You've likely noticed the hashtag #Gear365 gaining momentum across social media over the past 18 months - but how did it start and why? Perfectolad caught up with the founder of the Gear365 movement CalRider and find out what it's all about.
First thing's first Cal; what's Gear365?
Gear365 is a social movement that encourages people to embrace our gear fetishes as a deep part of who we are; replacing any fear of wearing 'our chosen skin' with a sense of pride and confidence.
We do this by wearing some form of gear every day; leather, rubber, military, sports, skater, etc. Anything you're into, put it on! It can be as subtle as wearing gloves, boots or a wrist-cuff out to a restaurant… or wearing a jockstrap or harness under your clothes at the office. It can also be more open, like wearing full leather or rubber out to the grocery store.
Then, people share their geared-up experiences online using #Gear365. There are currently tens-of-thousands of posts from gearheads from all walks of life and every corner of the globe opening up about their experiences in gear.
When did you come up with this idea?
It started off as a New Year's resolution actually; a New Year's resolution to make a gear revolution.
At the end of 2017, I was feeling a void in my life and began thinking of ways to help make 2018 more positive and fulfilling. Leather has always been a huge part of who I am – it's an intrinsic part of my sexuality and identity, yet I had hardly been wearing it. I decided I was going to find a way to wear it every day in the new year, not only to make me feel happier but to help eliminate any stigma over wearing fetish gear in daily life. I decided to share the idea and posted a simple call-to-action video and the Gear365 resolution snowballed from there.
It definitely snowballed; there're over 22,000 hashtags on Instagram for Gear365, and countless on Twitter - did you think it would be this popular?
I never imagined the response would be this great, nor grow so fast. I hadn't realised but there is a real need for this; encouragement to express our gear fetishes and a safe place to discuss our challenges and triumphs within the world of gear.
Beyond the social media posts using the hashtag, some of the deepest conversations have been within the Gear365 Facebook groups; one of which is for all gender expressions and the other being a Men's Discussion Group. We've covered some incredibly intimate topics that people hadn't felt safe discussing publicly before; body image, mental health, balancing relationships with non-gear wearing partners, ageism, coming out as a gear fetishist and, most prevalently, finding the courage to wear gear in ways we'd never dreamed possible.
Why do you think it's grown so fast?
I think it helps that Gear365 isn't micro-tribal; so many of us are primarily rubber or leather or military, skinhead or whatever, but this is a movement for every gear lover, no matter who you are or what you're into.
It's also more about appreciating gear and wearing it proudly versus being a meat market. The community that's sprung up around it isn't judgemental, but supportive. It's deeply inclusive and has become an icon of accepting yourself, which I absolutely love.
Do you think it's made people think differently about their gear and when they wear it?
I think it's given people the courage to be much more open about their gear interests. There have been so many incredible examples of wearing gear in front of people and in places where they had never imagined doing so before.
This movement is helping so many of us realise that we do not have to hide our gear desires in the shadows. So many of us want to wear our gear more and wear it with pride – I know I'm not alone in that. From that, we have a very supportive community which gives people the push to gear up and put themselves out there. This gives people a sense of belonging rather than being a part of a competition.
What do you think hold back some fetishmen from wearing their gear more?
Fear of being judged, social convention, their job, their non-fetish friends finding out - the list is endless.
The various facets of my life have crossed over more and more over the years; the 'professional me', the 'fetish me', the 'friends and family me.' In fact, Gear365 gave me the courage to out myself as a leatherman to my family, friends and co-workers – an aspect of myself I'd long kept hidden from them over fears of being ridiculed or losing professional credibility. Yet, the response was mind-blowingly accepting. I quickly realised all the fear lived in my head; once I could get past that, I could be my authentic self in daily life. No longer do I need to compartmentalise.
Although, not everyone is in the same position as me, so many people yearn to blur the boundaries between their identities. Often, they identify very strongly with their gear-self. So many have shared with me, particularly leathermen, they feel like their 'true selves' in leather. I want everyone to be free to be their 'true selves' as much as possible.
Does it take a lot of effort to oversee and run Gear365 across different platforms?
I do feel very responsible for it, even though it's reached far beyond my personal control. I try to keep the conversations positive, enlightening and meaningful. It's most difficult keeping up with messages and queries – I do try and answer as many as I'm able, but some invariably slip through the net. It pains me when I feel I've neglected someone as that is never my intention.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to live their best gear life, but nervous of doing so?
It can almost be a second coming out, but it has to be done at pace that works for you personally. It's not about who you are, where you live, what gear you have – it's about letting go of any fear or stigma standing between you and the desires you have deep down.
When you see gearheads riding on the subway in a leather uniform, attending an event in full rubber, or dressed as a pup, remember – they all had to start somewhere. Gear takes time to aquire, so does the confidence to wear it, but it will happen if you allow it to happen.
Start by wearing what you're comfortable with. Keep it simple to start and, in time, push yourself a little more. You'll learn that so much of the fear is in our own heads - an overwhelming majority of your interactions will be positive, so don't hide in the shadows because you fear a negative remark.
Lastly, if you ever feel like you're alone surrounded by people who would never understand your fetishes, remember: there are thousands of Gear365 gearheads all over the world who understand and have your back.
Finally, how can people get involved?
Gear365 is for all gearheads – whether confident or shy, an old hand or a new face to the community. Getting involved can be as simple as tagging #Gear365 on your Instagram post, or as involved as joining in with our Facebook discussion group and sharing your experiences.
If you're not comfortable with sharing your experiences online, no problem. Just wearing your gear in some form is enough, no matter how minor or subtle. The goal in doing this is to develop a sense of pride in your gear fetishes while embracing who you are – each and every day.
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