When the Gap commanded EVERYONE IN LEATHER!, we submitted -- whether Spring Street glamour groupies ("They're Helmut"), East Village artists ("They're vintage"), or Upper West Side moms ("I'm a rock star!"). With hard-core leather clubs the Spike Bar and the Eagle closing their doors last year, the democratization of leather makes it difficult to remember a time when rawhide was the exclusive right of Hell's Angels, homosexuals, or unsettling hybrids of the two.
"I used to think the only people who could get away with leather were Jim Morrison and this foreign-exchange student in college who rolled his own cigarettes," says Liv Grey, a 35-year-old Flatiron-district mom. "Then I figured, if the Gap is selling them, I should be wearing them. After I had my baby, I thought, Well, this will be my hip thing! My girlfriends make fun of me, but, hell, the pants fit and they're great for cleaning -- you just wipe them off."
Does the gay S&M community that started the trend feel cheated? A few representatives are found at the Lure, Manhattan's last standing gay men's leather bar. As beer-bellied daddies in leather caps smoke cigars and boys in leather chaps shoot pool, slaves in leather jockstraps furiously shine patrons' leather boots. Jerry, a sinewy, pale 66-year-old, growls, "How do I feel about leather pants being sold at the Gap? I don't shop at the Gap! Here's my Gap!" He roughly slaps his naked rump, prominently displayed in his leather chaps.
"I don't feel at all cheated," insists Michael, 33, decked out in a leather vest and matching pants. "Whether you're a mom or a motorcycle daddy, leather just makes you feel sexy. And I've yet to see an Upper West Side mom wearing a leather codpiece," he adds, "so there's still something left for us."