MasterMarc: Hello Nigel. You’re the webmaster of BLUF for six years now. I think most of our readers have seen your logo on party flyers or on leather webpages but a lot of the fetish guys, who aren’t really into heavy leather, don’t know exactly what BLUF is. Could you please explain us, what BLUF is? What is the aim of your organisation?
Nigel: BLUF is the Breeches and Leather Uniform Fanclub. We’ve been going since 1997, and it’s a strict dresscode club for people who like leather uniforms and breeches – the sort of gear you might see in a Tom of Finland drawing, or gear like Langlitz or the old German green Polizei uniforms.
BLUF has a website where people can post their profiles, look for other people, and exchange messages. But it’s much more than just a website, really. The most important thing about BLUF is the events that are organised by our members, around the world.
I would say that our aims are two-fold: firstly, to support the BLUF community, via the website and the events, where we can maintain the strict dresscode that is often hard to find these days. And secondly, to use our name and our profile to help support the wider leather community.
MasterMarc: By reading the dresscode on your homepage it seems a little, that you see yourself as kind of elite within the leather scene. What makes you different? What are the differences between BLUF guys and other leather guys?
Nigel: I don’t think we are an elite group at all, though I’m sure as with any community, there are some people who think they are. But no, we don’t think we’re better than other guys, or more authentic. We’re just guys who like full leather and the uniform look. If would say, if there is any difference, it’s probably that we’re more likely to keep our gear on when we have sex than to take it off. I think it would be absolutely wrong for one part of the fetish world to think it’s better than another – and of course, lots of BLUF members also sometimes go out in much less gear, or wear rubber or skinhead gear at different events.
BLUF is a site – and events – for people who like full leather uniform to meet other guys into the same. Over the years, many clubs and bars have relaxed their dresscode so much that it’s harder to find a group of people all into the same thing at the same place, at the same time. That’s one of the things that BLUF can provide.
MasterMarc: It is true, that fetish events are becoming more open. If we have a look on the party and club scene it seems that fetish light is a kind of mainstream now. Would you say that BLUF is a countermovement, a movement who wants to provide the values and conventions of times in which fetish was real underground thing?
Nigel: To an extent, but I wouldn’t say that BLUF is “old guard” in the way some people define it. More important, I think, is that it is from the community. All our events are organised by volunteers, and we normally don’t charge anything more than the bar’s usual price. We’re not the only people doing that – there are groups of rubber guys, skinheads, other leather people doing things that are non-commercial.
And I think in that sense, yes it is a counter movement to the commercialisation of the fetish scene where you have to pay lots of money to get into a massive party where the drinks are expensive and the music is deafening. There are lots of groups doing this sort of thing. I guess people notice BLUF more because we have our logo, over 3000 members and we do things in lots of cities, rather than just one country or one area.
MasterMarc: What are beside the fetish cloths the values BLUF members have in common?
Nigel: I think when you have over 3000 members it’s hard to say they all have the same thing in common. I hope the majority believe in the idea of doing things as and for a community. Beyond that, people join for different reasons – some are there just to make friends, others to look for sex. Some are “old guard” leather who believe in strict rules, others are no. Some may even be capitalists 😉
MasterMarc: What kind of people you’re organisation is looking for and how can they become members of BLUF? Doesn’t your dresscode makes it difficult for newbies to join your community? It seems that you need more or less the GDP of Greece to buy the basic gear to become a BLUF dude. 😉
Nigel: It’s easy to apply online (English only- we are working on translations) at BLUF.com/join or by email to the address on the website.
In fact, we have seen an increase in younger guys joining lately, which is great for the future of the club.
I think it’s a misconception that you have to spend a lot of money to be a member. Of course, some people spend thousands on gear from Langlitz, but you don’t have to. For example, I have a complete set of UK police bike leathers from the 80s that cost me about £120 on eBay. Add a cotton shirt and a tie, and you have a uniform. (Blog on getting BLUF gear without going bankrupt: BLUF.com/b/198)
MasterMarc: If you are surfing on internet and searching for BLUF pictures you can see from time to time a Nazi SS uniforms. Of course it is in my eyes one of the most elegant uniforms ever. But can you really wear it without giving a political statement to people who are seeing you? And isn’t it a problem for the image of your community?
Nigel: Well, first we absolutely forbid any Nazi/SS symbols on the BLUF website. Even ones that people have tried to hide with Photoshop – it is too much of a risk for our members.
