness (education, values, belief and commitment) there is no structure (they struggle at finding a meaning for their existence, and usually this ends up in drugs abuse or other unhealthy coping mechanisms), and without structure (where a structure has of course to make sense for them, there is not a universal structure that applies for all humanity) there is no stability. They will grow up as unstable adults, still locked in their adolescent part of development, keeping on living in chaos which is their way of not thinking about reality, where the reality is a constant sense of loneliness, lack of purpose and lack of satisfaction in whatever they do. Ever felt that way?
We are not saying here that Old Guard Leather is the only way of having Structure, Discipline and a happier life. We are saying that Old Guard is founded on these principles.
As said, Strictness is needed to provide a Structure. With no strictness, the natural resistance of the undisciplined to structure, will make it impossible for the structure to be maintained. That structure, of whichever kind, is what humans need to live happy; well, most humans. We are all different, and some people might enjoy a life without any rule or structure, in complete chaos and anarchy. I won’t judge a person’s individual needs and choices, but then you don’t belong to Old Guard Leather for sure.
There would be a whole chapter about “Renegades” in the Old Guard scene here, but this article would become too long, and the whole Renegade scene had to do with a specific historical time. It really doesn’t apply nowadays, not in the same means.
But what happens when there is no solid structure, while there only is a pale imitation of it (eg. most of nowadays leather relationships)? There is no stability.
These relationships or stories based on the desire to live in a BDSM relationship fail often (if you know what we mean, here is an article about how to deal with the end of a BDSM relationship), they last a few months (mots of the times only a weekend, the span of an event hardon) and then they crumble. One says he’s your Master and then 3 days later he wants to be a slave. One says he is your boy for life and when you’ve almost bought a new house to live together he’ll tell you he changed is mind. One says he is an expert bullwhip Master and a super Bondage person; next thing you know you have a corpse on the floor tangled in ropes. This is of course a dramatization of the possibilities (but not that much so, as there are situations which end up in this way).
What is needed to make any core belief to work, especially a Relationship based on these concepts, on the long run? It is needed that both parties (or all of the parties, when talking about a larger group) even before loving each other greatly, they are solid and grounded in what the believe in, more than in everything else. As I always tell my boys: first you must fall in love with what I’m teaching you. You must love leather lifestyle for yourself first; and then, when you can’t live without it because you’ve finally understood its whole architecture and balance, you can freely choose every day to submit to me with your whole heart, as being your Master I am the beacon and holder of the Strictness, which gives you the Structure you need, and in return we all have a solid Stability. This is what a Master also is.
The importance of Discipline
But why is Discipline so important? I’ll try to explain to a general crowd why, while also taking into account those who have a fetish for Discipline, but would like to understand better why they love it. In one short sentence, the answer is short: because we need it.
Let’s expand a little bit on why we need it with an example. Most gay people go to the gym, obsessed with their bodies in order to acquire validation from this modern concept of entitlement linked to a homologation of what looks “good”, so let’s use the gym as an example understandable by most of the men reading. Don’t be offended if you’re not part of the group I have just mentioned. The example with gym will work well.
When you go to the gym for changing your looks, you generally have one goal: wether it’s to become leaner, or to build muscle mass. In both cases, you’re going to find out very early something that is discouraging to most. It’s very difficult; it requires constant strive, and it doesn’t end in the workout area; to reach your goals, you have to make sacrifices. You have to adjust the way you eat, you have to change your plans for the free time because to build a body takes dedication and constant work, and even after you do all this, results don’t come out in a week, and neither in a month. It takes a long long time to build the body you want to have (especially if you don’t cheat with steroids and other bullshit like that).
In one word, a true bodybuilder knows that their lifestyle is about Discipline. Without that drive to discipline to keep working hard, to keep in their minds the words “no pain, no gain”, they will easily drop out of the gym within one week or one month. This is exactly the same thing with any other lifestyle based on strength. In fact, it requires a great deal of strength to stay by the values you have chosen to live by.
So why is Discipline enforcement and teaching needed? Because we all need discipline. It’s extremely difficult to maintain discipline and that’s why there are rules and orders to which you can’t freely say “I’m into it” or “not now”. Orders and rules must be respected at all times and promptly exactly because they are the structure needed for things to work. Of course, rules and orders should accordingly be set thoughtfully, and not just randomly to be pleased and served.
