Leather has been a symbol of strength in the gay community since the ‘40s.
THE GOOD NEWS:
Rippon’s tuxedo was a stunning display of LGBT empowerment.
Adam Rippon stood out from the sea of boring black tuxes on the red carpet at the 90th Academy Awards. The first openly gay U.S. Olympic figure skater butched up a traditional tuxedo by adding a leather harness across his chest, straps on his shoulders, and a shiny bow tie.
Rippon’s look was designed by Jeremy Scott, the creative director of Moschino. “We met Jeremy Scott a few days ago, and went to his studio a few days ago, and I love him. He’s incredible,” Rippon told People TV. “I wanted to do something a little different and a little fun and I love it.”
Rippon’s nod to leather culture was a hit among the fashion police on Twitter.
Adam Rippon is wearing a Jeremy Scott harness to the Oscars.— Chris Rovzar (@Rovzar) March 4, 2018\n
Somewhere in heaven, Oscar Wilde, Harvey Milk, James Baldwin, and Michelangelo just shared a margarita. pic.twitter.com/4hoDyP3sgd
While Rippon’s look was eye-catching on the red carpet, it was a definite statement of LGBT empowerment. Gay leather culture began in the 1940s as a way to counter the idea that masculinity was antithetical to homosexuality. The look gave strength to men who were often harassed and beaten by law enforcement for expressing their sexuality.
The leatherman aesthetic was spread across the gay underground by artist Touko Laaksonen, aka Tom of Finland. It was later brought into mainstream culture by Glenn Hughes of the Village People, Queen’s Freddie Mercury, and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.
“I started drawing fantasies of free and happy gay men,” Laaksonen wrote. “Soon I began to exaggerate their maleness on purpose to point out that all gays don’t necessarily need to be just ‘those damn queers,’ that they could be as handsome, strong, and masculine as any other men.”
Rippon’s mold-breaking outfit shows that red carpet fashion doesn’t have to be just about glamour — it can be empowering as well.