Sunday, August 31, 2008

Maryland Crab Feast

There is nothing, I mean nothing, like a steamed Maryland Blue Crab. Sweet and delicate, meaty and tasty, these morsels of the Chesapeake Bay have been a delight of many over the years. And, unfortunately, due to overfishing, pollution, and other problems, there are far fewer crabs available today than there were just last year.

Today I rode with friends to one of my very favorite places to get crabs (or other Bay seafood.) This restaurant is just about 35 miles east and south of u
s. The restaurant has a pleasant outside deck and is located on the Severn River, near Annapolis, our state capitol.

I was shocked when the server told us that one dozen large #1 male crabs cost US$70 per dozen. OMG! That's almost $6 each! Yikes! Just a few years ago, my partner and I enjoyed an "all you can eat" crab feast for $30 each at this same restaurant. Now for that same amount of money, you get five crabs. Sheesh. Probably the last time we go out for crabs any time again... as much as I love steamed crabs, this is too much. But today, I splurged. I split a dozen crabs with a buddy. The crabs were great -- meaty, firm, fresh, and quite tasty.

It takes a long time to eat one crab, from cracking the claws to squeezing the feelers (small swimming legs) to "opening the hatch" and removing the shell, discarding the gills and intestines, and get the lump meat inside. Dip it in a little butter and Old Bay seasoning, and pop it in your mouth. Yum! Part of the tradition of enjoying a crab feast is to take your time and talk with your friends. And there is a lot of time for that!

Usually one washes down the crabs with beer, but since we were on our motorcycles, we just bought pitchers of soft drinks.

It was another incredibly beautiful day in Maryland. Warm but not hot, sunny, and unusually low humidity. What a great day!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Storing Boots

With over 130 pairs of boots in my collection (and I regularly wear most of them), places to put them has been running out. My partner is a very patient man, but he insisted that we do something about "all those boots" this weekend.

I had to find a place for 14 pairs of boots, and get them up off the floor (so my partner would not trip on them). I got this idea from someone who described this process on "boots on line" a few years ago. You simply install brackets on a wall, ensure the brackets are level, and then place a shower rod across them.

If you are like we are, you end up with a lot of cheap wire clothes hangars when you bring home shirts from the dry cleaner. I simply cut apart the hangars and crafted hooks out of them. I hang one end of the hook on the rod, and put the other end of the hook on a boot's pull strap. Then just hang the boot.

This whole set-up did not cost much -- just about US$40 for the brackets and rods. I was going to use shower curtain hooks for the boots, but my local HomoDepot was remodeling and didn't have any. Not wanting to chase all over the place, I thought that I could cut apart wire hangars, which worked very well. It took a little bit more time to make the hooks, but it did not take very long and I like to save money when I can.

By the way, the new storage is in our garage. My partner doesn't really want to see more boots in our living space. I already have a rather large set of shelves in our basement on which I keep 50 pairs of boots, and then the rest fit on shelves on one wall of my walk-in-closet. (We have "his-and-his" walk-in closets. Since I built our house, I made sure we had lots of closet space).

For now, all the boots have a home when I'm not wearing them. And best yet, my partner is happy.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Summer's End

That is not me in the photo above, but it expresses how I am feeling. A bit of melancholy as my Harley and I face the sunset of a pleasant summer of 2008. August hasn't ended yet, but by the looks of the volume of materials to review for upcoming meetings and public hearings and on and on, my summer recess is over!

I remember as a kid that I thought it was cruel and unusual punishment for school to continue through the third week of June in Maryland. It already had been warm since April and the days were longer. Last place I wanted to be was in an school with no air conditioning in the middle of June!

Almost as soon as school ended, Mom and Dad would pack all of us into (two) cars (there were a lot of us kids) and take us to see our country -- north, south, east, west, and everywhere in between. We would be on the road for about six to seven weeks, staying in each destination for a few days, see the sights, the State Capitol, caves, mountains, rivers, oceans, and much more. I really loved those summers. Especially the trip where each parent thought the other had my sister (the one who drove me craziest) in the other's car. They inadvertently left her in the bathroom at a gas station in the middle of Nebraska. Rats! They figured it out and Dad went back to get her.

As an adult, my summer really doesn't begin until afte
r Independence Day (July 4), as my volunteer life consumes me even longer than school days did. Then I get through my company's mid-July week-long conference. After that, I'm home free. While I still go to work, things aren't rushed or crazy. Washington typically "evacuates" during this period. There is much less traffic on the road, fewer passengers riding the subway, and it's just easier to get around. If I ate out at lunch (which I don't), I've been told it's much easier to get a table at a restaurant.

I took my ideal vacation last week -- a "staycation" where I took a week off work and stayed HOME! While I did a number of things for my family and worked a bit on the house, I also allowed myself some "playtime" and you saw some of the results in blog posts from last week.

Well, it's all about to come crashing to a halt. E-mail related to my volunteer activities has been flowing in very fast. Papers, reports, maps, charts, graphics... lots of "stuff"... have been flowing to me for review. Most of it is on-line now (saving millions of trees). Nonetheless, if I learned anything from my political mentor, it was to read everything and then read it again. That's how I get on top of my game. But man oh man oh man, that takes a lot of time.

And on top of that, my partner has been complaining about my boot collection becoming too cumbersome for him to deal with. Drat, he tripped over one pair of boots and now the world will end. So instead of playing, riding my Harley, and relaxing this weekend, he has an agenda for constructio
n of some utility storage for my boots. And he won't rest and stop harping on it until it's done.

Well, the "Labor Day" weekend will involve more "labor" than "weekend". I have carved out a small period of time to go on a motorcycle ride to a crab feast on Sunday. But that's it. And come next week, watch out! The routine will have returned with a vengeance. Wish me peace!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Special Privilege

I work in Washington, DC, the capital of the United States of America. I have to pinch myself sometimes as I look around when I take a lunchtime walk. Is this real? Do I really work here? I should not take my good fortune that my office is in such an amazing location for granted.

I don't work for the government, nor am I a lobbyist. There are some who believe that everyone who works in the city must be one or the other. I'm just a guy who works in a non-profit organization that is based on Capitol Hill, in the heart of what some claim to be the most powerful location in the free world.

Yesterday I was invited to attend a presentation that was held in one of the office buildings that is used by the House of Representatives. As I walked to the meeting from my office, I crossed the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Despite all the rhetoric -- especially these days leading up to an historic election on November 4 -- I remained awed by being on the grounds of such an important, historic place. I actually was humming the National Anthem as I was walking along, watching tourists from all over the world stop and take photos, asking cops for directions, and staring at the glory. I tell 'ya, this place is stunning.

To my right was the national mall and the Washington
Monument. What a commanding view. It brought many memories of a happy childhood climbing the 897 steps inside the Monument to the top (can't do that any more), walking into the Capitol Building itself without an appointment (can't do that any more), and flying a kite on the mall (you can still do that.) Unfortunately, with all the security in the area, it's not as picturesque as it once was, with all the fences, signs, cops, road blocks, and barriers.

Another memory I had was that my parents told me that they met by literally bumping into each other on the west steps of the Capitol Building. I owe my very existence to that chance encounter.

The rambling and echoing hallways of the Rayburn building, with the bronze signs indicating the locations of committee hearing rooms, continued to inspire me, a "participating" U.S. citizen. Not that I forgive them, but I can understand why legislators get drunk with power when they walk those hallways, and sit at tables on risers above the rest of the floor.

As I returned to my office, I took a different route, past the Library of Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. What crossed my mind is why this upcoming election is so important -- to try to change the wrong-wing decisions of the Court by having a President who will appoint justices who interpret the U.S. Constitution with more of an open mind, with fairness to everyone (including me, a gay guy who loves another man and wants our relationship to be able to be recognized in civil law as our civil right.) So yep, this election will be important for that, and for much more. But that's the extent of where I'll go in expressing my political opinions on this blog. There are many other blogs that blather about all that.

