Personal Leather Histories; Jason 2
This is the second page dedicated to the leather memories of Jason, on the first we looked at his years in the United Kingdom (1916-1947), now we focus on the years in the United States, from 1947 to 2004.
1947: emigration to the US
From my first visit to the US in March 1947, events happened that opened the door for me to emigrate to Los Angeles, later that year. During those summer months from the frequent letters from my friend, I began to learn more about leather in America. From my visit and the pictures that he sent me, I saw that leather jackets and breeches were commonly worn by motorcyclists. Also, that there were quite a few companies that made leather clothing.
Jason's American friend who helped him with his first
steps in the USA.
In the USA, in the 1930's, motorcycle racing was a popular sport, mostly between Harley and Indian riders, since foreign bikes were very rare, and all the riders wore protective leather gear. But many street riders also wore leather jackets and breeches when out on their bikes. Where there is Demand, there is also Supply, so it is not surprising that quite a few leather clothing stores appeared in those years. One of the first and most famous was Shaw Leather, Co. in the Boston area of Massachusetts. They made the special style leather jacket worn by motorcycle cops on the East coast. They were beautifully made of soft horsehide with gold buttons, and were very smart.
Shaw leather jacket "East coast motorcycle cop style".
Shaw also made a similar style jacket, with close fitting Russian collar which was the choice of many street riders. They also made leather breeches which were usually worn by bikers, before the advent of leather jeans in the 1950's. Not only did Shaw have a stock line of jackets and breeches, but they accepted custom orders for those with "special" needs.
More Shaw leather: jacket with Russian collar.
Before America entered World War II in 1941, there were many motorcycle clubs all over the country who wore distinctive colorful uniforms of military style shirts, cloth breeches and tall shiny boots. At big motorcycle meetings, there were contests for the best club uniforms and the results, with lots of pictures, were published in "The Enthusiast", which was the official monthly magazine of the Harley Davidson Company. On the back cover of each issue was a photo of the motorcycle squad of a police department with their Harleys. Their smart uniforms, especially those with leather jackets, were a turn on for many closeted leather guys.
1953 Motorcycle Squad after a blood donation, pictures like these appeared in the Enthusiast, magazine of the Harley Davidson Company.
The first specifically gay motorcycle clubs were founded in California where the mild weather allows bikers to ride all the year. Later, others followed in major cities where winter weather limits riding to the summer months. It is believed that the very first one was 'The Satyrs' in Southern California in 1954. However, they were not a gay leather club, although a few members wore leather on their club runs. In 1973, in Los Angeles, The Corps of Rangers was founded as one of the first all leather uniform clubs. They wore black leather shirts, breeches, caps and tall Dehner boots. Only about half of the members rode bikes, and later members voted to change the uniform from leather to CHP style.
US Leather made to measure
I bought my first leather jacket in 1948 from Star Leather in Los Angeles who made most of the jackets for police departments on the West coast. It was custom made to measure from top quality horsehide and cost $35, plus $5 for a detachable fur collar and $10 for a fur lining in the body. Today, the same jacket costs $450 without the extra items. I still have it, but alas, the addition of 4 inches to my girth prevents me from zipping up its 32 inch waist band anymore. Below left you see it with my Lewis breeches from the UK on a bike run in the California mountains in 1948.
Left: on a mountain bike run in California 1948.
Right: Jason on his Triumph in 1947.
I tried to get Star Leather to make me breeches to match the jacket, but they said it was too difficult. Fortunately, this was when I first heard about Langlitz Leathers in Portland, Orgeon. The owner, Ross Langlitz, was an avid motorcycle racer, but in 1935, he had an accident and lost a leg. During his weeks of rehab, he learned to make leather gloves and began to sell them to his friends. Eventually this lead to requests for jackets and racing pants and by 1947 "The Leather Garment Shop" was born. I was delighted to find that Ross was willing to accept special orders and eagerly filled out his measuring chart for my first leather breeches. Besides my youthful measurements, (alas no longer so youthful!), I penciled over the diagram to show I wanted a much higher waist band to tuck into my jacket, and also more flare on the legs of the breeches. Here is my original order in 1948, and look at the prices: pants, breeches and jackets from $22.50 to $28.50!
Folders, pictures and order forms of "The Leather Garment Shop" later to become Langlitz Leathers.
The superior quality of leather and workmanship of items from The Leather Garment Shop soon created a large clientele, but Ross refused to expand into a mass production factory. Instead, he maintained his policy of every garment being made to the exact measurements of its future owner. In the early 1950's, as the business grew, Ross changed the name to Langlitz Leathers, since it was a more catchy name for advertising purposes.
Most of the early customers were racers and police officers, but requests for leather jeans from men and women opened a new line of business called, "Westerns" The Original Horsehide Slacks, for a mere $32.00! During the next 20 years, I ordered many different styles of jackets and pants from Langlitz to wear on my Harley. Then finally, I got Ross to make my close fitting unlined black leather flight suit that was the subject of my first letter to America in 1946. He was so pleased with the result, that he started a new line of one piece leathers, first in black and later in several colors.
