IML Leather Market: Best Show in Town
If you’ve lived in Chicago for a few years or more, chances are it has happened to you. It’s Memorial Day weekend, and you’re enjoying the great weather with your mom or sweetheart. Maybe taking a stroll in Lincoln Park or shopping in the Loop. All of a sudden: LEATHER DADDIES EVERYWHERE.
One of the best things about Chicago is that we play host to International Mr. Leather. Every Memorial Day Weekend, tens of thousands of people from the leather and fetish community descend upon our windy city for an entire weekend of events, socials and contests.
What started out as a local event on the Gold Coast (yes the one where Oprah lives now) with only about six or seven contestants is now literally an international event, with 70 contestants from all over the globe. At this point in its history, now in its 30th year, IML is drawing people from all trots of life -- hardcore leather fetishists to curious heavy petters.
Obviously, the main event is the actual Mr. Leather contest on Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m. Just like Miss America, the men strut their stuff on stage in various outfits and are judged on looks, an interview and my favorite category, "Pecs and Personality." The contestants cry and get roses, while the winner dons a leather sash and spends the next year touring the world’s leather bars and getting his pick of the litter. It’s genius.
While I did buy myself a pair of tight cop uniform pants last year (being a daddy ain’t cheap people), I would say that I am mostly a voyeur. But the Leather Market, open Friday through Monday, is the best place to see what the leather community does best: display an incredible amount of camaraderie to all ages, genders and kink levels.
Among the infinite amount of vendor tables and porn stars, you’ll probably see a shy corporate suit, a man in a dog mask on all fours, a woman trying on a corset, and that little Asian slave in the fishnet miniskirt and shackles that goes every year. All in the same corner.
One of my best stories from the market involves a hooded sub, who had been chained to a vendor display. He was shirtless, and aside from his impressive nipples, he wasn’t standing out too much. People would walk by and give a friendly wink or wave, and he just stood there, his
master somewhere out of site. Finally, with unnerving confidence, a man comes up to him, a sharp twist and tap later, the man starts punching the sub’s chest with full force. As people stopped to watch, the hooded man’s crotch bulge got bigger and bigger. Just as suddenly
as that brazen display of sexuality started, it was over, and everyone went back to their shopping.
The Leather Market is open to the public from Friday to Monday for a suggested donation of $4.00, all benefitting the Leather Archives and Museum. It is located at this year’s sponsoring hotel, the Hyatt Regency at 151 East Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60601. 312-565-1234. For complete information,