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"Old Guard" earning leathers

#1 User is offline   Michael's jewel Icon

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Posted 24 October 2005 - 11:45 AM

Good morning, y'all!

i wanted to move this topic to a new thread. i really dont feel that i am actually versed well enough to share the words of those who i have experienced....both recently at the Together in Leather event or at the Servant's Retreat a few weeks ago, or here and there through the past few years. i am still very much a student here and still in a high processing mode, trying to sort it all out for myself.

A couple of things that i really feel driven to say here, before i post the information that i dug up. Google. Love it.

1. Like everything else, bdsm or not, things that we read online, or otherwise, is another person's opinion.
2. Because this topic seems to raise the hackles on a number of folk, both new and not so new, please keep in mind point #1 and this notion. This tends to be a volitile subject. Even with the number of people that i have approached and asked questions about this....i get a differing opinion from each and everyone of them.
3. Please reread #1 again.

Okies.....

Some feel that Old Guard came directly out a small group of gay men..coming home from WWII and needing a place to continue on with chosen and sacred traditions. Some feel that these small numbers of gay men were the very first leathermen. Because they all came from a military background, they wanted to cling to the traditions but still needed ways to keep from outing themselves. This is where some feel the rituals of earning leathers and ways of being trained as leather man come from. This is where the custom of "flagging" or "wearing your colors" seems to come from. And many still use this as a secretive way of seeking out scene or play partners.

Hanky Codes

Some feel that the Old Guard comes from the bdsm and kink and lots of the gay and lesbian communities in NYC in the 60s and 70s. Again, they were drawn to traditions and rituals but had to keep in mind, constantly, the inherent dangers of being out there and visible.

Like everything else either bdsm or leather, each house, each tribe, each region, each place has their own unique and special rungs of completing training and earning leathers. There are some very commonalities and many very uncommon ones. i did a Google and found these few personal viewpoints of how some choose to do this withing their own leather families.


http://www.fetishall...YourLeather.htm

Oh my. Looky here at what i found. i am adding it, just the same.

http://www.leatherquest.com/

http://64.233.161.10...athers%22&hl=en

http://www.masterdav...g_leathers/view
"For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart.
It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul."

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#2 User is offline   Ginger Icon

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Posted 24 October 2005 - 01:58 PM

I have seen the volitile nature of this topic, as you mentioned. I've been on lists where just the statement "I'm old guard trained" can go off into month long arguments about whether there really is such a thing.

My opinion, for what it's worth, is that I don't care if it exists or if someone was trained in it or not. When I look over resumes to hire staff, I'm not as concerned with whether they went to Harvard, NYU, Brooklyn College or got their degree on-line, I want to know how they are using the information they learned.

I know people who were trained in what they call "old-guard" and I know people who have learned on-line and some who just picked it up as they went along. Then there are those (like me) who learned with a combination of on-line and really good friends. They all have something to offer, they all include some folks who are jerks.

Life is like a Chinese menu -- you should always want to take one from column A and one from column B, etc. In addition no more than we should care HOW a person became who they are (unless we are phycologists or something) we should only care WHO they are today.

Just my opinion.

Ginger
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#3 User is offline   The Grey One Icon

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Posted 24 October 2005 - 06:55 PM

Ginger
I'm with you as I expect are the majority of this forum.

Shucks, I'll go so far as to acknowlege that I may indeed be a "wannabe Dom / Master" if calling me that makes somone feel better.
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#4 User is offline   Michael's jewel Icon

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Posted 24 October 2005 - 07:12 PM

:skotc: i agree, Ginger.
"For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart.
It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul."

-Judy Garland

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#5 User is offline   azzy Icon

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 05:33 PM

*wildly waves my "I agree" arms, too*
Sometimes you gotta create what you want to be a part of.
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#6 User is offline   tiamet Icon

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 11:27 AM

There are two distinct sectors of the BDSM community, and for whatever reason, they don't cross often. There is the pansexual community, and the Leather family. I think that we don't have a lot of exposre to the Leather lifestyle b/c is used to be primarily gay, and W/we as bi or straight people did not fit. Things have been changing a lot, and in my recent introduction to the leather family, I found them more open, tolerant, and understanding than any other group I've met to date.

