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Gearing up!

by Race Bannon

Just a few of the many sexy, leathered up men who attended the BLUF SF 2015 annual In Gear dinner. photo: Jon Fulton
Just a few of the many sexy, leathered up men who attended the BLUF SF 2015 annual In Gear dinner. photo: Jon Fulton   

One of the more common leather world refrains I hear in recent years, especially from older gay leathermen, is the bemoaning of guys not "gearing up" when they go out. It's true. When you walk into most of the previously leather-laden bars on a typical night, you see less of the leathered or fully-geared look nowadays.

However, this shouldn't be interpreted as there not still being a highly active and engaged network of guys who revel in leather, uniforms and gear of various kinds. For many kinksters, the gear they wear is the thing. And if it's not "the" thing, it's certainly one of the key components of their sexuality. Some guys even require gear for their libidos to fire up at all.

In 1997, to help these gear-centric men connect, a man who goes only by Leon founded an international organization called BLUF, which stands for the Breeches and Leather Uniform Fanclub. BLUF is a free community for men who have an interest in leather, uniforms and breeches. It has thousands of members around the world who organize dozens of events each year.


Lexx King (left), current head of the BLUF SF group, and Kevin Helvie (right) at the 2017 In Gear dinner. photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

The BLUF website is now owned by a nonprofit and run by a team of volunteer admins, updaters, and event organizers. It remains completely free to use and relies upon donations and merchandise sales to cover its operating costs. www.bluf.com

BLUF's membership and events take place throughout Europe, the United States and Canada, but the first organized party was held right here in San Francisco. In September 1998, the first event was held during Folsom Weekend at the now defunct leather bar, Loading Dock. Although BLUF only had about 150 members at that time, the party was a huge success and helped launch the growing popularity of the organization.

Local Leathers

Here in San Francisco we're lucky to have an active chapter of the organization, BLUF SF. Lately, BLUF SF has upped their game by proactively working to create more events to cater to the gear-centric kinky men among us.

BLUF SF offers a rich diversity of events. They host the casual Leather Lounge gatherings on the second Saturday of the month at the SF Eagle. They organize Leathermen at the Movies outings where they recently had a huge turnout of leathermen at the premier of Black Panther. And, since like all of us, leathermen like to eat, they host an annual big In Gear Dinner and regular Leather Dim Sum outings in Chinatown.


Attending the 2015 BLUF SF In Gear dinner were local leathermen Ghee Phua (left) and Kristofer Weston (right). photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

One of the new BLUF SF events I attended recently was Tribe, a special gear-focused night at the SF Eagle where men were encouraged to come out in their leather and fetish finest, and they did. The bar was packed with more leathermen in a bar than I'd seen in a long time.

The success of Tribe proved to me that there is indeed a subset of kinky gay men that do want to keep alive classic leather and gear culture. That doesn't mean the scene itself isn't changing. Classic leather garb is but one of many choices guys now have when looking to dress for their kink proclivities. I hope BLUF and other groups continue to create such events and gatherings where guys can strut their geared-up selves in hot and sexy settings.

One of the younger men who's been working to revive San Francisco men's leather and gear culture is Lexx King. Lexx was also the main driving force behind the Tribe event. Lexx currently leads the BLUF SF group. Here's what he said about one of their group's goals.

"You often hear concerns in the leather community that the apps have reduced opportunities to meet people in person," said King. "BLUF SF wants to reverse this. We're all about creating ways for guys into gear to meet up socially and build community. For us, success is when we have an event and there's a sea of people in gear having a good time. You'll often see guys in full leather at our events, but we want everyone who's into gear to feel welcome to wear what they love."

Check out information about BLUF SF and their events at their website. www.blufsf.com


Guys at BLUF events are often in leather, but guys into uniforms are also an integral part of their membership, like these men at the 2015 In Gear dinner. photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

Dining In Gear

As mentioned earlier, one of BLUF SF's annual events is their In Gear dinner coming up soon. On Thursday, July 26, 6-10pm, at Don Ramon's Mexican Restaurant, BLUF SF will host its annual dinner where gear guys can begin to ease into the bevy of events and happenings that center around the now world famous Up Your Alley street fair.

Late-night bar meet-ups are great and historically popular activities in the kink community. However, club dinners and special events are also rewarding ways to gather and expand social connections in the kink world.

The Golden Gate Guards has their annual cruise, which matches full gear with an afternoon on the Bay. Club dinners so many of us have enjoyed over the years have dropped off, like the annual Phoenix Uniform Club's dinner in the Veteran's Building. The California branch of the Boots & Breeches Corps produced a wonderful dinner for many years, associated with Folsom Street Fair, but no more.

The BLUF SF annual dinner is something of a survivor, and it means a lot to the men who crave highly social, alternative ways to gather in their own company. It's another example of how we build offline leather and kink community.

I've attended this dinner many times and it typically draws a couple hundred hot, sexy, geared men. While the dinner has historically catered to those in full BLUF gear and their geared-up friends, over time it's become quite welcoming to a range of gear including leather, rubber, or various uniforms. BLUF SF wants you to just come in gear and have a great time.

Each year the net proceeds from the dinner are donated to worthwhile nonprofits from within the local leather and kink communities. This year the beneficiaries are ONYX Northwest and San Francisco Leathermen's Discussion Group.

Tickets are available at www.blufsfdinner2018.eventbrite.com.

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist. www.bannon.com


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