1979 – IML 1 First ever ‘International’ fetish contest on planet earth with 12 contestants, half of which were representing US states none from overseas and the winner was the then Mr Leather Brig David Kloss. It grew out of the bar contest ‘Mr Gold Coast’ organised by Chuck Renslow and his then partner Don Orejudos and was held in the Grand ballroom of the Radisson Hotel. The Black And Blue Ball which also still continues 42 years later was started and is the relaxing post contest club event for contestants and everyone else on the Monday night.
1980 – IML 2 The publicity from the first event lead to 18 contestants and the first overseas candidate Mr Leather Australia Patrick Brooks who beat 17 Americans to become the first overseas winner – The International title was now worthy and the event was ready to grow and it sure did.
1981 – IML 3 The contest moved to the prestigious Park West on Chicago’s Miracle Mile where it has returned to in recent years (not to universal popularity) although the contest is now so large that the evening events are based off site in City theatres and Auditoria.
1982 – IML 4 The number of contestants leapt to 46 and the whole World started taking notice of a very positive event just as AIDS was hitting the gay World like a Tsunami just two years after patient zero…..IML was a positive beam of light in scary times.
1987 – IML 9 Europe got its first winner with Thomas Karasch the then Mr Leather Europe from Hamburg Germany beating 31 other contestants. International Ms Leather started using the tried and tested Chuck Renslow pageant format.
1989 – IML 11 Guy Baldwin an IML legend and AT contributor was winner – Guy told us recently about the experience ”Winning IML in 1989 changed my life in many more ways than I can summarize in one paragraph.
Among them, it was a powerful education about celebrity itself, about humility, about responsibility and about the variation in our leather world(s).
The two surprising “high points’ since winning: first, was being chosen to receive the Leather Leadership award from the NGLTF in 2008; and second, was being inducted into the Leather Hall of Fame in 2012′.
Tony De Blase the designer of the Leather flag presented it for the First time at IML.
1991 – IML 13 The fledgling leather archives were began with no fixed home as yet just a spark of an idea in Chuck Renslows head with able assistance from Tony de Blase..
1992 – IML 14 San Francisco’s favourite cop after Dirty Harry the handsome as fuck Lenny Broberg upgrades his Mr SF title for the IML sash he went on to host the event in the new Millennium. At the time of writing Lenny who had agreed to write something for this feature was suffering sudden ill health so all at AT wish him a rapid recovery.
1993 – IML 15 The contest moved to the Aragon and Congress Hotels for extra capacity due to its growing popularity. The winner was the Dutch stud Henri Ten Have who took the title back to Amsterdam. International Bootblack Competition was started open to both men and women.
1994 – IML 16 Somebody called Jeff Tucker running as Mr San Jose Leather won and we never heard of him again……well we did as he later became IML’s most popular Den Daddy. The daddy is the guy who looks after the contestants backstage together with all the wonderful IML volunteers doing everything from tying bootlaces to blow jobs.(Ever thought have volunteering at this or any other gay fetish event it is by far the best way to enjoy them and you get free tickets too. In 2020 Jeff Tucker won Man Of The Year at The World Fetish Awards:X Awards, Darklands Antwerp entirely on public votes from 50 Countries beating many ‘Mister’s’ on the way that he looks after.
1996 – IML 18 The Leather Archive And Museum acquired a store front to permanently display their incredible collection of fetish memorabilia including items from The Marquis De Sade and Tom Of Finland. New York finally got it’s first winner with Joe Gallagher. As Fetish diversified something else in a little Chicago bar appeared called Mr International Rubber to honour Rubbermen in the same way IML honours Leathermen but predominantly it was a good way for RubberWilli to get laid in gear. 13 years later it outgrew the bar and moved to the much bigger Center On Halstead last year it had a wonderful 22 International competitors.
1997 – IML 19 Joseph W Bean began raising funds for a permanent building for the Leather Archive and Museum which has always been supported by revenues from the contest and donations.
1998 – IML 20 The first contestant from Mr Mid Atlanatic Leather Tony Mills took the title and for the first time there were over 60 contestants with a then record of 62.It was announced that International Mister Bootblack Competition would be the new title and that a separate competition solely for women would be held at International Ms. Leather. This change was made largely because it was commonly held that women bootblacks had a significant disadvantage competing for ballots from the mostly gay male IML attendees, who often base their bootblack selection at least partly on their sexual attraction to the bootblack…..us gay men are so shallow but we do like to have a gay leatherman sweating at our feet and our sisters deserved better and now they have it.