I truly am privileged to work in such a special city. I shouldn't take it for granted. Few have the ability to walk out the door every day and see such important places where history continues to be made.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Lonliness of Dying Alone

My blog posts of late have indicated the fullness and vitality of loving life. And I really do believe I am most blessed by God by having a wonderful and supportive life-mate in my partner, a caring and humongous family, and terrific friends -- some of whom I have known since I was three years old. I'm even more blessed by my additional "brothers" in my cherished "AZ", Clay, and UTBR. Blessings continue with my relationship with a huge band of seniors whom I have come to adore and spend a lot of time with. However, that's what I'm blogging about today -- my senior pals, most of whom live lonely lives 'cause their kids forget about them.

Mabel called at 4am the other day. She's one of my senior friends who like many others, lives alone. She has two daughters who live in distant states. From time to time, I do some household repairs for her, have her join my aunt and me when we do our weekly grocery shopping, and sometimes just sit and listen. She's among a close group who serve, in a way, as another adopted "family."

Whenever the phone rings at 4am, it is never good news. Mabel sounded very concerned -- she said that she heard a loud "ka-thump" in the apartment above her. She thought that her upstairs neighbor fell. She tried calling him and then
knocked on his door, but there was no answer. She was afraid that she was overreacting, and didn't want to call the security station at her retirement community because she had been admonished once for "bothering them." (I don't know the full story; nonetheless, she is reluctant to call them.)

Mabel has a key to her neighbor's condo, but didn't want to go in alone. She was afraid. She called me. I got up, got dressed, told my partner what was going on. He sighed and asked me to send him an email at work later to let him know what happened.

A few minutes later, I had arrived at Mabel's apartment. She and I knocked, then opened her neighbor's door. We found him in his bedroom. He had collapsed. He wasn't breathing and there was no heartbeat. I called 9-1-1 and the community's security station. While in the kitchen by the phone, I saw a "DNR" (do not resuscitate) order posted on the refrigerator. Responders were there in a flash, and I pointed out the DNR order. They understood, and just turned it over to the cops. Mabel's neighbor died. Alone.

The cops who came were outstanding in their calmness, professionalism, and compassion. They explained what happens when someone dies alone. They conducted an investigation, but knew that nothing sinister happened. Mabel's 90-year-old neighbor who had been living alone for over a decade had a cardiac arrest. Mabel cried, held my hand, and just wanted to talk. She was frightened. I just sat with her for several hours until the coroner arrived and the cops said we could go.

The man's daughter who lives about 50 miles away arrived, breathless. "I talked to him last week on the phone," she said tearfully. That wasn't the time to criticize anyone. A week is a long, long time when you're alone.

My partner wonders why I call about 15 people every day when I get home from work. They have no one else to check on them. No one else to call. They're alone. It's so sad. Nobody should be alone in the world, nobody.

If you have family or friends who live alone, give 'em a call, if nothing other than to say that you're thinking of them. Give them an ear to share a story, a thought, a memory, an idea. Send them a card on their birthday and at other times too -- I go "card crazy" sometimes by sending cards for no reason at all, other than to say, "you're important; you're thought of today." (I really ought to by stock in Hallmark.)

Being alone doesn't mean that one has to be lonely. Who knows, when you call someone living alone, you might learn something! I sure do. I learn a lot about life, about love, and about things that enrichen my spirit, my knowledge, and myself. I am a much better man for the richness of the souls whose lives are intertwined with mine.

Life is short: show those you love that you love them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Best Darn Boot Shop

Stompers Boots of San Francisco is by far the best darn boot shop in the world. While that's the owner's statement, I agree with it. Over the years, I have purchased about 20 pairs of boots from this fine establishment in San Francisco's SOMA district. While I would like to have purchased all of the boots I got from them in person, since I live 3,000 miles away, most of my purchases have been via the phone, the store's website, and email confirmations.

Why, to me, are they the best? And why do I link from dozens of pages on my website, including my home page, to them?

My website is visited by bikers often. Bikers ought to know where to get decent motorcycle boots and stop wearing sneakers and shorts when riding. But I also have these reasons for endorsing Stompers so strongly:

Stompers has a great selection, particularly of biker boots. Dehner, Wesco, and Chippewa boots that they carry have found their way onto my feet, as well as a pair of Sendras, which Stompers carries too. They usually have most everything in stock, or can get it quickly. That isn't true for many other boot merchants.

Stompers is particularly good about working with customer
s on custom orders. Most of my tall biker boots are custom, including most of my Dehners and all of my Wesco engineer and harness boots. Chippewa Boots aren't available in custom sizes, but Stompers knows how to get me fitted correctly in Chips.

Mike, Stompers' Owner, offers great personal customer service. He wants his Bootmen customers to be happy. He ensures that the order is right. He also has a wickedly funny sense of humor, and has been fun to talk to and exchange email with. I am honored to enjoy his friendship, and to have thrown hundreds of referrals his way, knowing that many have resulted in sales.

Stompers' prices are competitive, and there is not a
shipping charge for domestic U.S. orders. I haven't found the quality boots that I have wanted at a lower cost elsewhere. And Stompers is really good about getting custom orders to me as quickly as possible by working with its suppliers. Price-wise, I have saved about 20% off of MSRP when ordering through Stompers rather than from the manufacturer, such as Wesco, directly. The tall brown Wesco Harness Boots custom-made to my size (calf width being the issue) shown to the right were ordered from Wesco through Stompers, among others. I have gotten a lot of compliments on these boots. They look great! I often wear them proudly with jeans or leathers tucked in when I ride my Harley.

Stompers really knows how to display boots well in both excellent photography as well as "bootcam" videos that Mike has made. The boots are not only displayed, but shown on guys wearing them. You can see how a certain pair of boots would look on your own feet through the images and videos offered on the Stompers Boots website.

Update: I was honored to see that, with my permission, Mike has featured one of my photos with my Chippewa Firefighter boots on his website, here and here as well as joining the rotation of photos that appear when the home page is refreshed. Wow! Thanks, Mike!

If you have been thinking about getting some new boots, visit Stompers, either in person or on-line. You will be happy that you did.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Improving the Harley's Comfort

I have ridden my new Road King over 2,000 miles since I got it at the end of May. During that time, I have found that my back ached after riding, even for fairly short distances, and especially after a long ride. I was having to hunch over and lean forward when I rode with the stock handlebars. My wrists ached also, and my hands went numb due to the position my hands were in on the stock bars. The residual soreness in my back and my wrists lasted for days. Aspirin was becoming my "best friend."

Working closely with the outstanding Parts Manager at my local Harley dealer, he measured my reach, height, and looked carefully at my body position on the bike. Using those measurements, he found some bars in an after-market catalog that he thought might be better. He placed the order for me. When the bars came in, he had the service department clamp them onto my bike so he could make sure the bars were right for me. They seemed to fit well. But the Service Manager at my Harley dealer said they wouldn't install the bars because the bars were not made by the Motor Company. (Grumble, grumble... but the service dept. at my Harley dealer is known to be rather poor, anyway.) Moving on, the Parts Manager went with me to a custom motorcycle shop up the street to introduce me to them, and to discuss how to make these bars work with the "fly-by-wire" electronic throttle.

The new bars have a 1" (2.5cm) higher "rise" and a 3-1/2" (8.9cm) longer pull-back. I picked up the bike yesterday after the installation was complete, and rode 80 miles. I led a ride today and rode about another 80 miles. Tonight, I have a huge smile on my face because I am not sore in the least bit! I knew the fit could be made better. I now sit up straight with my arms slightly bent. My wrist angle is perfect, too. No soreness or numbness. Terrific!

