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Old Guard

Updated: JUNE 17, 2022
Reviewed by Kinkly Staff
on June 16, 2022

Old Guard is a term for a group within the gay BDSM community that operates under strict military-style protocols. The term is believed to have originated in the leather S&M clubs of the late 1940s and '50s. Leather continued to be worn throughout the history of the Old Guard. The group was very secretive, as it arose at a time when anything concerning homosexuality or BDSM was considered taboo. Many members of the Old Guard were World War II veterans, and this helped inform the group’s military-style disciplinary measures. There was also overlap with the biker scene. Members also wore a sort of "uniform," which initially included a motorcycle jacket and leather chaps, gloves, cap and pants, and later expanded to include other elements like body harnesses, arm bands and leather vests.

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More About Old Guard

The Old Guard was a group that established a certain type of etiquette within the BDSM community. They had a very clear and formal hierarchy of service and experience within their practice, and followed a series of strict protocols. The Old Guard believed that its members should start out as bottoms and only become tops once they had done their time.

In order to be inducted into the Old Guard, men needed to serve as slaves to masters before gaining entry to the Old Guard. During this period of servitude, they would receive various collars to mark their place in the community. Collars would correspond to the stage of an individual's journey in the community, such as initiation, training and acceptance.

Remnants of the Old Guard still exist today. Its traditions have also been reinterpreted by more flexible and inclusive new groups known as the New Guard and the Emerging Guard. One of the key differences in these newer groups is greater gender diversity.

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