Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Are You Ready for IML?

Well another year has passed. It seems like I just wrote about this topic, yet here we are coming up on another International Mr. Leather (IML) Weekend! After all this time, who would have guessed that I would still be writing a fetish column? I certainly wouldn’t!

For those of you not familiar, IML ( is one of the largest gatherings of Leatherfolk, Kinksters and Gear Fetishists in the world. It’s always held Memorial Day Weekend (May 27-30 this year) in Chicago. Our city will be represented in this year’s competition by Drew Kramer, who won the Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2011 title during November’s Leather Pride ( Good luck Drew, and have fun!

It seems like every year there is always some sort of political uproar or controversy surrounding the contest (and last year was no exception!), but I choose not to get swept up in such things. The reality is that everyone who competes is already a winner and when you’re trying to select one representative from such a talented, dedicated and sexy group of entrants someone is always bound to be disappointed with the result.

The real reason I attend IML is for the brotherhood and friendships, amazing vendor market, no-attitude dance parties and the incredible feeling that comes from having thousands of men just like you gathered together to celebrate their sexual freedom – all while decked out in their coolest gear.

I can’t imagine staying anywhere but the host hotel, which this year is none other than the world-famous Hyatt Regency Chicago ( The hotel environment is always electric and fueled with testosterone. The lobby itself is a sight to behold as it begins to fill on Thursday and remains packed all weekend with the hottest Leathermen on the planet!

Any time you travel to a major leather event, it’s worth prepping ahead of time to insure that you both look your best and have the most fun. Here’s how I get ready for IML, along with some of my favorite things to do at the event.

The first thing I always do is pull out my gear and double-check its fit. Now is the time to get those alterations so that it will look just right. It’s also the perfect opportunity to give your leather items a good conditioning ( Our Desert home is very dry. It’s essential to keep leather items well-conditioned so that they will remain soft and supple for years to come.

Chicago over Memorial Day weekend can either be warm and beautiful or frigid, cold and windy. I always bring a jacket for those moments when I choose to leave the hotel (which seem fewer and fewer every year). If I don’t bring a jacket, I inevitably regret it, but bringing one almost always contributes to my over-packing problem. Every year I vow to travel lighter, but it’s so hard to leave things at home!

Another thing I do is pull out my boots and check to see if they need a polish or new laces. I also check the hardware on my harnesses and belts to see if it can use a shine too. Then I go shopping to see if there is anything I’d like to replace or add to my collection.

Trying to decide which play implements to take is always tough. A great packing tip is to fill your boots with all of your smaller things. This helps them maintain their shape while conserving space in your luggage. I often pack one bag of clothes and another full of toys. Maybe this year I’ll just take 100 feet of soft cotton rope and leave all the heavy equipment at home!

One piece of clothing that I never leave behind is my leather track pants ( They are unique, comfortable, and one of the few leather items that are appropriate to wear with sneakers! Come Monday, I am always glad I have something to relax in that’s still made of leather. I also always leave some extra space in my luggage. After all, I’m about to visit one of the largest fetish vendor markets in the country! If I get something new, I want to be able to get it home.

One party that I never miss is Monday night’s Black and Blue Ball at Excalibur Nightclub ( Excalibur was built in 1892 to house the Chicago Historical Society and is now one of the most unique multi-level, spacious club venues in the country. Because the Black and Blue Ball is the last event of the weekend, it usually draws all the models, vendors and titleholders who haven’t been able to go out on any other night. To me, this is what makes it the most relaxed, upbeat, and happy dance party of the weekend. This year’s headliner DJ is Ted Eiel ( of Chunk House fame.

As many of our traditional leather venues and cruising places have begun to disappear, special gatherings like IML have become an even more important part of the fabric of our fetish community. If you attend this year, I encourage you to take a few moments out of your weekend to meet some new people and engage in meaningful conversation. Pick a community elder, a young kinkster and one of the women. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn by making the effort to chat with someone that you might not normally otherwise get the opportunity to meet.

This, by the way, reminds me of something. If you do go to IML, you’ll be surrounded by thousands of hot, horny, hunky men. Don’t spend your entire time cruising for hookups on your cell phone. (It won’t get a signal in the leather market anyway!) Be present for the opportunities from the amazing people who are actually standing right in front of you!

IML is a celebration of our kinky tribe and its sexuality. Plan ahead to make your trip enjoyable. Give some thought to what you’d like to do and experience, then let yourself do it. Rejoice in what makes you different and special!

Until next time, Play Hard!

Every other week Gear's owner, John McBain, publishes his Generation Fetish column in Pulp Magazine. This article originally appeared on May 12, 2011.


  1. I am so excited, this is my first year to attend IML, Thanks for the advice.

  2. Glad we were able to help, darin. See ya at IML!


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