You also see me in this pic with yet another new helmet. It was made by Seer, which is the helmet worn by CHP officers. It was painted to match the color of my Harley. It is a 3/4 helmet, giving me an open face, but full protection around my head. Worn with protective eyewear, this helmet works great, especially on hot days. It is cooler than a full-face helmet, which I will wear when it is colder.

I'm a happy Booted Harleydude, and much more comfortable on my bike while riding, due to the new bars, new helmet, and am always really comfortable in my Chippewa Firefighter Boots.

Life is short! Wear your boots! (and be comfortable, too!)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Importance of Touch

This photo is not my partner and me, but it could be. We both believe in the intimate feeling of touch. When we greet, it's through touch, often including a full bear hug embrace. When we sit near one another, our hands intertwine, naturally. Heck, I'll even play "bootsie" (that's "footsie" but since I always wear boots, I have adjusted the term.)

Saturday morning is my favorite time of the whole week. We don't have to rush to do anything (usually), and this time of year when I have a summer recess, I don't have to run out to meetings or public hearings first thing in the morning.

As dawn awakens us naturally, my partner and I just lay next to one another in bed and watch the sun's glow light up the trees. We feel each other's touch, from shoulder to toe. Often, we just lay there holding one another without saying a word. This is incredibly important to both of us. It is a way we continue to show our love for one another, and to enjoy each other's warmth and tenderness.

How blessed I am to have a man who enjoys cuddling as much as I do. A man who shares his deepest thoughts and ideas during these times, when we have quiet but often future-shaping conversations. But most of all, I appreciate that I have a man who values the importance of touch. Our touch with one another often expresses more than words can ever convey.

Next time you see someone you care about, greet him or her warmly with an embrace, the touch of a two-handed handshake, and a big smile. Life is short: show those you love that you love 'em.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Messy, Messy (but fun!)

I have a very wide diversity of interests when it comes to boots and leather. The only boots I don't like are rubber boots, ropers, and Chelsea (dress) boots. (Well, I also find absolutely no use for boots that go above the knee). Other than that, you'll find pretty much all other types of boots in my collection and on my feet.

A while back, someone whose photography on an on-line forum called "Boots on Line" reached out to me via email. He's a rather private individual, and I respect his privacy. I admire him a lot though. We have much in common, except sexual orientation, but that's neither here nor there. I have a partner and I'm not interested in any other guy for reasons other than making and keeping friendships. And even though my friend is straight, he isn't narrow-minded.

"Bamaboy" is a very creative man in his photography and his skills with Photoshop. His photos are "legend" in some circles. He has been best known for photos of various tall boots in mud, with mud, around mud, and with dried mud. I know it sounds messy, but every now and then the boy comes out in both of us, and we take a walk in our boots through mud. (Not together; I haven't had the pleasure of meeting him face-to-face.)

Bama sold me a pair of his most well-used boots. They are 18" black Wesco Harness Boots. They show a lot of character from all of his "Muddin' Fun". I received them in June, but had not had much of a chance to return them to their previous "enjoyment" until today. I went for a ride, stopped near a stream, and, well... got a little messy. See the pics that I took today at this link. It was fun! My internal "little boy" played for a bit.

Then I rode home, cleaned the boots, my bike, my clothes, and anything else upon which mud fell. I even scrubbed the kitchen while I was at it.

We all have times when we remember fun we had as kids, and every now and then as an adult, why not enjoy it? I sure did.

Life is short! Wear your boots! Enjoy and live life to its fullest!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Arrested!

As threatened in yesterday's blog post, when my partner arrived at home yesterday, I arrested him. The charges? Being kind, gentle, sweet, and thoughtful. For giving me the very best birthday present I could ever want -- being "biker-napped." For being my soulmate and best friend, for caring, and most of all, for forgiving my faults and weaknesses. Heck, I'm still head over bootheels in love with my guy, 15 years and going strong.

So when he got out of his car, right there in the garage, I read him his rights and gave him no choice but to surrender. He willingly obliged. I had my way with him, and he with me, and we both laughed and had a heck of a lot of fun.

Now don't get me wrong -- the handcuffs didn't come out. I don't get into bondage scenes. But he called me, "Officer, Sir" throughout our playtime and kept asking me if my "baton" were registered with the state. These times of spontaneity don't happen often, as much as perhaps they once did. But when he's "up for it" (which he was!) and I'm relaxed and being playful, we sure can have a great time!

Then he was surprised with a wonderful home-cooked meal, with all of his favorites. A lasanga that I baked fresh, accompanied by a salad fresh from our garden with a dressing that I make and he enjoys. I even made some yeast-raised dinner rolls that take hours, but the time is well invested to see his enjoyment and smile. We finished it off with a home-made lemon meringue pie, which he loves. He made this all possible, with my chef's kitchen and his care in supporting me as I built our house (and turned grey in the process.)

I love my man. I am so blessed.

Life is short! Be joyful, show those you love that you love 'em.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Uniform Redux

I blogged last week about uniforms, which are part of the leather fetish community. Many guys who enjoy leather also enjoy uniforms. I can say the same thing.

I decided today to break out the duty belt and show what it looks like on my CHP uniform. I realized all past pics on the CHP Uniform page of my website didn't show a duty belt. So here it is again.

As much as I've said unkind things about stock Dehner Boots being made of cheap plastic and custom Dehner Boots being too expensive, I still really like the style of Dehners. There are many copy-cats, but none exactly the same. So for the new series of pictures, the Dehners came on. They look great. I just admire their appearance with a uniform.

I've kept the CHP uniform on most of the day, and am looking forward to "arresting" my partner when he gets home from work. His offense? Being way too good to me for my birthday, in arranging for me to be "biker-napped", and also for being so forgiving. I would forget my head if it weren't screwed on -- and he knows it. He just adds reminders to our list and that helps.

Now, to think about the plan of "attack" te he.... or should I say, "grrrrrr!" Now, where did I put that handcuff key?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Crossing The Bridge

Day One of my "Staycation" found me fulfilling a promise to someone who I befriended 25 years ago but with whom I had lost touch until she Googled my name and contacted me a few months ago. She and I had become friends at an organization where she worked and where I "cut my volunteer teeth." We became close, but then as I got busy with a job that took me traveling around the world, and she changed jobs so I didn't see her at the place where I had been volunteering, we drifted apart.

That's how things go in life -- you meet people, form a bond, have fun, but then as life changes, you promise to keep in touch but, alas, sometimes that doesn't happen. Of course it's easier today with email, but still you have to put effort into it.

She lives about 90 miles (145km) East of me, on the other side of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Bridge. This bridge is huge -- when the first two-lane bridge opened in 1952, it was the world's longest steel structure at 4.3 miles (6.9km). It still serves as the only major overwater connection between the two halves of Maryland, my home state, which is divided by the Chesapeake Bay. A second parallel bridge opened in 1973 and has three lanes.

Usually the "old" two-lane bridge has east-bound traffic, and the "new
" three-lane bridge has west-bound traffic. Today, however, authorities had closed one lane of the two-lane bridge, so they reversed one lane of the other bridge to go east-bound as well. And that's the lane that you get routed to if you use an electronic toll device, called "Easypass," which I have -- attached right to the front of my Harley.

It was kinda spooky to be riding my bike in one lane with two lanes of oncoming traffic immediately to my left on this large bridge.
The maximum height is 186 feet (57m), which if one has a fear of heights, can be daunting. (Fortunately, as a skydiver, heights don't really bother me -- it's the landing LOL!). As long as you look forward and where you're going, you don't really see that all there is below you is water.

I found my way to my friend's business. She operates a little café in a small, rural town among corn fields and farms. She fed me lunch, we caught up about our lives, how they have changed, what we're doing, our past dreams and current realities. I suspect we'll be in regular communication again, as I will be doing a website for her cafe to give her business an internet presence.

