The Lords of Leather were formed in 1983 as a gay krewe with an emphasis on presenting leather costumes as a statement of identity and belonging.

The origin of leather clubs

Leather organizations trace their origins to the post-World War II era, when returning servicemen formed motorcycle clubs. Their leather service gear provided some measure of protection from road hazards and also implied a shared sense of purpose that comes from uniform dress. Typical arrite included leather pants, chaps, vests, caps, and boots.

In time, gay men (and eventually, women) formed clubs that focuses on the machismo and fetishism of wearing leather, whether or not they rode motorcycles. Eventually, the wearing of leather would connote a lifestyle, complete with the “old-guard” rules governing social interaction and the meaning behind certain garments.

The “leatherman” image remained largely covert until the Village People became popular in the late 1970s. One of the disco group’s members, Glenn Hughes, wore leatherman attire and helped bring this lifestyle into popular culture.

A leather krewe

The Lords of Leather were inspired by a July 1983 gathering (known as a “run) of leathermen called Bastille I, sponsored by the organization De Sade and Men. Attendees Wally Sherwood and Don “Eagle” DuBury decided to inaugurate a leather krewe, which admitted ten members by the time of the ball.

The Lords of Leather scheduled their event on Mardi Gras eve at the Bakers’ Union Hall in the Marigny neighborhood. Required attire was either full leather or leather costume. The coronation of the monarchs took place at the stroke of midnight. Fewer than 50 attended this intimate and exclusive affair.


As the krewe evolved, members found such ubiquitous costume materials as rhinestones, sequins, and feathers impossible to resist and incorporated them into their leather looks. What sets this krewe apart, however, is its emphasis on masculinity, as opposed to the drag aesthetic common in other gay krewes. Determining that there would be no drag at their ball, members even considered banning women from attending, but instead voted to invite them.

Today, Lords of Leather remains a revered organization, respected for their costumes’ excellence and boldness.