Here in the pansexual munch community, someone going off abut thier "old gaurd" training is a sign of a pompous ass 99% of the time. We have learned to brush it off as silly, sort of like someone coming up to us and saying "I am Prince Akbar of Sybria". Yeah right.

Why do we react that way? In the pansexual munch community, someone claiming to be old gaurd is normally a liar, trying to gain instant status and cover up a lot of ignorance. This kind of behavior has tarnished a beautiful thing for us, makes our stomachs flip at the mere mention of the word.

I found something very different in the Leather community. "Old Gaurd" was not about being trained by Master X who can trace his lineage back to the original Eagle. It was not about having to be a slave before you can be a Master. And it was most definitely not about being a newbie with reality problems.

Instead, certain traditions from the Old Gaurd post WWII era have been preserved and maintained by the community as a whole. They consider it very important to be knowledgable about and honor the history of thier lifestyle. Far from being exclusive, "you can't be in our club unless you know the secret history" types, I found them very open and committed to sharing and education.

If you read the articles fern linked to about earning your leathers, you see that the process is fluid and individual to the parties involved, just like so much else is in our lifestyle. Another thing I greatly respect is that just as they have embraced, cherished and preserved certain rituals which define the history and culture of thier lifestyle, they have also quietly dispersed of those traditions which were not good for individuals or the community.

If you can get over the knee-jerk reaction that the words "Old Gaurd" inspire in some of us, there is a really beautiful culture to be explored that has absolutely nothing to do with a "better than thou" attitude.
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#7 User is offline   slave ziggy Icon

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 11:25 PM

Hey there A/all

i appologize, i had posted this article on another section of this board but i think that it can speek to this topic as well.

One thing i can say about the term "Old Guard" with some certainty is that those men didnt sit around calling themselves the old guard or making up , what i consider, silly hanky codes; which now has some 44 differant catigories...

As you will read below, they were men returning from war unable to assimilate back into the society from which they came.. They were farm boys from Ky and gang boys from the bronx. They left as boys and came back as men with no where to share their common experiences.

my percpetion of this label is with all the good intentions of those who named them, was so they would have an honored place in our leather history. That those who identied with the philosophy of disipline and order coupled with a strict code of honor would have a language, a label if you will, that would help to identify others who felt the same. i can say with the utmost certainty they never intended the label to create the division we see today..

i hope you enjoy the following.



Beginning with a condensed version of what I understand to be a rudimentary history of Leathermen:

Servicemen in wartime had experienced the stress of war and the company of other servicemen for long periods. Upon returning, they sought each other out as a way to find support, to fit in, and to try to make sense of their shared experiences. The life they lived in the military was one of discipline and hard work. They often found it hard to assimilate back into a society that simply would not understand.

Those experiences became translated into a new lifestyle, once outside the military structure. Tightly knit groups of men formed, and they developed a language and specific practices that only one who was ?on the inside? or had been in military service would understand.

Most of these groups remained highly exclusive out of necessity. It was only through someone on the inside that another was allowed access. There may have been hundreds-perhaps thousands-of these groups throughout the country. Each had their own twist on protocols and practices, yet many adhered to what had been taught to them in the military. Although there were varying degrees of discipline and order, a few concepts were consistent in each of these groups.


1. Honor: The way one interacts with others, maintaining a good name and reputation.

2. Integrity: The way in which one handles one?s affairs and one?s adherence to accepted ethical codes.

3. Trust: Due to the nature of their practices, both socially and sexually, trusting a fellow Leatherman was as important as the trust one had in another when in combat. Their lives and their practices depended on it.