A very pleasant day and a good ride. Nice weather, light traffic, warm sunshine, but most of all, the rekindling of a friendship.

Life is short: Enjoy! Oh -- wear your boots! I did. (Though I can't say the gang of retired cops I bumped into at a gas station in Stevensville were booted. It was very disheartening to see retired cops riding big motorcycles with a full-face helmet, shorts, and sneakers. Uggghhhh... just stupidity. Oh well, I don't ride with them; it's their skin they'll lose when someone hits them. And of all people, they ought to know better!)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Birthday Wishes

I am the most blessed man in the world. While today is my birthday, it's not a milestone, yet it's nice to know that people remember.

Yesterday, I got a huge "shout-out" on an on-line board on which I participate from a number of really great people. It was initiated by a great friend who I met through that board, and who has been very thoughtful and with whom I have enjoyed developing a warm friendship.

But even before that, the morning began with a phone call to my cell, which I missed because I rarely keep that infernal contraption with me. My dear friend "AZ" sang a sweet birthday song to me, which I have saved on my voice mail and have listened to several times. Despite what he says, he has a beautiful voice.

I also got to speak on the phone with my wonderful friend Clay in Calgary, which was terrific. He is such a great guy. We could talk for hours, though he was at work so I couldn't be on the line too long.

Then the family began checking in. I received several calls and many birthday cards from my siblings, nieces, and nephews. Each one had a special sentiment and brought warm thoughts to my mind.

Last night, we had a "snuggle night" where we turned off the TV and computer, and my partner and I turned up the 7.1 surround to listen to some beautiful piano music that I got on a CD from my brother as a birthday gift. The CD was recorded in Rome, but the music was a compilation of various works from classical to jazz. It was great! My partner and I just lay in each other's arms, and I enjoyed a long back scratch. (That's all I ask for my birthday.)

At dawn, my partner and I awoke, and lay peacefully looking out our windows the tall trees in the back yard, marveling at God's handiwork. A bright red cardinal dropped by and said "tweet tweet", which we take as "happy birthday." Then the squirrels did their gymnastics routine. Certainly they would win the gold if they were allowed to compete in the Olympics. Then I enjoyed another long back scratch.... (smile).

As I was preparing breakfast, the doorbell rang... one of the sweet ladies who I look after who lives in the retirement community around the corner from us came over with a cake, and a card signed by some 40 of "my LW crew" -- friends, all, whose lives are intertwined with mine. I had already received more that 50 individual cards in the mail from this gang -- these are the folks to whom I send cards throughout the year. I treasure their warmth and friendship.

It's just gonna be a great day. I can feel it.

Life is short! Wear your boots! Tell those you love that you love 'em, very much. I sure do.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Leather: Moving In It and Moving On

I am summarizing this two-week series of postings about leather and the leather life with some of my own personal reflections. Tomorrow I will move on to other topics. I hope you have enjoyed the commentary and pieces lifted from my Complete Guide to Leather Gear.

What possessed me to write that Leather Gear Guide and this series? Primarily, I wanted to share knowledge I had gained over the 30 years or so in which I have been enjoying leather. Several email messages related to that Guide and this blog series have said something on the order of, "I wish I had that information when I was getting into leather...."

Those messages, along with some others, have indicated to me that there are fewer younger guys who are getting into leather. And that's rather obvious by what I have seen in attendance at major leather events such as IML and MAL: we're mostly all middle-aged and older men. There are few young men filling the ranks when us older guys move on. Go to a leather bar in a major U.S. city these days (except, perhaps, San Francisco) and you seldom see anyone in leather, except for perhaps a leather vest. Not even boots. So many shorts, sneakers, and sandals... sigh. Since bar business has declined, many leather bars have closed. Some have morphed into general gay bars, expanding the clientele into "y'all come". I understand that they need to do different things to stay in business. I don't begrudge them for those changes. So I shouldn't complain about a lack of leather when the attendance is from a broad gay population, many of whom aren't into leather. That's fine, I'm not into what they're into.

I know that as I have aged and have settled into a permanent, monogamous relationship with my partner, I just don't have the interest in going out any more, even to major leather events. Most of those events are "model and pose" weekends for the once-a-year leather set anyway. Man, you wouldn't believe how one once-a-year queen raised a ruckus last year during Mid-Atlantic Leather when he was "caught" in public space on a short video clip I took. (It's sad that so many guys have to live in the closet and aren't "out" in their leather gear.)

When I was younger, I generally didn't go out much to leather bars anyway. When I was first getting into leather, we were just learning about AIDS and HIV. It was very scary to think that you might be exposed to a disease that would kill you rather painfully. And at the time, the authorities weren't really sure what was causing the disease or how it was spread. Studying microbiology at the time, I knew enough about the subject to be appropriately frightened.

Another reason why I didn't go out that much was/is that I have always been a morning person, and fade quickly when the sun goes down. Even with a "disco nap," I still can't manage to stay awake much past 10pm, and that's "early" for the bars. (Frankly, I have never understood why leathermen don't go out until 11pm or later.)

The final reason, most relevant today, is that I am not interested in meeting other guys for sex; I get all I want at home, thanks. I don't need a venue to meet the next trick. My partner isn't social, and doesn't want to make friends. I don't go anywhere without him, so if he doesn't want to go out, I don't go. I haven't really missed much, anyway. No biggie.

HOWEVER, that does not mean that I do not enjoy my leather gear! Heck, I have put a lot of money into buying it, having it custom tailored to fit me, and getting certain changes made to accommodate interests. These changes include pockets on chaps and reflective stripes on breeches for motorcycle riding, and certain other adjustments which I won't describe, but make the gear more enjoyable for certain activities with my partner.

I wear my leather often in autumn, winter, and spring. I don't wear it as much in summer, just because it is warm and makes me sweat. It goes without saying, though, that I wear boots all year 'round. I wear my leather when riding my Harley. I wear it when I go out grocery shopping, visiting family and friends, and to meetings. I go to A LOT of meetings in my community, and it is quite common that I may have on a pair of leather jeans, a vest, and boots. That's my "signature."

On nights after work or weekends when I am not going anywhere, I may choose to wear one of my uniforms. Just because. I like uniforms, they are comfortable, look good, and may "encourage" some spontaneous encounters with my partner. (smile.)

In summary, leather is great gear: it lasts forever if you take care of it. It is forgiving for those of us whose builds have changed over time. It has a great utilitarian purpose, in providing protection for motorcyclists and against the elements. And it's just fun!

Life is short: enjoy your boots and leather!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Leather: Gear You Do Not Need

There are several different items made of leather that just don't work for most guys. Some are frivolous (like doo-dads on duty belts), some are silly (like cell phone holsters), and some never look right on most regular men (like leather shorts). Here is the snippet from my Complete Guide to Leather Gear on leather items that aren't recommended, and why:

Harness: If you don't have a chest, don't waste your money on a harness. You're just highlighting what you don't have. If you want a harness, go light on the studs. Buckles look better than studs. Clean designs work best. Make sure the straps are at least 2 inches wide. Thin straps are cheaper -- and they certainly look it. The wider the strap, the more masculine the look.

Leather Jocks: Seldom would anyone wear a leather jock in public. And if you're in private, anything covering your privates will likely come off rather quickly. Generally speaking, you don't need one and do not have much use for one. Spend your money on other leather gear you will wear more often.

Leather Shorts: I have never seen anyone be able to pull off wearing leather shorts by themselves. (It is possible to wear leather shorts as "underchaps", but that's different from wearing shorts alone). Shorts accentuate bad features, look weird with boots (or worse, shoes or sneakers). Only body-builders can seem to pull off wearing leather shorts, and unless you are one, spend your money on other leather gear.

