123rf buyer beware,

Shopping in general can be stressful, and shopping online can make the experience easier or better, depending on the company. When it comes to purchasing fetish gear, be it clothing or personal products, we strongly suggest shopping inside of traditional brick and mortar locations. The reasoning is very simple: You can try on the product and ask the sales person as many questions as you need to feel comfortable with your eventual buy.


In general, we have had great experiences shopping inside of leather/fetish stores around the world. The, usually, but not always, gay males who work there are not only friendly and kind but very knowledgeable about the products they are selling. They are known for the amount of time and patience they have available for each individual customer and understand that educating us as a community is what keeps them in business. In short, they practice positive customer relations skills because they are members of our community and use many of the products they sell, themselves.


If, for whatever reason, you find yourself searching online to purchase something shiny and new, we have a few helpful tips for you.

Tips for online shopping

Do your homework!

We know that shopping is supposed to be second nature to gay guys and that we should have an aptitude for doing everything from finding the best and most fair price for the product to any special features like sizes and rare colours. But those, my friends, are just stereotypes. Even the best of us have to do a good deal of leg work before finding the right product for the job.


Doing your home work is most important when buying gear online because most of the items will need to be specifically adjusted to fit your particular body type and structure. Whether you are looking for a new leather harness for International Mr. Leather or a shimmering new cockring for everyday usage, knowing your exact measurements and how you want the product to look and feel on your body is a large part of your homework.

Another step in your process ought to be trying to find out as much information about your desired product as you can before visiting the company website you plan to use. This includes everything from searching the internet for pictures of guys using/wearing what you are seeking, looking at Twitter feeds for inspiration as well as speaking to your friends who already own the products.


This might all seem like common sense but it all will become relevant when you get to tip number two,.

Know your size!

As a rule, it is a good idea to know all of your body measurements. This includes:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Chest
  • Arm Length
  • Inseam
  • Waist
  • Shoe Size
  • Penis Length
  • Penis Girth

One you know these basic measurements, you are on the road to being able to purchase most, but not all, things either in person or online. If you don’t have these measurements, things get difficult to impossible.

Most of the items you will seek to buy in your life will be covered by the above measurements, but some are going to need a bit more attention to detail to get the proper fit. It is obvious that knowing your penis measurements will be necessary for buying cockrings, gland rings and even consideration for some piercings, but other stats you need to think about, if you plan to purchase either ball weights and or ball stretchers. are:

  1. Scrotal length
  2. Scrotal width

If you need to learn how to properly, accurately and HONESTLY measure you penis, you can read our Penis Primer.

If you also need the basic information on how to measure your other body parts, you can visit Man for Himself This website breaks it all down for you and even does some conversions between US, UK and Eurepeon sizings.

Learn Patience!

A major perk of living in our modern world is the availability of all types of stuff we can purchase and have delivered in just one day. Sometimes even the same day. The internet has opened up a literal planet of shops and products for us to spend our time and waste our money, or even waste our time and spend our money. This leads to lots of guys having rubbish in their closets and drawers that they will never use again, if they have even used them once.


Money is just one of the components needed to build a gear collection that you will enjoy over the long haul. The other is patience. We all have done it. We see something sparkly and new in the window and we need to have it…RIGHT NOW! No time for extra thought. Not a beat missed before slamming our plastic onto the counter and running out of the shop like a kid with a huge bag of candy.


But buyer’s remorse is RF! Even we have been guilty of making purchases that don’t exactly match other gear we own, doesn’t fit as nicely when home alone as it did in front of the cute salesman, or after a day or two, we realized it was just a bad buy.

This is ok, if it does not happen often, because it helps you make better decisions in the future about what you should or should not buy. But things can get messy when making these purchases on the web. There are lots of products that you can buy from brick and mortar stores, and return within 30 days, without issue. Some cannot be returned at all, once the package has been opened. These are all rules we have heard many times before.
But many internet stores have very different return policies that can make a bad purchase become a living nightmare.

So, before you click PURCHASE, slow down and give yourself a moment to decide if this is a product you truly want in your collection, or are you shopping for other reasons that may require a trip to your therapist’s office instead.

Choose your online shop CAREFULLY!

The internet is filled with companies looking to soak up your gay male dollars. Those within the leather and fetish communities are willing and able to pay large sums of money for everything from weekend conventions to all of the gear one would need for it, and any other day of the week.


From basic cloth jockstraps and leather bar vests to custom leather pants and biker jackets, our community is a gold mine to those who want us to look our best and use the best quality gear, as well as for those who want to scam us out of our hard earned money.


How do you learn the difference between the two? Unfortunately, it will come with trial and error and making many mistakes along the way. Often times costing you time and energy as well as money. This is not to say that it is impossible to find reputable companies, rather to remind you that like any industry, there are those you should not trust. The point of this article is to give you the information you need to limit your losses while increasing the amount of gear in your collection.

The Rules

Why rules?

We enjoy using the word “rule” because it helps give some structure to our buying habits. But in reality these are simply some basic guidelines to help you make proper decisions on where you spend you dollars to get the best value and experience for your time and money.


When you learn to establish rules/guidelines other than the ones we are about to list, do your best to follow them. Don’t make exceptions for everything you see. If you do that, what is the point of making the rules? Some of you may even need to share them with friends so they can keep you and your wallet on track. If you are new to the leather and fetish scene and have not had the privilege of shopping for gear, you will quickly understand why all of this is important.


