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One of the basic street survival rules involves "never to aggravate anyone wearing leather". That's why animal right activists never throw paint at Hell's Angels.
The LGBT community has a variety of subcultures and groups. One component has historical roots to the BDSM community and to biker culture, resulting in a noticeable number of gay men wearing a LOT of cured animal hide in suggestive cuts.
The leather tradition is generally traced back to gay servicemen returning from WWII. They became the biker gangs of the 50s, and it sort of went from there. The BDSM part sort of merged in later. In fact some of the older leathermen (the "old guard") have few if any S&M tendencies. Just a strict code of honor, obedience to tradition and hierarchy and a strict set of rules.
A related but distinct group are bears, masculine types with body hair, heavy-set builds, and/or "traditionally" masculine behaviour. Both groups formed in part because the gay community itself had developed certain stereotypical expectations - typically, hairless young "metrosexuals". Or drag queens.
The defining characteristic of both groups was a certain visibly identifiable look and behavior. Which, of course, meant that once TV got around to even acknowledging that there was a gay subculture, these two were mashed together as possibly the stereotype to portray, after "classical" gay archetypes. Especially if the setting involved jail at any point. The popularity of The Village People and the artwork of Tom of Finland probably helped.
Needless to say, character development seldom proceeds beyond "big, hairy, aggressive gay biker".
May or may not be Hell-Bent for Leather. Not to be confused with the multitool of the same name.
- One of the last episodes of Dragonball Z had one of these as a World Tournament challenger who seemed to take a liking to Trunks.
- Dante in the Hokuto no Ken anime looks nearly exactly like the picture, just tint his hair blue and make the mustache bristle-ier. He also kisses his victims full on the mouth.
- Mello from Death Note.
- The artwork of Tom of Finland.
- Leatherboy was a rather notable version of this when he tried out for the Marvel Universe team Great Lakes Avengers. Turns out he wasn't the gay member.
- The Midnighter from The Authority embodies this trope. He's also an Alternate Company Equivalent of Batman, only with the Ho Yay between him and the Superman-Expy as canon rather than subtext.
- X-Factor's and formerly X-Force's Shatterstar, wears primarily white leather outfits with some suggestive seam placement.
- Several appear in the Ms. Tree story "Skeleton in the Closet", attempting to rough up Mike, Jr. after he is exposed as a homophobe.
- The denizens of the Blue Oyster Bar in the Police Academy movie franchise.
- In Serial (1980), Christopher Lee plays a man who is a scary gay biker at the weekend and a highly respectable 'suit' the rest of the time.
- Australian actor Vernon Wells is best known for playing this type of character: Wez in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Cpt. Bennett in Commando are probably the best known.
- This is one of the many, many gay stereotypes unintentionally evoked by Tobias on Arrested Development. See the above quote. He even joined a barber shop quartet of leathermen.
- Matthew from News Radio once dressed up as what he insists was a "motorcycle enthusiast" for Halloween. In fact, the words "Butch Biker" was written in rhinestone on the back of his jacket just so people wouldn't be confused. It didn't work and he couldn't understand why.
- Trey from Noah's Arc posed as one of these for a calendar shoot.
- Vito was caught in one of these outfits on The Sopranos, which sealed his fate.
- There was a short-lived Saturday Night Live recurring sketch called "Leatherman" about a man (played by Jimmy Fallon) who owns a leather clothing store.
- Referenced in a Mr. Show sketch in which a heavy metal band plays Fire Island to a packed crowd of leathermen.
- The Ben Stiller Show features a Beverly Hills, 90210 parody sketch in which one of the high school students dresses and acts, rather inexplicably, like a leatherman. He's played by Bob Odenkirk.
- Rob Halford's fondness for Leatherman costumes while on stage with Judas Priest somewhat lessened the surprise when he came out.
- Hell, all 5 members are usually dressed to the nines in leather (look at The Essential Judas Priest album).
- Rob Halford made leatheman/BDSM getups an integral part of metal fashion, unbenknownst to the (largely straight) metal bands that spread like wildfire during The Eighties.
- Then again, Rob Halford's sexuality was pretty obvious when "Turbo Lover" was released.
- Rob Halford plays the leader of the fire barons (essentially wearing his old outfit) in Brutal Legend. Interestingly, he also plays a preening Hair Metal singer, and the fire barons hate him.
- Referenced in the song "Real Men" by Joe Jackson:
"All the gays are macho/ Can't you see the leather shine?"
- The exploits of comedian Masaki Sumitani's character Razer Ramon HG (a weird combination of the Leatherman and the Flamboyant Gay; Sumitani claims Hard Gay's mannerisms are inspired by actual Flamboyant Gays he has met).
- Angels in America features a scene in which Louis has sex with a random leatherman in Central Park. The character is aptly named "(leather)man in the park", and is supposed to be played by the actor who plays Louis' ex-lover Prior.
- Michel Tremblay's Hosanna depicts a relationship between a Drag Queen (the title character) and a Leatherman biker named Cuirette.
- Mr. Slave on South Park.
- Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force became this temporarily. Ironically, in an attempt to prove his heterosexuality when Shake accused him of bisexuality.