Doo-Dads on Duty Belts: So, okay, you like to wear a uniform. But keep the duty belt simple. Perhaps a pair of handcuffs in a case, a key chain, and a maybe a mag light or mag holder to store your cigarettes or cigars. That's it. Don't buy every doo-dad in the Quartermaster Catalog just because they offer it. More than a few "duty gear" items on a duty belt looks goofy.

Gauntlets: Rarely seen any more, gauntlets are thick leather pieces that are worn on your wrists. They can vary in length from 4" to 8" or so. Generally, gauntlets can inhibit your ability to bend your wrists thus affecting simple activities like opening a door or unzipping your fly. Unless you are a Renaissance Fair participant, don't get them. You don't need them.

Boot Chains: Boot chains are worn like a bracelet around a left or right boot. Don't get them. They look weird and just are not worn in the leather fetish community.

Cell Phone Holster: DON'T wear a cell phone on your belt! It is not a badge of honor. You're not that important. If you must carry a cell phone, put it in a pocket and set it to vibrate. By all means, don't let a cell phone ring tone go off in a leather bar. Men don't want to hear those noises in a bar (or anywhere else, for that matter.) And if you have an incoming call, go outside if you have to take it. Nothing is more annoying that a guy jabbering on a cell phone in a leather bar.

After Shave or Cologne: Real men don't wear scents. Leathermen prefer the smell of leather and other men -- not smelly stuff from a bottle. Do not wear after-shave or cologne with leather. Before you go out, take a shower with unscented soap, and if you use deodorant, use an unscented variety. Men like how clean men smell -- not dirt or grunge, either.

The two things that are most annoying are cell phone holsters and scents. Back in the early '90s when cell phones were more rare, it was sometimes something that some guys wanted to display, to sorta say "I'm important; I've arrived." Well nowadays, when cell phones are ubiquitous, carrying one on a belt is just plain dumb. And how annoying is it when you hear one of those silly things play some stupid ring tone, like a snip of techno music? Aw, come on, you really aren't that important. Set it to vibrate and put it away.

Scents are marketed to make one "smell" more virile ... again, all marketing hype. Men want to smell a man and his leather, if you're fortunate enough to get that close. Wash that stuff off, and don't wear it with leather. You don't need it, and other guys will appreciate how you and your leather smell.

Tomorrow, I will wrap up this series. Check back!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Leather: Uniforms

Uniforms present a striking and commanding appearance on most men. Worn with breeches and tall boots, the motor officer uniform is one that is more often worn by men who enjoy leather fetish interests. It is common to see men in uniforms at leather events like International Mr. Leather and Mid-Atlantic Leather, among many others.

There are some in the community who work hard to ensure every detail is exactly right, from the type and style of boots to the insignia to the color and style of the cloth, striping, and everything else. Others, like me, just like the boots, breeches, and shirt, and don't go for all the other gear. It's really a matter of personal preference.

The important thing to keep in mind if you are interested in uniforms is: DON'T IMPERSONATE AN OFFICER. I know that sounds contradictory, because you are dressing like one. But don't wear a uniform that represents an agency that serves the same jurisdiction where you may want to wear it. Doing so is illegal. It IS legal to wear a uniform, such as from the California Highway Patrol, outside the State of California. But don't pretend to behave like an officer: it is the actions and behavior that can cause a real cop to perceive you are impersonating an officer, take you in for questioning, and otherwise make life difficult. Don't play such games; it will get you into trouble. Especially these days after Sept. 11, 2001, when there is such heightened awareness of actions by others that can be perceived as a threat to security.

There is a little information about uniforms in my Complete Guide to Leather Gear, but there is much more detail on my page titled, How to Assemble a CHP Uniform which I posted on my website a couple years ago. This page is visited a lot and answers many questions about uniforms. Rather than repeat it here, click on the link to review the content. It covers all the details. Also, check out my genuine CHP uniform that I've had since the early '90s. I wear it often, just around the house. It's very comfortable.

Cops wear uniforms made of cloth... you just won't see a leather uniform anywhere on cops in the United States. The only leather you may see on a cop is a leather jacket, but nowadays, most cops wear hi-tech, reflective jackets and vests instead of a black leather jacket.

Some in the leather fetish community enjoy a uniform made completely of leather. Since the CHP uniform is the most commonly worn uniform in the uniform fetish community, some guys see the pictures of hot models in a full leather CHP uniform and order one. My advice: don't do that. The "silvertan" color of a CHP uniform just looks bad in leather. Plus, light colors accentuate one's worst physical attributes. Even thin guys look fat; bearish men look awful. And in a dark bar, a CHP leather uniform stands out like a neon sign. IF you want a leather uniform, get one
in a dark color. Dark colors are more slimming, or at least don't make you look larger than you are.

I have a dark full leather uniform, which I put together in 2007 with the help of 665Leather of West Hollywood, California. I truly enjoy my LAPD Leather Uniform for its style, fit, and comfort. I wear the breeches very often while riding my Harley, and the shirt that goes with it from time to time as well. And as I said in previous posts, the only way to go is custom if you want to have a leather uniform. It needs to fit you right, so it will look good, and you will have the commanding appearance you desire.

Life is short! Wear your leather! Enjoy...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Leather: Accessories

There are two accessories that many guys who are into leather wear. The first item is a pair of gloves. The other is an arm band. If you are thinking of other items like whips, floggers, etc., I don't describe them because I do not have them and never would consider having or using anything like that.

I will share my next snippets from my Complete Guide to Leather Gear:

Gloves are not worn much any more except perhaps when outside on a cold day, or when riding a motorcycle. But a man in full leather, including gloves, attracts a lot of attention.

Features to look for in gloves:

Length: You want gloves that are wrist-length. The wrist should also be elasticized. Avoid gloves that have a little "skirt" after the wrist which is sloppy looking. The look here is "police" - authoritative. That's why you want the clean design. The back of the glove should either have three seams or a solid back. You want unlined gloves (for dexterity purposes).

The best fetish leather glove on the market is Damascus D302s. There are plenty of brands out there, but as your first glove purchase, buy these. Hands down, the best glove you can buy. They'll cost you about US$35-$40. You can find them in any decent cop shop, or at Stompers Boots on-line.

Sizing: Gloves come in small-medium-large. Most men should get a medium, since the point is to keep them nice and tight.

What to Avoid: Don't buy gloves with cut-off fingers, or "half-gloves." They may be okay for a motorcycle, but not for fetish wear. You really don't want "driving gloves". Don't buy lined gloves unless you are using them for practical purposes (e.g., riding a motorcycle in winter weather). Make sure the gloves feel like leather, not plastic. Buy quality. Unless there is a specific purpose, do not buy colored gloves. Buy black. Avoid zippers, snaps, etc. Solid leather gloves with no gadgets are best.

Arm Bands

Nowadays, you seldom see anyone with a leather arm band on. But an arm band still adds much to the leatherman image. Generally speaking, if you wear an arm band, it should be worn high and tight on either the left or right arm -- not both. If you wear it on the left, it implies that you are a Top, and that you assert the active role in a sexual encounter. If you wear it on the right, it implies that you are a Bottom (or open to being dominated by a Top.)

An arm band should be two inches (2") wide if you wear it on the left. It can be one inch (1") if you wear it on the right, since you're giving a signal that you're in a weaker position. Arm bands should be solid black leather. While they make arm bands with colored piping or with metal attachments, they appear gaudy that way. Just plain black is best.

Check back tomorrow when I get into uniforms, which is a subset all to itself related to Leather Gear.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Leather: Shirts

After getting leather chaps as my first leather gear investment, I wanted a leather shirt. This was back in the '80s, before shopping via the Internet was possible.

I saw some photos of guys in leather cop shirts in some magazines, but couldn't find a place to call to order one. Then I saw an ad in a local paper about a leather store operating at the DC Eagle. I went there -- first time I got the willies and didn't go in; second time, I was about to go in when some guy gave me a sneer an scared me off. Third time was the charm. I ran inside the bar on a slow Saturday afternoon, and up the three flights of stairs to the leather store. I found the shirt I wanted, just paid for it, and left.