4. Respect: In the military, these men developed a mutual respect not only for each other, but also for authority. Seniority in rank and experience took a front seat in combat, and in these groups.

5. Loyalty: As in the military, these men developed strong alliances to the groups they were involved in, sometimes to the point of exclusivity. Outsiders were outsiders. Anyone wanting in would have to gain admittance through an insider, who then became responsible for him. People who wanted in were subject to testing just as one is tested in the military through boot camp. If they didn?t cut it, they were pushed back out on the fringes of the group where they stayed.








Discipline and order were required for their specific forms of sexual practice and social interaction.

As with the military, everything one has or is EARNED. This is what formed the tradition of earning one?s Leathers. This brings us to the meat of this article.

My understanding is that an insider, who, as mentioned, would determine one?s worthiness, brought in a person seeking entrance to a group. I would suspect that is why there is a process involved in acceptance into any Leather club today. This sponsor would mentor that individual who would begin as a junior bottom.

Regardless of where one ended up on the Dominant or submissive scale, nearly everyone started out at the bottom and earned their way up. I must assume our military ranking system had a lot to do with this way of thinking. I also suspect that a Dominant could take the fast track through earning His Leathers, but not the respect of His fellow Leathermen. One?s community determined whether he could graduate to the corps of Masters. The Master?s or Dominant?s cap became the symbol of that transformation, transition, graduation.

It is a seemingly simple ritual, done in the local leather bar, in the company of friends and other Dominants/Masters. All the Masters in attendance would agree that it was time, and that the recipient was worthy. They would pass the cover up from the back of the group, as each of the senior Dominants/Masters would say a few words about the junior Master/Dominant. The most senior would then speak on his behalf, place the cap on his head, and there would be a ?Thank You? from the newly capped Master. The new Master was expected to buy a round of drinks for his seniors.

As with most traditions, the capping ritual is not as prevalent today as it once was. Now, folks profess their Mastery with words from a keyboard, or clothing from a Leather shop. Sadly, it has lost its original meaning of longevity of service or knowledge. Thankfully, there are people who still value the idea of earning what you are given. There are people within the community that value this symbol and are working to bring the tradition back.

Most of our older mentors are lost to us from the AIDS crisis or through age, leaving us with a different view of the cap. Those who value this icon are adding new meaning to this tradition, developing their own standards by which one earns their cap.

One idea that speaks to me in present times is that one?s slave is the one who recognizes the Master as ready for capping. Perhaps this comes from the concept that a Master is not truly a Master without owning a slave. Regardless of who makes that determination, there still must be a consensus of other Masters or members of the community in high standing.
Honor, respect, integrity, loyalty and duty

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#8 User is offline   tiamet Icon

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 09:22 AM

I was re-reading this thread, and I found that we had left out some very fundamental things. Fern, ziggy, and I are familiar with the Leather communty and so it seems that some things just go without saying. But to someone who has never been exposed, such things would not be obvious.

When you go to BDSM gatherings, people are generally dressed either in fetish gear or street clothes. You can't really look around and tell anybody's experience level, role, or orientation. In the leather community there is a dress code that communicates these things.

You are supposed to start out with a belt and boots. Eventually, if you show respect and care for the leather you already own, serve the community, conduct yourself honorably, and grow and devellop in your role within the lifestyle you will "earn leather". A slave is given leather by his Master, a Master is given leather by elder (not necessarily in age) Masters within thier community.

There are varying types of earned leather that are worn in social situations.

Leather vests are de riguer. Some people buy thier own vests, lumping them into the "supply your own" category with belts and boots. I've personally chosen to wait until I earn a vest to wear one.

These vests display pins and patches, which are also earned. Some pins are given to the person as a gesture of honor, love, and support by other community members. Other pins depict the events that a person has attended, or the organizations a person belongs to. If the person is a member of a particular club or household the back of the vest may display that a patch that declares that affiliation. People who have won titles are awarded special vests that have beautifully crafted leather patches on the back that display thier title and year.