1999 – IML 21 The Leather museum moved into its current home and started its life as one of Chicago’s best museum attractions and a Mecca for fetish men Worldwide. Every gay man must visit it before he dies….no argument. It also hosted IML opening events and previous title holder toasts.
2001 – IML 23 A new record with 63 cowhide clad hunks saw the title head to Munich Germany with Mr Bavarian Leather Stefan Muller.
2002 – IML 24 More entrants still as it reaches the all time peak of 66 contestants which still stood until the massive boost of the last 3 years. Joseph W Bean retired from the museum and it was taken over by the super organised Rick Storer.
2003 – IML 25 The United Kingdom took its only win with John Pendal who was a stand up comedian resulting in a microphone masterclass at the final. He now performs an act often in full leather gear at gay and straight events Worldwide.
2005 – IML26 The presentation of the IML Flag was started.
2006 – IML 27 After many great Canadian entrants the land of Maple syrup, Justin Bieber and cops in tight ass covering jodhpurs finally won with Bo Ladashevska. The bootblack title also for the first time ever went out of the United States to Benjamin Palmer of Vancouver.
2007 – IML 29 Mikel Gerle Mr LA Leather and the first openly HIV positive IML wins which was a truly popular and important result. He has continued to support the event hugely.
2008 – IML 30 Gary Iriza !. The large print book ‘International Mr Leather : 25 Years of Champions’ was published and given free to every contestant. The book is still readily available from Amazon and other outlets. As this was the 30th Anniversary it was filmed both front and backstage and released to universal praise as ‘Kink Crusaders’ in cinemas and the festival circuit…go check it out. See a full feature review on the movie at www.alphatribe.com.
2009 – IML 31 Mr popular himself Jeffrey Payne representing the lone star state of Texas swept to the top of the podium under a huge wave of Texan flags from the crowd at the Hilton Hotel which was now the Eleventh different venue the contest had used in its History. Jeffrey started the annual toast tradition the following year and he also by touring the World extensively laid the format for how future IML’s hopefully will take their titles far and wide to do as much good as possible.
The Leather Archives and Museum announced that IML would be placed in a trust to benefit the museum. All proceeds from the event would go towards preserving leather history forever.
2010 – IML 32 Controversially IML announced that effective immediately “it will no longer allow participation in the IML Leather Market by any entity which promotes barebacking or distributes/sells any merchandise tending to promote or advocate barebacking.” Up until then many gay porn studios exhibited at the Market bringing in their hottest porn stars for the Weekend which of course always coincides on the Saturday night with the star studded GRABBY American Porn Awards which still run today up at a Boystown theatre. Many studios like TreasureIslandMedia, Dark Alley, Dickwadd and Hot Desert Knights spent most of the weekend with the cameras running in endless bedrooms with ever increasing group sizes of guys and not a condom between them resulting in probably many of your favourite porn scenes today. Some title competitors we know of starred in bareback films shot halfway through the 3 day contest giving the expression ‘bringing the sash into disrepute’ a whole new meaning. With the porn industry moving heavily into bareback with now over 98% of Studios filming that way this decree instantly changed the look and feel of the Market to many’s opinion for the poorer as it is now basically a linear clothes retailing only event. Two years later as PrEP became widely available and used across the globe for the first time ever IML looked very out of step and backward looking on this matter.
IML was inducted into the Chicago Gay And Lesbian Hall Of Fame.
2011 – IML 33 Possibly the sexiest IML of all time Eric Guitterez representing one of the bigger filter contests to IML Mr Leather Europe took the sash back to France where he is now pursuing a career in politics. Think Trump but with a much fitter furrier ass that you would want to eat for hours and whose pussy you would certainly want to grab. Puppy calls were heard for the first time at the contest and whatever happened to Fetish Puppies?
2013 – IML 35 Andy Cross took the title back to San Francisco which is the City with the most winners by far with 6 sash’s heading back to the home of Harvey Milk, Gay Porn, The Golden Gate, SOMA, Folsom and The Castro; LA is on four wins but doing especially well recently. Both cities have major final contests bringing the separate bar title holders together in a sash off which is obviously great experience and a hugely successful way of getting a great experienced contestant. Over one third of the titles have been won by California which seems to be full of cock-taking bottoms and should be henceforth known as The Bottom Coast rather than The West Coast.