When I got home, I tried it on and found that it didn't fit! It was marked what I thought was my size, but it was too small. I screwed up my courage and went back a couple weeks later, made the exchange, and had my first short-sleeved leather shirt. I really liked it, and wore it a lot. A few years thereafter, once I had become more comfortable going into stores like that, I was measured and had a long-sleeved shirt made for me. Well, then, "the rest is history." I have about a dozen leather shirts now, most of which still fit, and I still wear.

Here is the snippet from my Complete Guide to Leather Gear with information about leather shirts:

Leather shirts come in a variety of styles, and nowadays, colors too. There are two basic varieties: leather cop-style shirts, and then "all the rest."

Leather cop-style shirts have two pockets, shoulder epaulets and a snaps down the front. A high-quality leather shirt will have a zipper covered with a snap-fitted covering. Cheaper shirts may have a button closure. I don't recommend a button closure for the same reason that I don't recommend a button fly on leather jeans: the button holes stretch and after a few wearings, don't remain buttoned for long, especially if engaging in any form of activity -- from having sex to riding a motorcycle.

You can get leather shirts with long sleeves, short sleeves, or no sleeves. While I have all of these styles, I find that I wear short sleeves more often than others. Short-sleeve leather shirts are more comfortable and don't get as hot. You can also show an armband (if you wear one). I wear long-sleeved leather shirts as an overshirt when I ride my motorcycle on days when it's not cool, but not hot, either.

Other varieties of leather shirts may include a one-piece that you pull over your body and close the front with rawhide. These shirts usually hang funny and don't look right, even on a well-built man. You may also find a leather dress shirt -- constructed like a men's dress shirt with one pocket and a dress collar, meant to be worn with a dress leather tie. There are some variations of leather shirts available, as well.

Features to look for in a leather shirt

The Fit: a well-made leather shirt will fit well, snugly around your chest and tuck in well at your waist. It should not be baggy around the shoulders or the stomach. It should define your shoulders and back. It should have only one seam down the middle of the back, though it may have added decorative seams on the right and left third of the back of the shirt. If it has seams on each side, then that is an indicator of piecemeal construction that is of poor quality.

Style: Leather shirts come in basic black, which is recommended if you will have only one leather shirt. You can also get leather shirts in almost any other color. If you do, I recommend darker colors like blue, olive, or brown. Shirts in lighter colors, like CHP tan, tend to accentuate one's physical size and makes even thin guys look overweight. Red shirts make you stand out like a stop sign, and seldom look good on anyone but a website's model.

You can also get piping (small strips of leather) on a leather shirt. Piping runs along the pockets, epaulets, and sometimes across the shoulders or down the sides. This is a purely personal choice. Just don't go overboard. If you choose to have piping added to your shirt, keep it simple: pockets and epaulets only, and keep it all the same color.

I would not say that a leather shirt is "essential," but it completes the look. And speaking as a biker, I find leather shirts to be useful when I ride my Harley. They provide comfort, warmth, and look good with biker leathers such as breeches or leather jeans. I wear my leather shirts often in fall, winter, and spring, just around the house and as I go about activities in my community.

Check back tomorrow for the next installment on leather gear: what I call "other stuff," such as gloves.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Leather: Jeans, Pants, and Breeches

Leather jeans, pants, and breeches are numerous in my leather gear inventory. I wear them often. After a vest and chaps, leather for my legs was something I had always wanted to try out, and when I got my first custom pair of leather jeans, I wore them so much that they actually wore out, so I got more over the years.

Here's today's snippet from my Complete Guide to Leather Gear on Leather Jeans, Pants, and Breeches:

Leather pants are a good idea if indeed you will wear leather more than once-a-year at a weekend leather event. (If you will wear leather only once a year, it's not worth spending the money on it. Leather is a serious investment, and should be worn more regularly for enjoyment as well as to get a return on your investment.)

The differences among leather pants, jeans, and breeches: Leather pants are cut like regular men's slacks. They usually have a straight leg, snap or zipper fly, and pockets. Leather jeans are pretty much the same, but are cut in a style like denim blue jeans. There may be rivets at stress points like you find on denim jeans. They always have pockets, and have straight legs.

Leather breeches are designed to fit tightly on the man wearing them. The legs usually are cut shorter than leather jeans, because they are made to be worn inside boots and not go so far down as to rub against the ankle bone. The legs are tapered and often have a zipped closure to ensure they remain snug and low on the legs. Don't even think about wearing breeches and short boots, combat boots, or even worse, shoes or sneakers. Breeches are made to be worn inside tall black patrol-style or equestrian boots. Breeches usually have four pockets, plus sometimes a "billy pocket" (designed for a cop's "billy club" but leather fetishists often use to carry cigars.) They also may have flares (sometimes called baloons) on the sides of the legs. What's the deal about flares? Breeches originated from being worn while riding a horse. Ample room around the hips and legs was needed in old-style, wool breeches, so a flare was created on the side of each leg to accommodate the comfort of a horse rider. These days, you don't need flares on breeches to ride a horse -- or even an iron horse. Leather breeches are not usually made with flares any more unless specifically requested.

Most guys wear leather jeans or pants over boots. If you want to wear leather jeans inside boots, you can do that by pulling the end of the jeans down, rolling a sock up over the end of the jeans, and then carefully pulling the boot on. If the boot shaft is too tight, the jeans will bunch up around the knees and look bad. If your boots are already tight on your legs and you still want to wear leather inside them, either buy boots with a wider calf width, or get leather breeches instead of leather pants.

Features to look for

The Fit: It is rare that off-the-shelf leather jeans or pants fit right. Often they are baggy at the legs, knees, or butt. It's really best to have leather jeans made custom to your size, and to accommodate your height and the boots you will wear with them.

Style: Quality leather pants, jeans, or breeches will be made of one solid piece of leather on the front and the back. The seams will be straight on the inside and outside of the legs. There will not be additional seams at the knees. Seams there indicate piece-meal construction, a sure sign of poor quality. Good leather pants will also be made of top-grain leather, and will have a natural shine to them. Some leather pants may have a pebble-grain finish. As long as the pants themselves are top-grain leather, that's okay. Good leather jeans will have double-stitching at all stress points -- side seams, waist, and around the fly. Quality leather pants, jeans, or breeches are usually lined from the waist to the knee. This makes them more comfortable to wear as well as easier to put on. Some leather pants are called "naked leather" meaning that they are not lined so you feel the leather against your skin. I have both types of leather pants (lined and unlined) and find them both enjoyable.

Leather breeches may also have an extra layer of leather on the inside of both legs, and across the butt. This style is a hold-over from horseback riding, as well. However, these added layers of leather can make the breeches more comfortable if they are worn while riding a motorcycle on a long ride.

Pockets on leather pants or jeans is purely a personal choice. Many "five-pocket leather jeans" are styled like denim jeans, including a coin pocket which some guys use to hold a cigarette lighter.

Stripes and Piping: It is very common to find or be offered a colored stripe or colored piping (small strips of leather) on the side seams of leather jeans or breeches. I have been asked if the colors of the stripes have anything to do with the hanky code colors. For example, red means fisting and white means j/o. The color of stripes on leather gear has nothing to do with hanky code colors. I have reflective stripes on my LAPD Leather Breeches and some other leather jeans and chaps with piping or stripes of other colors. I just like how the gear looks that way. Get what you want. Stripes make the gear interesting but do not mean anything else.

