So, what's the deal with leather? I mean, why is it considered so hot and all? I once tried on a friend's leather pants, and it felt like I was encased in Saran Wrap. Hot? You betcha, and I had the sweat beads crawling down my butt crack to prove it. Do people really prance around in that stuff all night long? How does their skin breathe? And why, I repeat, why is it considered sexy?
100% Cotton Kinda Guy
100% Cotton: I believe it was the late, great Louis Armstrong who, when asked to define jazz, said, 'If you have to ask, you'll never know.' Likewise, if you have to be told what's so sexy about leather, you'll probably never find it sexy. I will nevertheless try to explain its sex appeal to you, so that, should you find yourself in a situation where everybody but you is covered, head to toe, in cow hide ' a Nazi Party rally, say, or a bondage-and-discipline coffee klatsch, or even a herd of cattle out in some field somewhere ' you won't stick out like a sore thumb made of 100% cotton. And who knows, maybe some of leather's time-honored qualities will rub off on you.
Then again, maybe leather rubs you the wrong way. It certainly rubs a lot of people the wrong way. And as I sit here on my leather couch typing away, I can't help but think of the poor cow ' at least I think it was a cow ' that laid down its life so that I might attain just the right mottled red-brown to go with the woodwork in my living room. (Try getting that in Naugahyde.) The way we treat cattle in this country...well, what can I say, we treat them like cattle. And the fact that I'm what I call a lapsetarian ' a vegetarian who lapses and eats meat all the time ' doesn't get me off the hook. But at least I'm willing to admit that the leather industry isn't just a byproduct of the meat industry. If we didn't eat animals, we'd still want to wear them.
Okay, I'll now step down off the soapbox that it was hypocritical of me to climb up on in the first place ' in leather shoes, no less. Why is leather sexy? Leather is sexy because, if worn properly, it fits us like a second skin. You know what they say about leather pants: If you can get them on, they're not tight enough. (Ideally, they would be sewn on or even stapled on.) But tightness is only part of the point. The other part of the point is that it's literally a second skin, substituting for our own skin ' touchable, but also a layer removed, a zone of protection. Keep in mind that the ultimate symbol of (now commodified) rebellion, the black leather jacket, was first adopted by motorcyclists because it cut down on road rash after a wipe-out.
And from there leather has spread throughout the culture, from Marlon Brando in The Wild One to Peter Fonda in Easy Rider to Elvis in his Vegas comeback special to Jim Morrison writhing around on stage, trying to shed his lizard-king skin, to...well, to Henry Winkler as the Fonz, history finally repeating itself as farce. That leather has managed to survive its enshrinement as the fashion statement of choice for rebels without a clue is a testament to its sheer durability. It actually improves with age, bearing the marks of everything it's been through. And how many of us can say that? Leather looks good, it feels good, it smells good, it even sounds good. But is it worth everything we put those cows through? If you have to ask, you may already know.
To tan my hide, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR E-MAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.