There are also caps, also known as covers. Ziggy covered the symbolism behind a Master's cap quite well in her post.

Now chaps and jackets are tricky. Cause sometimes you get cold, and need to buy these things for yourself so that you don't freeze your butt off. Even these items, though they are not necessarily associated with community honors, have more meaning and signifigance when you obtain them second hand, passed down from someone loved and respected.

Generally things like harnesses, leather shirts, etc. don't fall in the earned leather category. That is more play/fet wear than actual clothing.

It is innapropriate to request for leathers to be bestowed upon you, or to try and drop hints or otherwise manipulate or rush the situation. So the proccess requires you to actively practice patience, and learn to be happy and content even when you don't have the things you want or may think you deserve. When you think that you've earned your leather, but it isn't offered, you're inspired to look deeper inside yourself and see what you need to work on improving. Earning leather builds character, and giving leather rewards character.
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#9 User is offline   soul-kiss Icon

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 12:27 AM

Hi All,
This has been a very informative topic for me, i am brand new to this site and to exploring this scene..reading this information and absorbing the ceremony and honor in which "earning your leather" takes is just amazing..the information is really helpfull.
As a new person here i am very thankful for these threads. It helps a great deal for someone new to come in and have information, facts and history to access.
truly enjoyed this
Soul.
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#10 User is offline   Ginger Icon

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 06:35 PM

View Postsoul-kiss, on Oct 3 2007, 01:27 AM, said:

Hi All,
This has been a very informative topic for me, i am brand new to this site and to exploring this scene..reading this information and absorbing the ceremony and honor in which "earning your leather" takes is just amazing..the information is really helpfull.
As a new person here i am very thankful for these threads. It helps a great deal for someone new to come in and have information, facts and history to access.
truly enjoyed this
Soul.



This kind of post is the reason Master Dale puts so much time and effort into this board. I hope you will continue to find threads of interest and give us all a chance to re-read and perhaps add new insights or new questions so that others may come away from a thread with the same feelings you just expressed.

Ginger

"At times it is strangely seductive to know the extent of your own powerlessness." Erica Jong
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#11 User is offline   SMF Icon

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 12:35 PM

I've seen a lot of posts on the old guard; the one thing I find missing from most of those posts though is how those very hostile times they formed their groups in affected things. The other thing that had a major affect was the fact that there wasn't any easy way to find a group or for groups to communicate with each other. Things like the internet were years away and even the phone, while ubiquitous, was so expensive to use that it wasn't used much. Its difficult to overemphasize the caution that living in those times instilled in everyone...being gay was only becoming tolerated. The other thing to occurs to me was that because it was so difficult and risky to participate only those who absolutely wanted to, who needed to, did. The consequence of this was that they tended to be interested harder activities. All of this, plus a unforgiving and more than a little hostile outside environment, made the groups very wary of outsiders. Hence the entry rituals and the emphasis that everything had to be learned and earned.
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#12 User is offline   MasterDale Icon

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 05:19 PM

Excellent points, SMF, thanks for posting.

Post WWII America had swung towards intolerance of anything that threatened the idealized way of American life. That certainly included homosexuality and sexual deviations. It was a time when society was not expected to have to tolerate such scary aberrations that flew in the face of "normal" heterosexual, god-fearing, Mom and apple pie loving Americans. Especially after so much was sacrificed during the war. People were hungry for a return to normalcy and simpler times. It was not an easy task with the dark memories and the losses from that war so fresh. But America launched itself on a course of renewed centrist values and walked a very high moral ground.

It was this craving for normalcy and the moral high ground, coupled with the bloody memories of fighting deviant cultures which threatened the American way of life that spawned the McCarthy era in the early 1950's. This was a time when everyone was suspicious of everyone, and people were punished not only for their beliefs if they happened not be mainstream...but also for the suspicion that they may have beliefs that might not be mainstream. We tend to think it was just so-called Communists that were the targets. But Communism became the catch-all phrase that many undesirables were tagged with. The intelligencia, Jews, homosexuals, and particularly people in the entertainment industry were targeted and sometimes even blackmailed by the US governent.