Old Guard vs New Guard
New Guard is the mainstream leather scene, differentiating from Old Guard essentially on a few key points:
- A refusal of rigid structures, rules and value for Rituals and Ceremonies
- New Guard is mostly fueled by social media popularity and commercialization of sex and dating
- New Guard sees gear as “outfits” and “looks”
- Old Guard is based on Gatekeeping; you have to earn your place in Leather. New Guard opposes Gatekeeping.
- Old Guard is founded on integrity and respect. New Guard is founded on social perception of value, ego and self fulfillment.
The list of differences could go on; the main difference that we can observe is that New Guard is based on a more modern society model, based on individualism, popularity, and a sense of community anchored to self confirmation instead of self challenge, where self growth seem to be linked to the unilateral confirmation of beliefs supporting comfort instead of fatigue, removing historical reference, constantly marking it as “toxic” by default.
From 2015 to 2019 we have observed an unfortunate trend: more or less influent people in the pop/commercial leather scene have started a cancel culture against Old Guard, trying to indoctrinate newcomers to the idea that there never was an Old Guard, and that whoever teaches you how you should live leather, is full of it. What I found most surprising is the violence with which these people try to isolate and publicly shame anyone who has a belief in something more than just wearing leather to have fun.
A personal note, is that I find fascinating how new guard and generally modern queer culture advertises itself as open, protecting minorities and celebrating authenticity, and yet at the same time is so violently aggressive towards anything that exits its agenda; this culture seems to validate only what it knows and is comfortable in, while all the rest of the gamut that might contradict their lifestyle, seems to be a threat to cancel and erase.
Masters in Old Guard and new guard
From its birth to its evolution till the HIV Epidemic in the 80’s and 90’s, Old Guard Leather was an all-rounding way of life that was handed down generation through generation, by Master to their boys who would have then become Daddies or Masters themselves, keeping alive and spreading this lifestyle forming a small by definition, yet strong community circling around the same core values, although with slight differences across America and the world. With the arrival of the internet, we all got to hook up faster, easier and our concept of building relationships was revolutionized. With this wow factor, though, also came danger.
All of a sudden you had these self proclaimed masters started to pop out everywhere. As the image of BDSM and Domination and submission became diffused, everyone wanted to be a part of it, and while in the Old Days you had to walk into the scene and EARN that status, now all you needed was a camera, a few hot pictures emulating some porn, an internet connection, and being a top.
You didn’t have to go through the training, the experience, and understanding what submission is all about. These “men” wanted to be spoilt and serviced “just because”, while a true Leatherman knows that the submission of the man in front of you comes as a result of the good work you’re doing as a Leader. This is also why, in our vision, FinDom is not in any way associable to real Domination and submission, not to mention a Master and slave dynamic. You can read more about FinDom here.
As a result, the lack of that training which was all about Strictness, Discipline and a Doctrine to learn, follow and live by, brought to a systemic degrading of the value and nobility of this lifestyle, bringing many subs to be endangered (physically, emotionally and psychologically) by these self proclaimed Masters, but also many good Doms to be emotionally destroyed by fake subs who simply used and consumed the Doms self esteem. This is why nowadays you get so many people shrugging shoulders saying “at the end, the slave is the real Master / is the sub who’s in control”, thinking that they are saying something smart and wise. Truly, they are simply testifying the standardization of the degrading of the real lifestyle that Old Guard brought on, and the real face of modern gay Leather: a role play.
Yet, a Domination and submission relationship has the power to make permanent damages if not handled properly; that’s why rules and training are needed. Not because Old Guard people get off on “Rituals and Ceremonies”; it’s because we thrive on respect, loyalty, patience and responsibility.
Is New Guard wrong?
New Guard isn’t inherently wrong at all as a concept; nothing is wrong as long as its based on consent and respect others. The fact that so many New Guard people seem incapable of respecting anybody who contradicts their life choices, is the wrong part.
