Right on the crossroads of the Old Market Quarter, the Leather Market attracted a large crowd through the day, extending its attraction to more groups of people than before. Roving reporter, Sam Benger finds  “He who hesitates…” needs, instead,  to “seize the opportunity” or lose out.


Banners on buildings and flags flying – leathermen and passers by were invited into a new style public fifth Leather Market.

LeatherWest’s markets are quite nomadic. They like to travel like a exotic caravan of travellers coming into town. On this occasion local leathermen were invited to come along and “bring & sell, try before you buy” at  The Palace on West Street. A somewhat grander venue than before, this market was different for it was promoted not only to the ‘regulars’ but, for the first time ever, the passing public.

Market Eve

The night before on Friday evening, LeatherWest volunteers staffed a ‘drop-in’ session where sellers could deliver their gear. I popped in to see what actually happens here. Ideally located in ‘The Snug’ of The Palace, it turned into an impromptu leather meet-up.

Leathermen were arriving with armfuls of leather. Some with duffle bags and one with a wheelie suitcase full of jackets, boots, breeches and jeans – a mobile leather shop! During the check-in there were calls on mobiles: “Do you need any help tomorrow?” with one or two anxious sellers with  “Are you still there? I can come down now”  for a last minute drop-off. 

The delivery of promised racks, rails and ‘shop fittings’ to fit out the market for the next day duly arrived. All this leather community activity was impressive and a hive of activity.

I also got the impression that for some canny potential buyers, it’s an opportunity to ‘spy’ what’s coming in, make a mental note and arrive early the next day and ‘snap it up’ before someone else does – a lesson I was to learn on the Saturday.

“It needs filling”

The Palace was a grand space, so it would need filling, whilst also operating as a bar for the day. A tough call and a new challenge for the LeatherWest team of helpers. James, Jo and the team at The Palace accommodated the market in every which way which that was asked of them.

The atmosphere? A “luscious smell of leather” was reported. And different from other markets for this one faced out on the the street to the passing public instead of being ‘behind doors’ of sorts. This market said “Leathermen are here, come in!” It definitely had a buzz about it.

Coming in off-the-street

Banners were placed on the main door, leather flags were flying: you couldn’t really miss it walking by. Local residents and regular visitors have come to expect something different here,  something you won’t find on a regular High Street: welcome to  the Old Market Quarter.

And it had the desired effect. Passers-by paused, looked in. Some were intrigued. Some paused to see what was going on with this tribe of leather clad men: “Ooh, this looks like something different, let’s go in”, said one passer-by. 

 “Always wanted a leather jacket like this”, said one man to his mate, whilst, a couple were taking a keen interest in leather jeans. His partner was heard to say “Pity they [jeans] don’t fit”: OK,  they were a bit loose. “I want you wearing leather jeans like him”, as she nodded with a smile over to a regular leatherman, who,( it has to be said) had tight, ‘sausage tight’, biker jeans on. You know, that sort of look where you can’t but notice and admire  how someone looks like they’ve just been ‘poured’ into them.

There’s usually a surge about 5pm, for those coming in after work and also the “best offer” hour. Usually frantic as Market helpers are calling sellers to advise on best offers and see if accepted. For those coming in after work, some were not to be disappointed. One guy got a pair of chaps (fitting like a glove) and some rubber – yes, rubber – LeatherWest has a ‘rubber rack’!

Trusted Classics

As regulars have become accustomed, there was a great choice of boots: a good range of sizes and heights, from the shorter 11″ biker engineer boot (great to wear with chaps) to the iconic tall 17″-19″ motor patrol boots, perfect for those looking to complete the officer/BLUF look. A couple of happy customers got the boots they’d been wanting for some time.

Pic courtesy of Marcos West: "Anyone with size 11 feet? Get yourself down to the Leathermarket at The Palace, Bristol ASAP. Lots of choice!"

Pic courtesy of Marcos West: “Anyone with size 11 feet? Get yourself down to the Leathermarket at The Palace, Bristol ASAP. Lots of choice!”

A new Bristol Leatherman came into the market wanting to get fitted out to create the ‘German officer look’. He was a determined sort of guy. The tall 17″ ex-German army boots and a new-to-him Muir cap certainly did the job!

The rails were filling up with jackets. A good range of the classic ‘Brando’/Schott Perfecto biker jackets were evident and proved really popular, and does make you wonder “Where does it all come from?”

Leathermen, it appears, never tire of these trusted classics: jackets, boots, caps. The day progressed, with quite a crowd building up just after lunchtime. The Saturday afternoon ‘pop-up leather emporium’ was a buzz with guys trying on and considering a jacket or two.

Never to neglect a customer, market volunteers greeted two women who walked in off-the-street and were interested  in leather jackets. “Sizing’s always an issue”, said one. “Don’t you worry we’re bound to have something for you”, one enthusiastic market helper replied as I observed. After a while of some, let’s say, ‘personal leather shopper’ attention (and we all like some attention), there was a result: two more jackets rung up at the till. 

Hesitate and Lose

Now, I am starting to get really into biker gear. It’s one of those leather looks I want to “pull off” with some credibility. So, with biker brands like BMW and Ducati, I was being sorely tempted. Of course, like most of us, I tried some gear on, looked in the mirror. Then hesitated. By the time I went back after ‘consulting’ with the guys and having a think about it, they’d gone. “Sold more-or-less right away, sorry”, I was informed by Mark (Bristol Uniform) who was running the till for the day. A lesson learnt at the Market: if you really like something and it fits, looks good, then hesitate not. There’s a leatherman lurking somewhere close by who’ll snapped it up after seeing you wear it.

