Mr popular himself, Jeffrey Payne, represented the lone star state of Texas. He swept to the top of the podium under a huge wave of Texan flags from the crowd at the Hilton Hotel (the eleventh different venue to host the contest). Jeffrey started the annual toast tradition the following year. And by touring the world extensively, he set the path for future IMLs to follow, taking their titles far and wide and doing as much good as possible along the way.
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.
Controversially, IML announced that it would no longer allow entities which promoted barebacking to participate in the IML Leather Market, effective immediately. Until then, many gay porn studios exhibited at the Market and brought in their hottest stars for the weekend. The Saturday night of IML always coincides with the star-studded GRABBY American Porn Awards at a Boystown theatre.
Many studios including TreasureIslandMedia, Dark Alley, DickWadd, and Hot Desert Knights spent most of the IML weekend with the cameras running in endless bedrooms. And without a condom between them! Some title competitors we know of starred in bareback films shot halfway through the three-day contest. It gave the expression ‘bringing the sash into disrepute’ a whole new meaning.
With the porn industry moving heavily into bareback, and over 98 percent of studios filming that way, the decree instantly changed the look and feel of the Market. To many it has become poorer for it. The Market is now mainly a clothing retail event. When PrEP became widely available two years later, IML looked very backward.
IML was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.
Possibly the sexiest IML of all time, Eric Gutierrez, took the sash back to France. He already held the title of Mr Leather Europe, one of the bigger filter contests to IML. Eric is now pursuing a career in politics. Think Trump but with a much fitter and furrier ass that you would want to eat for hours. Puppy calls were heard for the first time at the contest. Whatever happened to Fetish Puppies?
Andy Cross took the title back to San Francisco, the city with the most winners by far with six sashes. LA is on four wins but doing especially well recently. Both cities have major final contests which bring the separate bar titleholders together for a ‘sash off’. It’s obviously a great experience and a hugely successful way of getting a great experienced contestant to represent your city. Over one-third of the IML titles have been won by California which seems to be full of cock-taking bottoms. Maybe it should be as the Bottom Coast rather than the West Coast.
International Mr Bootblack introduces judges alongside the custom ballot system.
Both titles were won by Alphatribe contributors Patrick Smith (IML 37) and David Bailey (IML 38). Both men have taken their titles to every corner of the globe from Uganda to Russia. Patrick has also found time to create the leather world’s own database Leatherpedia. It’s the best place to find information or the history of your favourite gay fetish.
IML 37 saw the competition move back to what many think of as its spiritual home – Park West.
The first IML contest in four decades where the founder Chuck Renslow was too ill to attend. He watched the contest by live stream and sent a message of support which was read from the main stage. Just a couple of months later the man who had done everything, from directing gay porn in the 50s to running fetish bars and establishing museums, went to the great darkroom in the sky. Thousands of gay leathermen around the world removed their Muir caps and shed a tear for the ultimate fetish visionary and trailblazer.
The contest was won by Ralph Bruneau, the leatherman who made nude cool. He’s now an Alphatribe columnist (and our sexiest member of staff). Rick Storer announced his retirement from the Leather Archive and Museum just as its little brother, the European Leather and Fetish Museum, was launched in London. Reflecting the modern times we live in, the London museum encompasses all fetish tribes including leather, skinheads, puppies…
The number of contestants jumped to 63 after many years in the 50s. That’s an awful lot of candidates for the nine judges to sleep with in just three days. It was also the most international with 13 countries represented. We loved the Chilean leathermen! They are so hairy, and their participation is a great sign that the gay fetish world’s most important event has a broad future.
After a few years as a three-day event (to reduce visitor costs) the contest went back to four days this year. It was a good decision given the tsunami of contestants that was just about to hit.
The big anniversary and the first IML without founder Chuck Renslow who had passed away a few months earlier. As a result, it was also the most emotional IML by far. Commemorative events included the naming of a street, Chuck Renslow Way, after the great man.
The number of contestants leapt to 71 from 15 countries, making Renslow’s international dream come true. This was partly due to the ‘Joe King affect’. A former Mr Leather Europe and IML First Runner Up, Joe had started the trend of supporting other national contests. Other titleholders adopted the practice, leading to closer friendships and providing a support network for those who wanted to attend IML. That led to a surge in candidates, particularly from Europe.
The increased number of candidates has caused logistical problems for organisers. Particularly affected are the stage managers who need to coordinate the show, and the judges who have to do lengthy interviews with each contestant.
The Leather Archive and Museum was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame. And IML itself was elected into the Cleveland Hall of Fame.
James Lee, Mr Kentucky Leather, won the title and we are proud to have him working for Alphatribe. He celebrated with a fuck of the Runners Up at the House of Blues, bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘victory party’. It’s difficult to keep the sash in repute if your deputy is porn star and uber sex pig Blue Bailey (aka Stefan Ferris).
After almost 30 years of waiting, Girl Ang from Australia was the first non-North American to win International Miss Leather (Canada had one previous win).
Jack Thomson won, a huge leap forward for the fetish trans community (see separate interview). Winners of Mr Fetish titles were allowed in the contest for the first time, a trend that will only grow as fetish men expand their tribes.
The Leather Archive and Museum was inducted into the Cleveland Hall of Fame at CLAW.
Kriszly de Hond became the first overseas winner of International Mr Bootblack. He was Mr Bootblack Europe and hailed from Zaandam in the Netherlands. This year, the country won four of the top five international gay fetish titles.