Leather Pride Flag History

The leather flag (or, better, the leather pride flag) was cretaed in 1989 by Tony DeBlase (well known American activist who died in 2000 and was, among other things, a writer, the editor of the famous magazine Drummer and the manager of leather bars). He was thrilled by the rainbow colored balloons used in the opening and closing ceremonies of Gay Games II and the spectacular rainbow of balloons that arched over the main stage at the G&L pride rally here in San Francisco a couple of years ago.

The original Leather Pride Flag displayed during IML 1999

The original Leather Pride Flag displayed during IML 1999

As he said, “For the 20th anniversary of Stonewall I felt that the time was right for the Leather men and women who have been participating in these same parades and events more and more visibly in recent years, to have a similar simple, elegant banner that would serve as a symbol of their own identity and interests. I decided that calling a committee meeting to design it would be counterproductive, so I just did it. I consulted with most of the staff here at Drummer and some of their suggestions were incorporated. I do not expect this design to be the final form, but the basis from which a widely accepted banner will evolve.” The flag was displayed, for the first time, on 28th May 1989 during International Mister Leather in Chicago. There was some debate about DeBlase’s audacity. How dare he design a flag without convening a committee of important leather men and women? Did he think he would get away with this? Well, no, he didn’t intend to “get away with” anything. As he said in the editorial, “I do not expect this design to be the final form,” but indignity requires no excuse.
Leather Pride Flag - Australian Version

The cover of Drummer # 146 (1991) with an Australian version of the leather pride flag.

Nonetheless, the enthusiastic welcome the design received at IML was barely the beginning. Before anyone really had a chance to think whether the design should or shouldn’t be changed, it was everywhere. By this time there were authorized and unauthorized version of the flag for sale in endless forms: pins, bumper stickers, patches and even Christmas ornaments, but the Aussie flag set off a stir. Everyone began working at variants, some of them great extensions of the flag and its purpose (titleholders’ sashes), others downright funny (a Thanksgiving card on which the red heart is replaced by a roast turkey in red). Now,  the leather pride flag design is solidly accepted around the world. Used and reused everywhere, twisted and warped into every shape, wrapped around every kind of product and made of every material from leather to crochet yarn. It has even been worked into the permanent colors of some leather clubs, a use that DeBlase sees as particularly significant, a special level of acceptance.  


– Initially, Tony DeBlase desgined a flag with a red central stripe; when a colleague of Tony in Drummer Magazine suggested to make it white, Tony accepted the suggestione: this is the only change Tony did in his original idea of flag; – In 1991 Drummer Magazine showed on his cover Clive Patman (Mister Australian Drummer) with a different version of the flag, in which there are some white stars (similar to Australia national flag); – About the meaning of the colors, Tony DeBlase never explained his ideas and wrote “I will leave it to the viewer to interpret the colors and symbols“. In the most common interpretazton, the red heart symbolizes the passion and the love; the white stripe symbolizes the purity, the black stripes symbolize the leather (or the BDSM sexuality) while the blue stripes symbolize the denim/jeans (often worn with leather wear).
Flag of Leather Club Roma

Flag of Leather Club Roma

– No one of the ECMC clubs, neither the ECMC itself, use the leather pride flag in is logos; this because most of the ECMC clubs were fonded before 1989. Only Leather Friends Italia show in his logo some colors of the leather flags, but this happend after the 201o restyling of the logo. – The Leather Club Roma Flag has the club logo (with a red heart inside) over a black background with the diagonal stripes of the leather pride flag.

Further Readings

  – The birth of the leather flag on LeatherArchives.org (with a post by Tony DeBlase) – History of the Leather Flag on Green Mountain Leather website – Timeline of the leather community on LeatherArchives.org – Leather Flag on Wikipedia