Top left: Ross Langlitz in closed leather shirt, below same shirt but open. Right: other Langlitz leather breeches, gray and cream colored.
New York City leather guys
In 1956, I had to spend several weeks in New York City on business. A friend had given me a phone number of a leather man there, from which I was able to make several contacts and explore the developing leather scene. Since there were far fewer bikers in New York than California, bars and personal introductions played a bigger role in finding friends. I did make some contacts by talking to people on the street who were wearing leather. One of these was actually riding a horse in Central Park in full leather. At first, I thought he was a mounted cop, but later he told me he rode his Harley to the park and rented a horse. Unfortunately, my schedule did not permit me to meet him later for a roll in the hay! Here he is with a pic of another New Yorker whom I DID get into bed... more than once!
New York City Leatherguys Jason met in 1956.
Sailors and Leathermen
Having grown up in the UK with close family ties to the Royal Navy, it is not surprising that I should be attracted to their US counterparts, especially if they might be attracted to leather. Riding my Harley the 125 miles from LA to San Diego for the weekend gave me access to thousands of potential converts from the many ships based there. Before the days of, "Don't Ask; Don't Tell", gay sailors were even more at risk. Some of them took the risk by patronizing the gay bars on "F" street. I always went there in full leathers and parked the Harley out front hoping to make a contact. I used to carry a spare leather jacket and pants in my saddlebags in case I found one who wanted a ride.
Jason and his Harley.
I had Langlitz make me some close fitting unlined black leather pants with a flap front exactly like sailor pants (see pictures below). These flap front sailor pants were the key attraction in picking up sailors and they were extremely sexy to wear, unlined and tightly fitting the legs and crotch. When I wore them in San Diego, they served as a topic to start a conversation with many curious sailors!
Flap front sailor pants by Langlitz.
In the mid 1960's, on one of my weekend trips to San Diego I met Larry and his buddy in a sailor's biker bar which also attracted gay searchers, (including me) cruising the US Navy. After a few beers, we got very friendly and although I was not able to make a conquest on that visit, I did find that Larry was interested in my leather pants with the sailor flap front. I told him the next time he came to Los Angeles he could try them on and gave him my phone number. I didn't think I would hear from him and so he and his buddy rode back to their ship.
Conversions by the hands of Jason: from sailor to leatherman.
To my surprise, he phoned me two days later and we met in a bar in LA the next weekend. He had ridden his Harley without his buddy, so I was more than excited at the prospect of a leather weekend. I was eager to get him into some of my leather since we were about the same size except my boots were size 11 and his were 12, so before we met I bought a pair of size 12 dress boot for him. We left the bar and I took him home and we spent the afternoon with him trying on many of my leathers. He loved the leather flap front pants and later, bought some for himself. We went for a ride together on my Harley with him driving so I could get friendly behind him. Later that evening, I got him into leather breeches and his new boots to go out for dinner and cruise the leather bars. When we got back to my apartment, he noticed the number 6009 and said, "That's 69 with a couple of Oh! Oh!'s in between".
Larry, from sailor to full leather buddy for many years.
By now I knew I had found a new leather convert and we were going to have a rousing weekend. I sat him down in a leather chair and gave him an after dinner drink. As you can see, he was very relaxed and put his boot in my lap as we chatted. Later, I introduced him to the leather sheets on my bed and I leave the rest of the weekend to your imagination. We remained friends for years, even after he left the Navy and went back to his wife and kids in Kansas.
Although I no longer ride my Harley, I still wear leather when I drive my car, which of course is fully lined in black leather, just like in my younger days in my open Corvette.
Top left: Jason in full leather with his open Corvette.
Bottom right: Jason in full leather with a more recent car
With the development of the Internet and the worldwide availability of websites for contacting leather fans from "vanilla" to "extreme kinks" it is now easy to enjoy cybersex or have conversations leading to meetings and even lifelong partnerships. The 21st century has so much to offer those with special interests. Not a bit like it was in my young days!
For those just beginning to explore the pleasure of Leather... be bold and enjoy your desires to the fullest. Then, if you play SAFELY, you may still be enjoying leather as you approach 90 like me!
Jason, California, June 2004
Update: Jason 1916 - 2013
In July 2013, we received the sad news, that after a long and rich life, Jason had passed away at the age of 97 years. We remember the many e-mails we exchanged and also our pleasant visits to Jason and his friend. In September 2005, 2006, 2007 and again in May 2009, we spent a couple of days together and in leather! We enjoyed our company as much as we did our e-mails before. It is great to see that a shared genuine love for leather can bridge half the globe and two generations! We grew up in a time that this passion for leather was much more accepted then when Jason grew up. But being the very independent and self-aware man Jason was, he decided to pursue this leather lifestyle from the 1920s on and in doing so, he was one of the pioneers in the world. We have always considered Jason as a role model, an icon for the leather lifestyle and last but not least as a dear friend. We are grateful that we got to know this beautiful man whom we will dearly miss!
At the Pacific Ocean, California 2006,
one of our visits to Jason and his friend.