The post WWII era, when the Old Guard was supposed to have emerged, was a time of paranoia and secretiveness for any homosexual, especially for ones who were practicing BDSM within a homosexual culture. Not only was the government on the lookout for them, but so was every "good" American who was trying to cleanse America of the kinds of evil subversions that started WWII. So it is no surprise that a secret society was formed for these men to protect themselves. As SMF pointed out, those were not easy times for gay people in the BDSM Lifestyle.

M. Dale
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#13 User is offline   SMF Icon

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Posted 16 December 2007 - 05:30 PM

Your welcome, MasterDale.

One of the complexities in discussing the Old Guard is that there is really two eras of them - 1945-1969 and 1969-1982. What I'm trying to do is draw a distinction between practices and environment of the 1945-1969 times and the 1969-1982 times. Why use 1969 as a dividing point? It was that year that a gay bar, the Stonewall, in NYC was invaded by police, much like gay bars often were in that time period, only this time the there was a large groundswell of support for the gay men. At the same time thet Pan-Sexual BDSM community also emerged from the shadows along with the leather community. Either way, it became relatively easier to find the community.

In both eras though, once you found them though, your first look at them could be rather intense. I mentioned earlier that since the groups were composed of people who were absolutely had to and need to participate what you would run into could be very intimidating. Sometimes extremely so.
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Posted 05 January 2008 - 07:25 AM

Hi SMF :-) Its nice to meet someone else who is interested in leather history. I'm going to pick up where you left off, in 1982.

That was the year that the CDC declared AIDS to be an epidemic, with 600 registered deaths that year. What followed was the tragic loss of a large percentage of the gay leathermen who formed the Old Guard communities. As the treatments got better and safe sex became the norm, the deaths slowly tapered off. However, even today AIDS seriously affects the leather community. Many leathermen are HIV positive as a result of living through the epidemic. I cherish the days that my friends are healthy, and dread the day when I'll have to sit by thier bedside.

At the same time that the leather community was declining due to the AIDS epiedimic, the pansexual BDSM community was really establishing itself and starting to grow. It did so with almost no influence from the Old Guard leather community. Sexual liberation, "we're just here to have fun" and "don't tell me what to do" attitudes, and acceptance of those with casual or limitted interest have been hallmarks of the pansexual BDSM community.

In the nineties a new leather community started forming, comprised of the tattered remains of the Old Guard and people looking for something deeper than the pansexual BDSM community had to offer. This era of leather is often referred to as "The New Guard". A lot of the Old Guard traditions and history were lost with the death of so many, and the closed, divisive and distrustful attitudes of the past were recognized as unhealthy. Now we try to honor the past with general traditions that are spread out through the whole community and open to some personal interpretation, whereas the Old Guard clubs each had thier own very strict formats. Tolerance and inclusion has become a major community value, and many heterosexuals and transexuals are now members of the leather community. An interest in spirituality, service, and self growth has also become a hallmark of the New Guard.

The BDSM and leather communities have experienced some hostility towards each other. The BDSM community tends to feel that the Leather community wants to impose rules on them and tell them they are "doing it wrong"'. The Leather community tends to feel that the BDSM community lacks character and discipline. The two groups have largely avoided each other, and often clashed when they did assosciate.

That seems to be slowly changing. A subset of the leather community termed "The Next Generation", generally accepted as individuals aged 18 to 35, are building some bridges between the two groups. Everyone in the BDSM community would not enjoy or appreciate the leather community, and everyone in the Leather community is not going to be comfortable in the BDSM community. But more and more often there are people (such as myself) who bridge the two.

It is my hope that eventually the members of the BDSM community will have an understanding and appreciation of the leather community. That general awareness, respect, and acceptance will allow people to make an informed decision about where they fit best.
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