What kind of message does the modern gay scene (similarly to the teens scene) promote? On one side, stemming from extremely positive and agreeable concepts, there is the promotion of total individual freedom. On the other side, an increasing sense of individualism and loneliness is rising. Chemsex is strongly diffused and considered “normal”. You can read more about this on the Gay depression pandemic post), and men don’t seem able to connect to each other anymore. Even sex dating is based on achieving “content” to promote one’s channel online. They have started to call dating “collabs”.
It appears that the only important things, imported straight from the brain-wash that the 90’s did to pop culture, are the following: popularity, validation through fitting into homologation, followers, and how many loads one can carry in their butt after one hour in Gran Canaria (see our views on bareback sex here). At least, once there was a fetish behind the idea of taking stranger loads in your ass. I am dead sure these bottoms have a strong sense of unfulfillment even after taking 10 loads (but probably it feels better if you’re high on chems). And guess what? That’s because they have the feeling that those loads did not come from the “real” tops they desired. And this, comes from the fact that we all have the same roots inside of us, and most men, especially submissives, have the same needs to serve a real Leader, and not a drugged up random kid at a party.
Earlier I have stated that chaos when not channeled leads to destruction, and indeed all of this partying in the constant strive of feeling less lonely and purposeless, leads to a deep sense of frustration and even anger. That anger, is constantly pointed towards those who have found a pattern, a reason to live, an integrity and a stability. They seem to hate it, and they hate it because it reminds them of how much they miss it, but at the same time how much they think they can’t achieve it. If you dare to differ in opinions with young gay men nowadays, you will get literally assaulted; they are the majority now.
So, this side of New Guard is wrong. These people have cannibalized every single symbol they could find, they have made everything theirs in this incredibile hunger for something “new”, and sadly they have become the oppressors inside of their own community.
Now, you must be non binary, you must be gender fluid, you must love drag queens (where if you just don’t care for them, it must mean you hate them), you must watch Ru Paul, you must be versatile; if by any chance you happen to be born in a body that actually represents your identity and you enjoy your own masculinity (in it’s traditional and spontaneous sense), you’re toxic. Read more about how modern queer culture became toxic here, in our opinion.
It’s almost as if a part of this new guard world is scared about being left behind if people start loving a structured lifestyle based on honor. And hence, this is the phenomenon of New Guard Washing. The last fashion, is to state that Old Guard never existed.
Did Old Guard Leather ever exist?
I was going to post the several tweets screenshots I have collected over time from several “Mr Leather” and modern spokesman of the scene who publicly claimed that Old Guard never existed to fulfill their personal agenda (a word of mention goes here to Race Bannon and his article about it).
Going straight to the point, if any proof was ever needed regarding the existence of Old Guard Community and Values, since John Weal is not considered a reliable source by so many (I find John Weal’s Leatherman’s Protocol Handbook a valuable testimony of his life experience, that in a normal subculture community should be protected and recognized), Guy Baldwin has talked extensively of it in an article on Leatherati that you can read here.
More historical references about Old Guard can be found on this article in our blog.
The point, is not wether to determine if Guy Baldwin is better than John Weal who is better than LeatherBigWolf who is better than many other personalities in Leather; we are all, simply, men. The point is to aknowledge that, in its many variations, Old Guard not only existed, but still lives. And saying the opposite just not to face that there’s something else other than what you think you can validate with your direct experience, is abusive and hurtful.
The reason why there is little resource online about Old Guard, is because Old Guard Men didn’t advertise their actions; they didn’t need to have online followers, and are by definition private people.
Old Guard Leather Lives
Not only Old Guard existed. It exists now. There are people who believe in it, there are people who live by this code with all their heart and with a dedication that is uncorruptible. It is a Creed, it is a way of life, and just because it’s not accessible to the most because of their lack of strength, it doesn’t mean it’s dead or non existent.
I exist. My boy exists. My slave exists. My Mentors existed. My Brothers they exist. The other boys I have mentored exist. We are all here. I constantly receive correspondence from men who would like to be Mentored; I just wished I had more time on my hands to do more. Those who like to say that Old Guard doesn’t exist should think very hard about what they’re doing, because suppressing and denying the existence of those who are different is something that racists, xenophobes, homophobes and nazis did. They wouldn’t want to find theirselves to be part of this kind of crowd, wouldn’t they?