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Leather Pride flag

Bondage, domination and sado-masochism

Last modified: 2015-07-11 by randy young
Keywords: leather | denim | bdsm | heart (red) | safety | deblase (tony) | permanence | devotion | loyalty | community | love | bdsm | bondage | domination | sado-masochism | federation star | frisia | east frisia | lily | error |
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Leather Pride flag
image by Marcus Schmöger and António Martins, 31 March 2005
See also:

Origin and usage of the flag

Tony DeBlase, 1989
First Presented
International Mr. Leather Competition, Chicago 1989
20th Anniversary of Stonewall
Meaning or symbolism
The creator «leaves it up to the individual» as to the symbolism and meaning. He gives none of his own.
David Hawks, 27 June 2000

The flag is composed of nine horizontal stripes of equal width. From the top and from the bottom, the stripes alternate black and royal blue. The central stripe is white. In the upper left quadrant of the flag is a large red heart. I will leave it to the viewer to interpret the colors and symbols.
Chris Zimmerman, 14 October 2000,
quoting from [dbl89]

The Leather Pride Flag is a symbol for the leather community, which encompasses those who are into leather, Levi’s, sado-masochism, bondage and domination, uniform, cowboys, rubber, and other fetishes. The flag was created by artist Tony DeBlase and first displayed on May 28, 1989, at the Mr. Leather contest in Chicago. Although the flag is often common in the gay community, it is not a gay-only symbol.
Marcus Schmöger, 24 Aug 2001,
quoting from this page

There is an article in International Leatherman magazine (Issue 25, published July-August 1999) about the history of the Leather Pride flag. According to this article, the flag was designed in Chicago by Tony DeBlase in May 1989 as a working design from which a permanent flag was to be designed through community consensus. The first prototype was displayed at the Mr. Leather contest in Chicago on May 28, 1989, and was enthusiastically welcomed. The creator of the flag leaves the interpretation of the colors up to the viewer. (Although the creator of the flag did not attribute any colors to the flag, many times I have heard or read the following (sometimes vague) descriptions: black is for leather and for permanence; blue is for devotion, loyalty, and community; white is for purity and innocence; and the red heart is for the love of leathermen for each other and for their community.)

There was some objection to Mr. DeBlase taking it upon himself to design a flag for the leather community. However, he defended his position that it was only a temporary design meant to inspire others in creating a permanent flag. Nevertheless, the design caught on so fast that before anyone could do anything, the prototype design was seen everywhere: in magazines, in parades, on flags, on T-shirts, in logos, etc. The original prototype flag is now on display at the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago.

Michael Wilson, 30 September 2000

More data is at BaltimoreEagle.COM: an editorial written by Mr. DeBlase explaining how he designed the flag. Mr. DeBlase was a columnist for Drummer magazine, and it was in that column that he first debuted the Leather Pride Flag [dbl89]. I’ve read excerpts from that article.
Steve Kramer, 10 March 2000 and 7 July 2000

The Leather Pride Flag (for those gay, straight, bi, or otherwise who enjoy leather, sadomasochism, Dominance & submission, and similar activities as a sexual fetish) is displayed more discretely than the Rainbow Gay Pride Flag. They are usually seen tacked to the wall or flown just inside the door at bars, nightclubs, and conventions which cater to that type of clientele.
Steve Kramer, 29 November 2000


Mr. DeBlase, a columnist for Drummer Magazine, invented the flag entirely on his own, and left the symbolism purposefully vague, encouraging the community to assign their own. In the range of the standard responses the red heart stands for love, and the white middle stripe for safety over all.
Steve Kramer, 10 March 2000, 7 July 2000, and 24 August 2001

DeBlase’s wish was that there are diverse interpretations of the symbolics of the flag. One of the most familiar ones is from Stacey, Ms. National Leather Association International 1996:

The red heart is for love, the white stripe for purity in an open, honest and understanding relationship, the black stripes for leather and the blue ones for denim (Jeans fabric) - both materials that are frequently worn in the scene.
Another interpretation:
Black: the colour of S/M followers; blue: for the followers of Jeans fetish; white: solidarity with the novices of the S/M-scene; the heart: S/M has nothing to do with raw violence, but is practised with mutual respect, consent and understanding.
Marcus Schmöger, 24 August 2001,
translating from this page

Wide white variant

Leather Pride flag
image by Marcus Schmöger, 22 August 2001

This is a variant of the “Leather pride flag” with a wider white stripe. I saw three leather pride flags in Munich, during the CSD (Christopher Street Day) Parade, all of them with a wider white stripe.
Marcus Schmöger, 22 August 2001

Alternate origin report?…

If I am correct, there is a very funny story about that flag. The flag factories in Taiwan are not flag experts. They produce flags from artwork presented to them. They offer these flags for sale to various flag importers in the U.S. and elsewhere. They produced flags for Friesland and East Frisia. These come in several variations. Some have blue and white diagonal stripes with 7 red lily pads (not hearts, but very heart shaped) and some come with one heart and variations exist with blue and grey stripes. One importer received some by accident and because he was a Palestinian, he did not know what it was and even if he did he had no (or a very limited) market for them. He listed them in his catalog as leather pride and it caught on. Now it has been reproduced several times and is sold not as a Frisian flag, but as a flag for those who use leather as a sexual fetish.
William M. Grimes-Wyatt, 24 May 1996

I’ve spoken personally with Bill Grimes-Wyatt on the issue. The incident he spoke almost certainly took place, but it was not the origin of the Leather Pride Flag. It was my understanding from Bill that the event he describes took place during the 1990’s, after the creation of the actual Leather Pride Flag.
Steve Kramer, 7 July 2000

Boy Pride Flag

Boy Pride flag
image by Tomislav Todorovic, 24 October 2011

Boy Pride (of Boi Pride) flag is meant to represent Boys/Bois, a subgroup of the leather subculture. The word originally denoted younger and submissive gay men with an appreciation for older and dominant men (these being called Sirs, Masters or Dads), who were often newcomers to the community as well. In time, however, its use seems to have become less strict in terms of the age and relation role, so nowadays it is sometimes used almost as a synonym for a leatherman, depending on the user's point of view.

The flag was first presented at Mid-Atlantic Leather 1998, a gathering of leather people. It was created by Keith Pollanen, who got the inspiration after having met and talked with Tony DeBlase, creator of the Leather Pride Flag. All the elements of the model flag are kept here, but the stripes are arranged diagonally to symbolize the relation of Sir (represented by top left corner) and Boy/Boi (represented by bottom right corner). The heart was moved to the top right corner "because boys are on the right", by authors's own words [1], which is often interpreted as "to show where the boy's heart is" in other available descriptions of the flag [2, 3]. Finally, blue color was replaced with green to represent the boys/bois as newbies ("greenhorns"). The size of heart might vary according to presented images, but the only photos of the flag currently available [5, 6] show a smallish heart, overlapping two stripes only (shown in the attached image).

The whole design obviously reflects the original use of word "boy/boi", even though its present-day use as the basis for logos of some leathermen clubs, which also use phrase "boys of leather" in their name, seems to have little in common with that.

[1] Los Angeles Boys of Leather website at the Internet Archive
[2] Boy/Boi Pride Flag description
[3] Leather Pride and related flags (including the Boy Pride Flag)
[4] Gallery of Fetish Pride Flags (including the Boy Pride Flag)
[5] Flag photo at the Facebook
[6] Flag photo at the Pups Gear webshop

Tomislav Todorovic, 24 October 2011