It is midnight Saturday, when I arrive at The Eagle, New York's oldest leather bar. As I look around I notice most of the men are younger, bearded 25-35 year olds. Gone are the days of strict dress codes and full leather drag. There are just a few of the old leather guard still cruising and mixing with this crowd.
The Eagle has had to adapt to the times to survive New York's ever changing attitudes of younger generations. At one time New York's leather scene was a thriving culture of wild cruising and open sex. The Eagle's original location was on the West Side Highway. Bars like The Spike, Paddles and many other clubs of the past were once an oasis for the leather community. Black out parties were commonplace for leather men to meet for cruising and sex. Now, the landscape is changing. Kink or code nights are diminishing while online cruising apps have provided alternatives to going to bars.
The scene has changed to suit a younger, less leather formal crowd. Young men who are more attracted to the look of leather and less into the seriousness of the leather lifestyle. This included thing's like hankies, armbands, Levis, collars, big boots, motorcycle jackets, knowing your place and respect. I think the new guard are finding themselves. Perhaps the S&M feeling to the leather scene is slowly softening to suit a generation of new guard. From all black leather, chaps, Wesco boots to fabric or color coded harnesses, sportswear, shorts & sneakers. Big events like the Black Party are filled to the rafters with younger men in these new uniforms. Full leather is seen less and less now.
"Sometimes 20 year old's come into the store at The Eagle seeking information about leather code. I will take the time to educate them finding out what their interests are so they can make their own choices. I don't think of myself as old guard. I do think as the older generation goes we should educate and mentor" says Christophe, owner of Manskins at The Eagle.
I often get nostalgic thinking about the past, remembering just how wonderful things used to be back in "the day". Just like we had our preference in music and the things we took, we also had hard core beliefs about the significance of leather within our culture and attitudes of the time. The new guard, just as we did, are making their own decisions about what looks fantastic and makes you want to connect with a hot guy. They are embracing a new culture of "gay leather" and it is that vision that they will reminisce about in the future.
The Eagle Bar NYC 554 W 28th Street
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