I entirely understand why people who are into kinky sex love those uniforms. They represent power and control. So of course, companies like VK79 make replicas without the badges and insignia, and I don’t see a problem with that. In a way, it is subverting something awful in a way the original designers would not have liked – like the “ISIS” butt plug flag in London.
But, of course if you wear certain things in public, you will cause offence, which is why we don’t allow pictures with those symbols on the web site, or people to wear them at our meetings. I can’t tell anyone what is wrong or right for them to do in their bedroom, but we absolutely won’t allow hate symbols or language on BLUF.
MasterMarc: I think BLUF is a real interesting community, because it is a glocal (a mix between local and global) acting group and at the same time it brings values of the old times into the present without being conservative. By using the modern communication medias you open your organisation also to people, who are not living in the big capitals. This is important in a time in which traditional leather clubs are disappearing, because there isn’t anymore a need to hide yourself in a ghetto. What do you say about my statement and what are your wishes for the future of your organisation?
Nigel: I think that’s very true. In the past, communities had to be based on meeting in person, or slow ways of communicating – some of the very first BLUF members didn’t even have computers!
We think technology is very important to BLUF. It allows us to build our own website, and because we have a name that is well known, we use it to try and help other people too. For example, we list lots of events from other leather clubs around the world at bluf.com/events and via our Twitter and Facebook pages, to help spread the world.
When you live in a big city, it’s very easy to forget what it was like living in a small town or village and being the only gay person. And for fetish people, things can often still be very much like that, with their only contact with the wider community being through the internet.
In the past BLUF was a very closed community – and we still maintain the privacy of our members strictly; you can’t see any photos or profiles if you’re not a member, for instance. But we are more outward looking, because it is important to be able to use these new tools not just for ourselves, but for the wide leather community.
I’m so proud of many of our members, who give up their time to organise events in so many places, both for BLUF and for other groups.
In terms of the future, I hope we’ll grow and continue to keep the fine line between adapting to new technologies and the new ways people want to keep in touch, without losing sight of our fundamental aim – to provide a space for people who enjoy a strict leather uniform dresscode.
I’m also firmly of the belief that we have to fight to maintain a service that is free – we don’t charge any membership, though people can donate if they want. After all, if one person is getting rich, why would other people volunteer to organise events in so many other places?
As much of gay life becomes commercialised it is important that clubs like BLUF – and like many others around the world – are there for people who want something more than just expensive club nights.
MasterMarc: You are becoming more and more international. Even your homepage is available in English, French and German and I know you are also working on a Spanish version. What kind of local Events do you have and are there also global events? Are there also events which are like a must to visit and what is the essence of BLUF events?
Nigel: The type of events varies a lot, depending on where they are – the volunteers in each city are the best people to know what works well for their area. I would say the most international BLUF events are the gatherings in Berlin at Easter and Folsom Europe. For those, there is usually a social meet in the street, where people can catch up with friends, and a bar night as well.
In London, we have nights at The Hoist and The Backstreet, where there is a lot of socialising, ad some play. In Amsterdam, they probably have more sex than in London – but we have also started having more social events, most months at The Web. We also take part in the Pride parades in some cities – this year there were BLUF members and our flag parading in Bristol, Chicago, and London.
In some cities, especially where someone has not organised an event before, we join with other groups. For example, in Dublin we had a “BLUF Special” at their monthly GEARED night. Other times, people organise leather dinners, like the one in San Francisco for Dore Alley. We are also one of the organisers of a dresscode event called The Assembly during Los Angeles Leather Pride.
So, it varies a lot, but we try to make sure that when the BLUF name is used on an event, there will always be someone there who can welcome people, and answer at least the simple questions like “what’s the dresscode” and “how do I join.” If an event is called “BLUF Social” the dresscode is not so strict, so people can come along and talk and find out more, even if they don’t have all the gear yet.
The best events? I’ve not even been to them all yet, but high on the list I would say are the Dore Alley Dinner in San Francisco, the Social on the Friday night before Folsom Europe, and marching in the London Pride Parade. In a few years time, we’ll be having our 20th birthday, and that will definitely be one to go to.
MasterMarc: Nigel, it was a great pleasure to talk with you. I hope that you and all your volunteers have a lot of motivation for many many years because you are providing us great events and a lot of fun. We wish you all the best for the future of your community and i hope that we talk again soon.
Nigel: Thank you very much.