What to avoid: Most leather pants, jeans, or breeches come with a snap fly. Usually this works fine, but if you may be wearing them while riding a motorcycle, you may find paying an extra US$25 for a zipper fly to be better. A zipper blocks the wind better and isn't as likely for the fly to pop open when you don't want it to. Don't get a button fly. The buttons holes will enlarge with use and after just a few times wearing them, the buttons may pop open just with normal activities, like getting up from a seated position or throwing your leg over a motorcycle saddle. Unless you want your fly to pop open unannounced, get snaps or a zipper.

If you're serious about leather, and want to enjoy a comfortable leather lifestyle, whether you ride a motorcycle or not, get yourself some leather jeans, to start. You'll enjoy them. If you want to wear leather with tall boots, then go for breeches. If you want to go out on the town with a date in leather, then leather pants will fit the bill. In all cases, have fun!

Check back tomorrow for information about leather shirts.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Leather: Muir Cap

Yes Sir, that's the look for the Leatherman. And I can tell that there is a lot of interest in this style of cap since the page about it on my website continues to rank as among the most viewed of all of my leather gear. Here is my snippet about this cap on my Complete Guide to Leather Gear:

If you have a nice head of hair without a bald spot, cut short and masculine, you probably don't need a hat. The tough leatherman's look, however, comes together with a full leather cap. Many Leathermen choose to wear a Muir Cap, as shown in this photo and on my website. Sometimes called a "biker's hat," the style goes back to the tough biker appearance of the 1950s. Leatherman's caps made by the Muir Cap & Regalia Company, Ltd. are made of full leather.

Features to look for:

The fit: You want the hat to fit tightly but not be so tight as to give you a headache, and no so loose as to fall down over your eyes. Measure your head size by placing a flexible tape measure around the circumference of your head, one inch above your eyebrows and around the widest part of your head. Measure the circumference at least twice to be sure that you are getting an accurate measurement. Write down the measurement and use this chart to determine your hat size.

Style: A genuine Muir cap has a solid black shiny peak with silver mylar on the edge, a black plastic expansion strap across the front and the top, and buttons to hold the strap onto it. A silver metal expansion strap and silver buttons on the side add style and class. Personally, I replaced the top expansion strap with a silver chain. Note: there are a number of imitations of a Muir-style cap out there. It's generally okay to buy an imitation -- just make sure the cap is made of full leather. A number of imitators use plastic.

Quality: Make sure whatever cap you get is made of full leather, not plastic or fabric. Look to make sure that plastic parts are not substituted on key components, such as the top, brim, or bill.

What headwear not to wear with leather: A lot of guys like to wear ball caps. That's fine when you're out on the ballfield or in jeans and a t-shirt grillin' burgers. But don't wear a ballcap with full leather. It just doesn't look right. Even ballcaps made of all leather. It just looks dorky. (The exception is a ballcap for a specific police agency when wearing a uniform of that agency. If that's that agency's spec, then wear it. If not, then don't.) Some guys substitute a military "camo" BDU hat. Again, that just looks dumb unless you are dressed in military BDUs. I've even seem some guys try to pull off wearing a black cowboy hat with leather. It really hasn't worked. Wear a cowboy hat with jeans and cowboy boots, not with leather. Go hatless if you don't have a Leatherman's cap.

Muir caps are not (necessarily) for the "old guard," but it is mostly us older guys into leather who have and wear them. I think younger guys would look really hot in such a hat if they wore one.

Check back -- this series on leather will continue with information about leather pants and shirts next.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Leather: Jackets

A leather jacket is something many men have, and is an essential item for a Leatherman. The jacket provides warmth and protection, and a good one just looks cool. Here's today's snippet from my Complete Guide to Leather Gear:

It is likely that you already have a leather jacket. But just make sure you have a good one. There are several types of leather jackets that are acceptable as "fetish", but primarily these are jackets that are meant for motorcycle riders. Either true biker leathers or even racing leathers work well here. Also leather police jackets work fine.

Features to look for:

The fit: Now this part is quite important. Make sure the jacket fits you properly! You don't want a big bulky piece of leather - You wind up looking fat. If you can afford custom, go for it. Otherwise try on several different jackets until you find the one that fits you well. It is best if there are lacings at the bottom sides of the jacket so you can adjust the fit.

Style: Pick the right style, and you can wear it over and over again. A standard motorcycle jacket is best. Wide lapels, button down collar. Choose one with a belt that is not sewn onto the jacket. (It should be a good wide belt). Epaulets are your own personal choice. Avoid gaudy hardware.

Quality: look at the label to ensure it is made of "top grain" leather rather than cowhide splits. If it doesn't say "top grain," be suspicious. Also, be suspicious of leather jackets made in China, Pakistan, or India. The quality of leather from these countries just isn't there.

As a biker for more than 30 years, I have eight motorcycle jackets in my current Leather Gear Inventory, but have had others not shown that don't fit me any more. I have given them to my partner who can enjoy them.

As it says above, the most important thing to ensure when you get a leather jacket is to make sure it fits right. Not only in the chest measurement, but around the middle. Some jackets come with a belt around the bottom. I usually remove a belt, because it tends to get in the way and if the jacket fits right, it is not necessary.

My favorite jackets are:

My Taylor's Leatherwear Jacket, which is designed for cops. The jacket allows a lot of maneuverability (arm movement), has a lining that can be removed in warmer weather, and is exceptionally durable.

Another favorite is my "Motocross" Jacket that was made by Mr. S of San Francisco. It fits very well, is warm and durable, and has a quilted lining sewn into it (not removable).

If you are looking for a jacket to wear to a leather bar, you should not wear an expensive, custom-tailored jacket. It could be stolen if you take it off (even if a coat check is offered.) I have a "bikers jacket" with a bunch of gaudy studs but still made of top-grain leather. I have had it for a long time. It still fits and has no patches on it. I wear it on the rare occasions I go to a leather bar when it's cold. Because of the gaudy studs, nobody would want to steal it, yet it's different enough that it's easy to recognize in a pile of gear when it's time to leave.

Beware of cheap jackets offered by websites that cater to straight bikers. Those jackets are usually made from cowhide splits, not top grain leather, and the leather usually comes from a country where the quality is poor. You will wear a jacket for a long time: get quality. It doesn't have to cost a fortune, but should be made well, fit well, and look good on you.

The next musing will be about the very popular and often sought "Muir Cap", exceptionally popular with Leathermen.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Leather: Vests

Besides chaps, a vest is the next most important piece of leather gear to have. Vests are versatile, simple, and add an enhancement for the Leatherman's overall visual image.

Here is the snippet from my Complete Guide to Leather Gear about vests:

A good leather vest is a fundamental leather item that you should own. There are plenty of styles to choose from, but your best bet here is to get a leather "bar" vest. However, if your figure is more "bearish" like mine, you may do better with a "biker" vest. If you join a club, a biker vest is easier to put patches and run pins on than a bar vest (there's more room. See mine.)

Features to look for:

Style: A leather bar vest is a simple, masculine design, meant to show your chest. A good bar vest will typically cost US$75-$100. You want to make sure the fit is tight. It should not hang over your chest, but rather to the sides of it.

Other Vests: A biker vest looks like a standard biker jacket without sleeves. Biker vests should hang over your shoulders and not pucker around the sides. Many are adjustable using side laces. If you want to show a little of your chest, consider getting a smaller vest but also vest extenders, which allow the vest to be open but still held across your front. You really don't want to wear a biker vest snapped completely closed. It just doesn't look right unless you're actually on a motorcycle.

Over the years, I have seen many different types of vests. What works best for one person may be different for another guy. A bar vest without a shirt looks better on a man with a well-developed chest. Biker vests are usually always worn with a shirt. I wear mine over my long-sleeved leather shirt sometimes, too.

Generally, vests should be worn open, casually draped over the chest. However, if you wear a vest for a functional purpose such as to provide warmth while riding a motorcycle, make sure it fits you well so when you close it, it does not pucker around the arm openings. Alternatively, a vest that looks good across your chest but would look weird closed may be held together by vest extenders, which are small chains or thick leather strips that attach to snaps. I realized while writing this post that I do not have a good picture of one of my vests with extenders, so that's next on my list to update.

