The Leather Pride Flag wasn’t designed with any specific symbolism

By : Staff Report
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For 35 years, the highly recognizable blue, black and white-striped flag with the red heart in the upper left hand corner has become a staple at LGBT Pride events. It easily distinguishes the leather crowd from the masses of LGBTs at any gathering and also marks the entry way to leather bars around the world. Today it even appears on bumper stickers and license plates.

Unlike the familiar rainbow flag that is most often associated with the gay rights movement, the colors of the Leather Pride flag weren’t designed with any specific symbolism. When it was first presented at the 1989 Mr. International Leather (IML) Contest in Chicago, no one had seen a widely accepted symbol of the leather community.

Tony DeBlase, wrote about his method of creation in his Drummer column, “Off The Top” preceding the contest and explained that the 20th anniversary of Stonewall was his inspiration.

“I felt that the time was right for the Leather men and women, who have been participating in these same parades and events more and more visibly in recent years, to have a similar, simple, elegant banner that would serve as a symbol of their own identity and interests. I decided that calling a committee meeting to design it would be counterproductive, so I just did it. I consulted with most of the staff here at Drummer, and some of their suggestions were incorporated. I do not expect this design to be the final form, but [rather] the basis from which a widely accepted banner will evolve.”

But the flag never changed. The movement took on a life of its own and within months it was emblazoned on everything related to the leather community. Within a decade, it was accepted around the world as a symbol of Leather Pride.

The colors of the Leather Pride flag remain open to interpretation. Some of the more common interpretations revolve around love (the red heart), purity in an open, honest and understanding relationship (white stripe), leather (black stripes) and denim (blue stripe). The white stripe has also been said to stand for “safety.”

Others tend to say that the black stripes symbolize consensual S&M and the white stripe promotes the acceptance and solidarity with novices of that scene.

The original prototype of the flag is on exhibit at the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago, Illinois.

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