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Leather up for Folsom

This passing weekend, the Folsom Street Fair showed with pride that it isn’t for the faint of heart, prudes or anyone without an open mind. Capping off Leather Pride Week in San Francisco, the Folsom Street Fair takes over five long intersecting city blocks (comparable to Manhattan’s cross town blocks) in San Fran’s Market District. It holds the record as the world’s largest leather event and showcase for BDSM products and culture.

Similar to how Comic Con brings out the cos-play in force, ‘Folsom’ – as it’s affectionately known – brings out the kink in all shapes and sizes, in an unabashed celebration of sexuality. Folsom served as the center of San Francisco’s leather scene since the mid 1960s, the trend of biker hats and leather taking a cue from Marlon Brando’s character in The Wild One. Bars and clubs along the strip helped the culture to thrive. The Folsom fair itself was born out of resistance to the city’s push to redevelop the area in the 1970s, and as the AIDS epidemic closed bath houses in the area and bars became regulated, the fair helped the leather community connect on health issues and provided a way to raise funds.

With the fair now attracting as many partakers in the culture as curious onlookers, Folsom generates a positive atmosphere, with the only disruption coming from the few right wing conservatives or religious hardliners that may turn up at the gates to speak out against the celebrations. Thankfully they’re mainly ignored.

Attendees are encouraged to shed their attire, and many naked bodies jostle through the crowd (sensible footwear is a must however). With active displays of bondage, BDSM, whips, chains, spankings – and all manner of conduct that may get you arrested anywhere else – it certainly is a wild day.

Photography by Andrew Boyle.

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