Leather bars started appearing in San Francisco, New York and Chicago in the late 1950's. Many gay men used, and continue to use, these centers of masculinity as an entryway to the leather community. For many men, the clientele of these bars was preferred over the sweaters, perfumes and effeminism of the men in other gay bars. The dirty bikers and rough leathermen (at least in appearance) brooded the sexual atmosphere of the bar.
Leather bars have changed over the past five decades. As leather culture rose from the underground and flirted with mainstream pop culture, leather bars have adapted their policies and environments. Early leather bars had much more strict dress codes than those in contemporary bars. Today's bars also welcome women as patrons. This exhibit is meant to display art and artifacts found in leather bars across the country. There is no dress code, no cover charge, and Randy (seated at the bar) will be happy to share a beer with you.
The case displayed here was first used by a bootblack in a historic Chicago leather bar, the AA Meat Market. After the AA closed, the case was used at the Chicago Eagle. During its active lifetime, the case was used by three Chicago bootblacks.
Our thinks to Marc Peurye for continuously adding items to the case including the brush IMBB Richie Chameroy used the year he won the title of International Mr. Bootblack in 2003.