Lucas Hilderbrand is Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Irvine, and author of
With a focus on the Gold Coast in Chicago, this chapter looks at leather bars as sites of invention. Leather bars attracted men who sought to radically redefine gay male sexuality, to reclaim their masculinity, and to constitute a tribe. These bars emerged as one of the first truly distinct subgenres of gay bars, and they developed bars' most elaborated subcultural norms and specific imagery—so much so that they often figure as gay bars' most iconic form. This chapter analyzes the development of leather bars, their artwork (such as murals by Etienne), and their spaces for public sex. The subsequent interlude examines at the Triangle Lounge in Denver as the site for new masculinity embodied in Levi's 501 jeans and for new public sex practices in response to 1970s changes in local laws.