Looking Smart

There’s always been a cross over between leather and uniforms – think cops! Mixing of police shirts and leather has been a popular, horny look for ever and a day – immortalised by that grand master artist Tom of Finland. This market saw some police shirts introduced for the first time. Again, by mid afternoon, they sold out. It’s a case, I am learning (all too slowly) “…if you hesitate, you miss out”. Let’s hope we see more.

I really dig German Politzei shirts, as was seen being worn by one of the market helpers. New York and Los Angeles police shirts (I must confused) get me….well you know! There’s rumours of one local leatherman that may have a few US police uniform shirts hidden away, including the famed LA and NYC police departments! Let’s hope they make an appearance at the next market.

Supply and Demand

Nevertheless, despite all these great items of gear on offer, there were many requests for items that can be now classed as officially  in ‘short supply’, as I was told.

“We could easily have sold shirts at least ten times over”, says LeatherWest’s Black Arrow (Tim), “If you have any spare or old shirts you really need to get them to the market, there’s a big demand out there”. Commenting on the trends of the day, Tim added, that jeans in sizes 32″, 34″ and 36″ waists are in big demand:  “There’s a growing interest in leather from younger guys embarking on building their gear. So, we need to be helping them out and encouraging them. The Market’s a great way for younger guys to afford their leather.”

Tim added, “Ties, gloves, belts and Sam Browne belts, particularly Same Browne belts are being sought after. We couldn’t have had too many”.

And the evidence of this being seen with every single cap on offer, sold: Muir Caps and Confederate Caps too. If you got a cap hidden somewhere, you need to get it to the Market!

“Leather Emporium”

The range of goods available at the Markets continue to expand and is impressive. Books from “Ultimate Guide to Knots” for the serious ‘twisted perv’ out there (wink winkl) to leather fiction staples such “The Love of a Master” (John Preston) and “Code of Submission” (Alexander C. Paul).

For those interested in ‘instructional’ or ‘educational’ material, you wouldn’t have been disappointed: one very popular booked snapped up was a volume titled “Fist Me!” – no clues there then – and “Flogging (Essential Guidebook for Lovers of the Lash)” – yes please! –  another title straight to the point and essential reading.>/span>

downloadA rich selection of graphic novels like Dick Master: Leatherland Under Attack and Verboten by Rex, were joined by a choice of DVDs from Daddy and the Muscle Academy to add a visual feast of Tom of Finland to your life and Interior: Leather Bar paying homage to that classic “Cruising” starring Al Paccino.

This year’s release of the Tom of Finland stamps by Finland Post proved ever popular (and now “not for sale” at Finland Post), with the rare First Day Covers selling out – I am told some are still available at LeatherWest’s on-line shop. This product is also now sold-out at Finland Post with LeatherWest being one of the few stockists left anywhere in the world.

Confirmed again: anything ‘Tom’ is popular. Leathermen don’t tire of the grand master of leather and homoerotic imagery.

Artwork prints sold well too, maybe as Christmas was approaching because they made perfect presents. This isn’t “not on the High Street dot com”, this is “not anywhere else dot com”. Several terrific images were purchased by a local, well frequented  Old Market bar where you’ll soon see them up on the walls.

Adding to the mix magazines – some imported US bondage publications – leathermen in the West are getting a rich “leather emporium” on their doorstep, something no where else seen  in the UK.

Lessons Learnt and a Few Tips

This market was hard to compare. They usually are. Because each one is different for the last. The location at The Palace was certainly a welcome departure from the usual. This time open to the street, with passers-by coming in , mingling, and joining in. James, Jo and the team at the venue come not have been more accommodating.

I’d say this: get there for the drop-in session on a Friday (not always organised) but if there is one, get there. As well as turning into a pop-up leather night out, I’ve learned that it’s a sure way of spotting what’s coming in and making a mental note of it. Then get there on Saturday for opening time, around midday. Try the gear on spotted the night before, and, don’t hesitate!

Hesitation was my down fall. I’d really liked that Ducati jacket, it would have matched the boots I’ve seen (but lost out on those too on eBay – again I suffer from that affliction of hesitation). If you see it, try it on. If it looks good, fits, and in “god nick”, get it. Otherwise it’ll be gone. Just to add, I also saw a mounted artwork of a leatherman dominating another in the dentist’s chair, “At the Dentists” it was called.. I could picture exactly where it could go in the house. Again, I thought about it over a beer. Went back for it. Gone. You see! Hesitation is my downfall, I am being haunted by it. Make sure you don’t suffer from it too.

Note to self: Seize the opportunity.

“He who hesitates is lost”, so goes the saying. True words.


  • LeatherWest charge a 10 per cent commission for items booked-in before the Saturday and sold on the day. For items booked-in on the day, its 20 per cent. All commissions earned by LeatherWest are reinvested back into the Leather community as per it’s “Articles of Association” as required by its status as a Community Interest Company  (CIC) – the first one ever in the UK for the gay leathermen’s community. This means no individual can profit from the income into the Company, profits must be used for the “Common Good” as required by the legally appointed regulator.
  • HE WHO HESITATES IS LOST – “Swift and resolute action leads to success; self-doubt is a prelude to disaster.” The proverb goes back to by English essayist and poet Joseph Addison in Cato (1713) . First attested in the United States in The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1858) . Also found in  Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).