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Old Leather, also known as Old Guard, is the term used to describe the highly formal, protocol-oriented, military-inspired gay leather BDSM subculture. It is characterized by wearing black leather and other symbols of the subculture, hierarchical relationships between members, formal training and apprenticeship, and high protocol and etiquette.
Because of a number of factors, including popular music, movies, and news coverage in the 1960s and 1970s, the Old Leather community is still to this day considered the site of the gay BDSM world. Although today there is more activity in what is called "New Leather," the Old Guard still has a lot of influence over the way BDSM is practiced in the wider community.
Emerging from post-WWII biker culture, which was based on the disaffection of many men from mainstream American culture, Old Leather developed as a highly formalized, militaristic style of community with clear and formal hierarchies, high protocols, and a formal kind of training and apprenticeship into the community.
Although there is much lamentation nowadays about the "loss" of Old Leather culture to the power of New Leather, writers and sociologists have argued that the more individualized and less formal tendencies of New Leather have existed all along, and that there is no sign that Old Leather is dying off.