2014 – International Mr Bootblack introduces judges alongside the custom ballot system.
2015/16 – IML 37 and 38 were won by Alphatribe contributor Patrick Smith and David Bailey who have taken their titles to every corner of the globe from Uganda to Russia and Patrick has also found time to create the leather worlds own database Leatherpedia…….the best place to find out any information/history on your favourite Gay Fetish. Both these contests saw the competition move back to what is thought by many to be its spiritual home Park West.
2017 IML 39 Was the first contest in 4 decades where the founder Chuck Renslow was too ill to attend. Watching the contest by live stream a message of support from him was read from the main stage. Just a couple of months later the great man who had done everything from direct gay porn in the 50’s to running fetish bars in the 60’s, contests, setting up museums etc went to the great dark room in the sky and 100,000 leathermen Worldwide removed their Muir caps and shed a tear to the ultimate fetish visionary and trailblazer. The contest was of course won by current Alphatribe columnist and sexiest member of staff Ralph Bruneau who made nude cool. Rick Storer announced his retirement from the Leather Archive and Museum just as its little sister The European Leather & Fetish Museum was launched in London which to reflect modern times encompasses all fetish tribes such as leather, skinheads, puppy’s etc.
The number of contestants jumped up to 63 after many years in the 50’s which is an awful lot of candidates for the 9 judges to sleep with in 3 days. It is also renowned as by far the most International with 13 Countries represented…we love the Chilean Leathermen they are so hairy and it is a great sign to the future direction of the gay fetish worlds most important event. The contest that a decade before had been 4 days long had been reduced to 3 days to help with visitors expenditure but this year it went back to 4 days which was just as well as the contestant tsunami was just about to hit.
2018 – IML 40 – The big Anniversary one and it was a landmark year as this was the first one without the founder Chuck Renslow who passed away a few months earlier and it was by far the most emotional one. The street Chuck Renslow Way named after him was announced. and another word suddenly appeared ‘Flashback’. Something else happened the number of contestants leaped from the previous record of 66 from 7 Countries to an incredible 71 CONTESTANTS FROM 15 COUNTRIES making Renslow’s International dream come true which we are sure he witnessed with a smile from Heaven. This was part due to the ‘Joe King affect’ a former Mr Leather Europe and IML First Runner Up who started the trend where national contest holders all support each others contests by attendance meaning they all become buddies and then want to do the IML experience together so European entrants have sky rocketed causing logistical problems with the numbers for the stage managers and the judges who have to do lengthy interviews with each contestant.The leather Archive & Museum was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall Of fame.
James Lee Mr Kentucky Leather won the biggest stud race of Fetish History and we are proud to have him working for AT and instantly he celebrated with a fuck of the Runners Up at the House Of Blues bringing a whole new meaning to Victory Party…..it obviously does not help keeping the sash in repute if your deputy is porn star and uber sex pig Blue bailey aka Stefan Ferris. After about 30 years of waiting Girl Ang from Australia was the first none North american to win International Miss Leather (Canada had one previous wins). This was the year that IML was elected into the Cleveland Hall Of fame.
2019 – Jack Thomson won taking a huge leap forward for Trans issues (See separate interview). Mr Fetish Titles were allowed in the contest for the first time a trend that will only grow and grow as fetish men expand their tribes. The LA &M was inducted into the Hall Of Fame, Cleveland at CLAW. Kriszly de Hond became the first ever overseas winner of International Mr Bootblack. He was Mr Bootblack Europe and hailed from Zaandam in the Netherlands a country that this year won 4 of the 5 Top International Gay Fetish Titles. The host hotel introduced a visiting ticketing system for none residents which proved as popular to the endless fetish sex parties as the Corona Virus.
DID YOU KNOW – It is impossible for their to ever be a Tie at IML if two guys have the same vote then each of the 9 judges in turn is asked to pick his winner. Up until that point the scoring is very efficient with the highest and lowest mark for each guy being ignored to avoid any favouritism (Say when the contestant swallowed when the judge asked him too) or past histories (Say where the Contestant calls out Thib Guicherd-Callin’s name whilst he ejaculates instead of the judges name!). The 20 guys with the higest scores are then named and all the scores go back to zero early on the Sunday evening….the Tally masters have the hardest job of all barely able to squeeze in a half time circle jerk in the theatre toilets with the sexy deaf translators..