International Mr. Leather 2012

By: Will West

Photo: RVJ Studios Inc

For adventurous guys, Chicago is the place to be every Memorial Day Weekend. A wide range of gay men and a handful of lesbians from all over the world converge on the Windy City every year for cocktails and camaraderie at International Mr. Leather. May 2012 marked the 34th Anniversary of the International Mr. Leather contest. IML, as it’s called by those in the know, is the largest gathering of leather men and women from around the world. It’s kind of like an annual family reunion, but with bubble butts framed in leather chaps.

The outgoing International Mr. Leather is the handsome Frenchman Eric Guttierez, Mr. Leather Europe 2010, who was named International Mr. Leather in May of 2011. After an amazing year of traveling all over the world representing the leather community, Eric served as a judge on this year’s panel. Forty nine men from all over the United States, and a few from abroad, competed for the opportunity to fill his boots and become be the next International Mr. Leather.

The event began Friday, May 25th, with the Opening Ceremonies at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, IML’s host hotel. Later that night we hit an outstanding event, the annual Gear Blast party, a gathering of younger guys in everything from full football uniforms, to rubber singlets, to formal leather, to vintage uniforms. We also managed to stop by the Chicago Rubbermen Meet and Greet, where Sly Hands, Mr. International Rubber 2012, was mingling with guests after a long flight from his home in the UK.

Saturday, May 26thwas the  “Pecs and Personality” portion of the contest, and the best place to cheer on the contestants as they strutted their stuff on stage in boots and jockstraps. After watching the men work the stage, we hit the annual ONYX Old School Dance, one of the fiercest parties of the entire weekend, to sweat off some of the overflowing sexual energy radiating from the hotel.

Sunday, May 27thwas the final part of the International Mr. Leather contest, where the top twenty contestants advanced to compete in the “Leather Image” and “Speech” portions of the event. The class of 2012 was a very strong group of contestants, delivering some of the most thoughtful speeches in recent memory. Congratulations to Woody Woodruff, Mr. Michigan Leather 2012 and International Mr. Leather 2012. Kudos to First Runner up A.C. Demidont, Mr. Eagle New York 2012, and Second Runner up Kevin Jordan, Mr. DC Eagle 2012.

Nick Elliot from Portland, Oregon was sashed as the new International Mr. Bootblack 2012, with International Mr. Bootblack 2011 Jim Dueder stepping down from a busy year of travel, teaching, and boot blacking. Congratulations to Mr. Dueder on a fantastic year.

After the contest, we finished the evening at the famous victory celebration and circuit party dance at the always-packed House of Blues.

Finally, on Monday, May 28thwe made our way down to the vendor mart to check out the latest fetish gear. Merchants from far and wide were selling everything from giant inflatable rubber bondage cubes to sexy leather jock straps and engineer boots. The cost to attend this very special  “Macy’s of Leather” was only five dollars; with all proceeds benefiting Chicago’s own Leather Museum and Archives, the only museum dedicated to preserving the history and culture of leather people.

I can’t wait for IML 35 in May of 2013. If you’ve never been before, don’t miss this fantastic mixture of shopping, cruising, cocktails and leather.

Tags: GAY & AWAY