10 Leather Protocol Lessons I learned from Outlaw Bikers…

by loftnc@gmail.com

Despite being a punk rock artist, I was around a lot of “biker” culture growing up. My father rides a harley. My grandparents were post-war MC members in the late 1940’s. I got introduced to tattooing through biker-based tattoo studios, and apprenticed with these types of men around all the time. I eventually had a child with a girl who’s father was a member of an outlaw club for 30+ years. It’s been a significant part of my life evolution.

Some of my friends eventually became outlaw bikers. I tried to keep my nose clean, and found kink instead. Hahahaha… yeah…

Despite trading in my own Harley for a Triumph cafe racer a couple years ago, this type of ethic comes naturally to me. When I first met Leatherfolk, it was a near seamless fit.

The Motorcycle Club culture (especially the stricter formal culture) historically shares a parallel history to Leather culture. Aside from the sexual component, many of the protocols within the MC culture, and the Leather scene still are the same. It stands to reason, as the original heterosexual MC’s were founded by similar young men, from the same military background as those who founded the first gay MC’s. The hierarchy, culture, and codes of ethics in the first motorcycle clubs were founded on the same principles; echoing the interaction of lower ranking soldiers with higher ranking officers.

Early clubs and leatherfolk did interact with each other. Samuel Steward (Phil Sparrow) was the official tattooer for the original Oakland charter of the Hell’s Angels in the 1960’s. The fact that Steward was very involved in the gay S/m community had no bearing on their working relationship.

Times have changed though. Around the modern biker world, as opposed to the kink scene, there is much less tolerance. There isn’t a lot of room for alternative lifestyles, and if you fail to observe established protocol, you may get a lot more than just blacklisted and gossiped about within the community. Having decent manners, and knowing when to keep quiet, can often be the deciding factor of whether you leave a party safely or not!

There are a few ethics I have learned over the years, that I see mirrored in formal kink culture. If not widely respected, at least these are foundation points that I see as being similar. I personally resonate with any people who understand and respect this type of etiquette, whether as Bikers, or in the Leather/BDSM community.



Ask Permission, Don’t Interrupt, and Express Gratitude. Don’t be a loudmouth. If you pick something up, put it back where you got it. If you mess something up, clean it up. Your mother doesn’t hang here, and if she did, she’d likely be busy doing something else. Own your actions and don’t be a dummy.

2) “Do not let your mouth write checks that your ass cannot cash.”

Tell the truth and don’t embellish your history. Not everyone needs to be a tough guy or be able to fix a carberetor. If you can’t do something, don’t say you can. You are judged on your honesty, and if someone finds out that you are full of shit, you’re not trustworthy from that point on. If you talk a big game, sooner or later someone will expect you to “show and prove” whatever you have been bragging about, and if you cannot, well I guess that’s that.

On a similar note, Keep Your Word. If you say you will do something for someone, or for your friends, DO IT. If you don’t follow through on your promises, again, your words aren’t worth the air they took to say.

3) “What you see here, stays here.”

If you cannot keep your mouth shut about what you witness, don’t come around. Easy enough. “What you see here, do here, or hear here, stays here, or do not be here.” is common request for anyone who may be doing things that not everyone may need to know about.

4) “Don’t touch other people’s property”

Do not touch a person’s colours, motorcycle, or any property that is not yours without permission. If interested in seeing something, or touching something, ask permission. Don’t be the grabby guy, even if you are just trying to help. If someone needs your help, they will ask for it.

On a very related note, don’t talk to another guy’s “old lady” without talking to him first. Unless maybe you are just friends, and it is obvious to everyone around that you are only being social. “Property” patches and tattoos were once a very common thing for wives and girlfriends. I once talked to a 1%er’s wife I knew casually (before knowing this rule) at a private party, and she whispered “I don’t know you here.” and walked away. She was doing me a favour. If her 300lbs old man would have seen some cocky young punk chatting up his wife, shit would have hit the fan. As a matter of fact, don’t go talking up any woman at a party unless you check around that she is available. Even side-girls, or girlfriends are off limits for unknowns trying to weasel in.

5) “Trust in Few”

It takes a long time to earn your way into a club. You have to do a lot of legwork, long nights, waking up at all hours to run errands, clean gear, bartend, drive people home, and clean some more. You need to learn to listen and keep your mouth shut when given an order. You need to learn your role, and show respect for those that came before you. This doesn’t mean being a bootlicker per se, but to understand that being involved in this life is a privilege earned through sacrifice and work, not a right for just anyone who wants it. And if you can keep your head up through that bullshit, you can be trusted to be a dependable member of the community.

6) “I was talking about you, not to you.”

Mind your own business unless invited into a conversation. Do not interrupt the grown ups having a discussion with each other. Wait until they are done. If you need their attention, approach, let your presence be known, and stay out of the conversation. If you have to disagree with a someone, choose the most tactful and polite way to express it. If you think that a situation merits hot language, bass in your voice, physical contact, or excessive volume, you should be prepared for the consequences.

7) “Fake it till you make it.”

Not everyone is cut out to swim with sharks, and getting intimidated happens in certain situations. If you are in a tense spot, try to stay still, not to fidget. Hold your ground and don’t back up. Be concise; say a minimum of words necessary to get your point across, but do not escalate a situation. Don’t slump in defeat, or puff up your chest in bravado. Breathe normally, do not stare, show your teeth, or try to front like you are a hard-ass. Avoid acting smug. Relax, and try to maintain your cool under pressure. I’ve personally grown to be more relaxed under anxiety, but over the years, I learned these tips, sometimes to literally protect my own safety.


Does It Look Like I Give A Fuck? We are in this scene because we realize that normal society isn’t our bag. That the vanilla world is for jokers, and we just want to live free. Don’t be so concerned with what society thinks of your life, as much as your close circle. The ethics/opinions of those folks you actually value, are far more important than some citizen’s, who is light years away from your own worldview. The opinions of the sheep do not concern the wolf.

9) “Helmet Laws Suck”

You should be aware of the consequences of your own behaviour. You shouldn’t need a babysitter to make your decisions for you. I am a grown man and can choose what type of informed risks I’m willing to take with my own life. I do not need government interference telling me how I should be safe. Let us live how we want, and take our own chances as informed consenting adults.

10) “One for all and all for one”

If you decide to have an issue with one member, you had better be ready to have his bros to deal with as well. Most bikers I know would give the shirt off their back for one of their club brothers. The club protects it’s members, and the members protect the club. There is strength in unity. If a guy can count on his inner circle, and he knows they will pick him up if he falls, and they know the same is true with him, there are a force to be reckoned with. (On a related note, join the NCSF!)


Personally, I love the kink community, and find modern biker culture a little too rough for my tastes. I’m getting older and softer, and it seems more a magnet for criminally minded bully-type personalities now (which I cannot handle). It seems far from a gathering place for those men simply seeking anti-authoritarian brotherhood and comradery. Hell, I’m more of a pervert than tough guy anyways, and I’m not going to lie about it. That culture did help shape me though, and many of the club-culture ethics I grew up around are mirrored in Leather. I still have all my riding gear, just now I get to wear it for more than just poker runs!

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