Here are some amazing artifacts of our queer past: photos of The Satyrs, a gay Los Angeles motorcycle club that formed in the mid-’50s.
It was 60 years ago this November that Chapin “Smitty” Smith formed that club at his home. It was revolutionary in its organization: prior to the Satyrs, gay clubs tended to follow a de-centralized strategy mapped out by Harry Hay. In contrast to the Hay’s “cell structure,” designed to thwart homophobic witchhunts, the Satyrs had a formal constitution and bylaws. Fearless!
And that structure survives to this day, with the group making an appearance this past weekend in West Hollywood’s Pride parade.
As you look through the photos, you can see how this aesthetic evolved into the rubber gear of today. There are little hints: the caps, the jackets, the jeans and boots.
In the same way that businessmen wear neckties but don’t know why (it’s because Croation mercenaries popularized them in France in the 1600s), many of today’s leathermen might not know that their buckles and straps date back to post-war social clubs. (By way of Tom of Finland.)
The photo archive was just donated to the University of Southern California’s ONE Archive, the largest archive in the world of LGBT history.