Tomorrow's post gets into jackets, the next essential for a Leatherman.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Leather: Chaps

Anyone who likes leather, or is a biker, or who just wants something to add some warmth and protection for his legs needs a pair of chaps.

Chaps are about the most practical leather item available, and useful for many purposes. Here is the section from my Complete Guide to Leather Gear about chaps:

Many guys who advise others about leather say that chaps should be your first major purchase. Chaps are the most versatile piece of leather you will own. They are great for wearing out to a leather bar, while riding on a motorcycle, and for sex. You can put them on and take them off quickly, and they stand up to a lot of punishment. Chaps show a serious interest in leather, and they convey that message to others.

A good pair of leather chaps will cost you $200 minimum. They will be fairly functional and usually have a snap front closure with rawhide strings in the back for adjustment. A great pair of chaps will probably run you about $400. "Great" chaps have pockets on the front, are made of thick top-grain leather, and are made custom to your size, so there is usually one solid band of leather across the back (instead of rawhide strings holding grommeted ends together) and a quality, adjustable closure on the front. Do NOT buy a $79-$99 pair of chaps. You'll regret it. They're paper thin, often made of cowhide splits (not top grain leather), and often are pieced rather than made of one solid hide. Cheap chaps are pretty much worthless.

Features to look for

The Fit: Go to a quality leather store and try on a pair or two. If you're not sure what you're doing, the salesperson will help you put them on. Wear the jeans you may wear with them so you get a proper fit. And let the leathermaker do alterations so they fit you right. (i.e. length and adjust the waistbelt if necessary). Minor alterations shouldn't cost more than about $20-$30.

Weight/Thickness: The thicker the leather, the better. You want a heavy weight leather. It looks 100% better. And you don't want cheap looking chaps. Leather that is in the range of 7 to 8 oz. is best.

Zipper Position: If you ride a motorcycle, you want the zipper on the outside (so it won't scratch your tank). Otherwise, a zip on the inside is fine.

Chaps to Avoid: Don't buy chaps made of anything except real leather. Chaps made of "pleather," or other materials like "neoprene" may look good from a distance in a dark bar, but if a guy shows an interest in you and then feels the fake quality of what you have on your legs, he may back off quickly. If you're serious about leather, then wear leather, not imitation by-products of the oil industry.

I mentioned in my "Going Custom" blog post that chaps were the first piece of leather gear I ever bought, and for good reason. Lots of guys who ride motorcycles wear them, so they are quite common in many circles. If you are getting into leather, chaps are an essential starter item. I learned that having chaps made to fit custom was best, because they looked good, did not pucker around the hips and thighs, had no annoying snaps on the leg openings, and had a quality closure. I also can attest that chaps are great for more private enjoyment of leather, as well. And another good thing to know about chaps is that they are very forgiving in that they are easily adjustable to change fitting should you gain weight as you age. A pair of chaps I got at age 25 still fit me now when I'm double that age and a bit larger than I was back then.

Chaps are so versatile and so enjoyable, I have seven pairs of chaps that I have acquired over time. To be honest, I still wear each pair (though not all at the same time LOL!). If you are interested in leather and you don't have chaps yet, then have a friend measure you, go to a fetish leather store (or visit the store's website), and order yourself a pair made custom to your size. I'm sure you will enjoy them for many years to come.

Check back tomorrow: more on individual leather gear with some of my opinions thrown in, too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Leather: Boots Make the Man

A guy getting into leather must have boots. Tall, black boots are most common, and look best with leather gear, especially when the gear is tucked into the boots and you can see the boot shafts.

It may be an obvious point, but must be made, as quoted in my Guide to Leather Gear: Boots are essential for anyone getting into leather. Sneakers worn with leather just look silly -- even black ones. But you do not have to spend a fortune. Usually those first starting out get a pair of plain black harness boots, which are readily available from a variety of on-line retailers. You may want to consider a pair of engineer boots, which have a more "tough-look" style. The best and most affordable choices are made by Chippewa, Carolina, or Red Wing. Some guys just wear plain black combat boots that you can find at any Army-Navy surplus store. All are fine -- but the point is that if you are going to wear leather, you must have boots and no substitute.

Usually someone who is interested in leather already has boots, but just in case you don't, this is where you must begin. I know from reviewing the logs of my website, many are looking at the tall cop boots that I have. But also, many look at the simpler black harness boots, too. And plain ol' harness boots will work fine with leather. That style of boot gives a masculine "biker" appearance.

It is not necessary to buy a pair of Dehner Patrol Boots. While boots made by Dehner are legend, unfortunately, the legend has worn thin as the stock boots are made for pencil-thin-legged guys and the shafts of the boots are made with a plastic material called "Dehcord" which cracks and breaks. In order to wear Dehner Boots with leather or a uniform, you likely will have to have them made custom to fit, which can be done, but at a cost of about US$800 when made of European calf leather (a much better, longer-lasting option). Don't get them for your first foray into the leather community. Invest wisely in alternatives with which you will be happier and more comfortable.

Instead, for cop-style boots, consider Chippewa Hi-Shine Engineer Boots which have a classic, masculine design, are made of all leather (including a leather lining), are exceptionally comfortable, and are affordable. (Go to Stompers Boots of San Francisco to get them. It's easy to order from them on-line from anywhere in the world.) Consider this: if you intend to wear them with leather, order them one size smaller but in EE width. A wider Chippewa Boot has a wider calf circumference, which will accommodate leather more comfortably (as I am wearing, photo right).

There are a number of decisions one can make regarding the types and styles of boots to get and wear. First off, you should plan to wear them often, rather than just once a year to a leather event. Therefore, the boots should fit well and be comfortable. If you have not had your foot measured for shoe size in a while, go to a shoe store and get measured. Feet tend to get wider and spread as one ages. Sneaker sizes are not equivalent to boot sizes. Go get measured!

I tend to get boots that fit my measurements, which is a standard 9-1/2D. However, in the past few years I have been getting a 10D because I plan to wear the boots for a long time, and anticipate that my feet will get wider as I age. I don't want to end up with boots that I invested in purchasing that I can not wear. Meanwhile, I use gel insoles and thick cotton-wool combo socks to accommodate the extra room and absorb sweat.

Another major concern about fitting boots correctly is the measurement of both the lower leg and the calf circumference. Here is what I say about it in my Leather Gear Guide:

Lower leg: Custom gear may include custom boots. If you order custom boots, a critical measurement is the distance between where your knee bends down to the heel across the back of the leg. You don't want boots that are so tall as to rub the back of your knee when you sit down, else suffer a terrible sore.

Calf circumference: Also called "calf width," one very important matter to ensure custom boots fit right is knowing the circumerference of your calf. Stock boots may fit okay in the foot, but if they are too tight on the calf, you will be uncomfortable, or you may not be able to pull the boots on tall and straight. If you plan to wear boots with leather or cloth uniform breeches inside them, get that gear on first, and then have measurements taken over what you are wearing to accommodate for the thickness of the leather or fabric. Wrap a tape around the calf about 4" below the knee, and again about 8" below the knee.

Custom Boots are made to measure not only your leg and calf, but also your foot. A quality custom bootmaker, for example Wesco Boots, will have a form for that purpose. Have a friend trace both feet onto a template that is sent to the company from which you order the boots (such as Stompers) and that is used to make a pair of boots that will fit you perfectly. (BTW: DON'T order custom or stock boots directly from Wesco or Dehner; you can save 10% - 20% on exactly the same product if you order them through a boot specialty retailer like Stompers Boots.)

I have much, much more information on how I choose boots on this page of my website. Have a look!

Now, if you're serious about leather, start with the boots. Check back tomorrow for more on essential leather gear.