The Leather Archive and Museum acquired a storefront where they could permanently display their incredible collection of fetish memorabilia including items from The Marquis De Sade and Tom of Finland. New York finally got its first winner with Joe Gallagher. As fetish diversified, a new contest emerged in a little Chicago bar – Mr International Rubber. It honours rubbermen in the same way IML honours leathermen. Thirteen years later it outgrew the bar and moved to the much bigger Center On Halstead. In 2019, the competition attracted 22 international competitors.
The first contestant from Mr Mid Atlantic Leather, Tony Mills, took the title. There were 62 contestants, then a record.
It was announced that International Mister Bootblack Competition would be added as a new title. A separate competition, solely for women, would be held at International Ms Leather. The change was made due to the common belief that women bootblacks had a significant disadvantage. They were competing for votes from the mostly gay male IML attendees, many of whom based their bootblack selection at least partly on sexual attraction. Us gay men are so shallow, but we do like to have a gay leatherman sweating at our feet. Our sisters deserved better, and now they have it.
The Leather Museum and Archives moved into its current home and started life as one of Chicago’s best museum attractions. It’s a Mecca for fetish men worldwide. Every gay man should visit it before he dies... no argument. The venue hosted the IML opening events and toasts for previous titleholders.
A new record is set with 63 cowhide-clad hunks. The title headed to Munich (Germany) with Mr Bavarian Leather, Stefan Muller.
More entrants still as IML reaches a new record of 66 contestants. That record stood until the massive influx of competitors in the last three years. Joseph W. Bean retired from the Museum and his position was taken over by the super organised Rick Storer.
The United Kingdom took its only win to date with John Pendal. He was (and is) a stand-up comedian, resulting in a microphone masterclass at the final. He now performs, often in full leather gear, at gay and straight events worldwide.
After many great Canadian entrants, the land of cops in tight, ass-covering jodhpurs finally won with Bo Ladashevska. The Bootblack title went to Benjamin Palmer of Vancouver (Canada), the first time it had been won by someone from outside the USA.
Mikel Gerle, Mr LA Leather and the first openly HIV positive IML, wins. It was a truly popular and important result. He has continued to support the event since.
Gary Iriza! The book ‘International Mr Leather: 25 Years of Champions’ was published and given to every contestant. The book is still readily available from Amazon and other outlets. As this was the 30th anniversary, the event was filmed both front and backstage. Titled ‘Kink Crusaders’, the resulting film was released in cinemas and on the festival circuit to universal praise. You can read a full feature review of the movie at www.alphatribe.com.