Whatever you decide to do as it relates to your purchases, just remember that the ultimate goal is to buy products that help you increase your overall joy and access to your sexual freedoms and explorations. If it does not bring you joy, DON’T BUY IT!

Rule Number One

Once you have done your desired product homework, you should be able to move onto rule number one, which is about helping to decide which online shops you will consider for making your purchase. This seems like an easy task, until you type the product name into your search bar and “click” SHOP, and see just how many places around the world are offering what you’re looking to buy.


Rule number one is all about reputation and standing within the community. We do our best to support gay male founded, owned and operated shops that are active within the gay male leather community. This shows our respect for our collective history but the understanding of the power of gay dollars. To some, these are just pieces of cloth or leather, but to our community they hold much more in history and purpose.


The gear that you are looking to purchase has its roots in the history and culture of the gay male community. No matter what some want to say or convince you, our community is neither new nor dying. Our subculture of the gay male community can trace it’s roots back to the 1940s!


LONG BEFORE STONEWALL!

Male leather culture has existed since the late 1940s, when it likely grew out of post-WWII biker culture. Pioneering motorcycle clubs included the Satyrs Motorcycle Club, established in Los Angeles in 1954; Oedipus Motorcycle Club, also established in Los Angeles in 1958, and the New York Motorbike Club. Early San Francisco clubs included the Warlocks and the California Motor Club, while early clubs in Sydney included the South Pacific Motor Club (SPMC). These clubs reflected a disaffection with the mainstream culture of post-World War II America, a disaffection whose notoriety — and therefore appeal — expanded after the sensationalized news coverage of the Hollister “riot” of 1947. The 1953 film The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando wearing jeans, a T-shirt, a leather jacket, and Muir cap, played on pop-cultural fascination with the Hollister “riot” and promoted an image of masculine independence that resonated with some men who were dissatisfied with mainstream culture. Some butch gays began to imitate Brando by wearing black leather jackets, a black leather cap, black leather boots and jeans and, if they could afford it, by also riding motorcycles. Motorcycle culture also reflected some men’s disaffection with the cultures more organized around high culturepopular culture (especially musical theater), and/or camp style. As well, the leather community that emerged from the motorcycle clubs also became the practical and symbolic location for men’s open exploration of kink and S&M. The first gay leather bar in the United States, the Gold Coast, opened in Chicago in 1958, having been founded by Dom Orejudos and Chuck Renslow. South of Market in San Francisco became the hub of the leather subculture in the gay community in 1961 when the Tool Box opened its doors as the first leather bar in the neighborhood. It opened in 1961 at 339 4th St and closed in 1971. It was a gay bar frequented by gay motorcycle clubs. It was made famous by the June 1964 Paul Welch Life article entitled “Homosexuality In America,” the first time a national publication reported on gay issues. Life ‘s photographer was referred to the Tool Box by Hal Call, who had long worked to dispel the myth that all homosexual men were effeminate. The article opened with a two-page spread of the mural of life size leathermen in the bar, which had been painted by Chuck Arnett in 1962. The article described San Francisco as “The Gay Capital of America” and inspired many gay leathermen to move there.[6] When the Stud, along with Febe’s, opened up on Folsom Street in San Francisco in 1966, other gay leather bars and establishments catering to the leather subculture followed creating a foundation for the growing gay leather community. The Stud was also originally a Hell’s Angels hangout; by 1969 it had become a dance bar for hippies on the margins of the leather scene and had a psychedelic black light mural by Chuck Arnett.

So, NO, the leather/fetish culture is not dying but like every living thing, it is changing. Our community is being affected by the transformations in city structures due to overcrowding and gentrification, but it is also gaining ground thanks to the internet and guys taking their action inside of their homes when unable to do so in bars and clubs.


The leather community in the United States and the United Kingdom are seeing some contractions but Europe and Asia are growing each year. This, combined with guys under 40 joining our ranks sooner than later, ought to support you in your feelings that you are not alone in your fetish(es) and will not be making purchases in vain.
We would be remiss if we did not mention that to the Old Guard, gear was not easily purchased inside of local shops and the internet did not yet exist. Because of this, there are traditions attached to certain items of gear that hold a great deal of respect and can be handed down from man to man, and even to man. When you make your purchases, think long term and remember that something you buy today, might be gifted to a younger man in the future.


When we think about the major players of the gay male leather gear scene, two companies immediately spring to mind. The first is located on New York City’s Christopher Street, in the heart of Greenwich Village: The Leather Man has a stellar history within our community as a supplier but also active member of our community. Gay males operate the shop and, because they are leather and fetish men themselves, are able to answer your questions from a gay male perspective.

The Leather Man, Inc. began on Christopher Street in New York City in June, 1965, before Stonewall, when our founder, Chuck Mueller, decided to pack in his day job to make leather clothing for himself and anyone else who might be interested. Most thought he was crazy at the time because “who, besides Chuck, would want to wear leather clothing?” We have come a long way since then. Still located on Christopher Street, our customers come from all over the world to shop with us. Widely regarded as New York City’s best source for S/M-leather-fetish clothing and gear. Our website does not currently show our full line, so if there is something you want that you don’t see on our site, please call us at (800) 243-5330 or (212) 243-5339. Chances are, we just might have it! Please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page for answers to our most commonly asked questions. For help with finding the right size please see our sizing page. We strive to offer exceptional customer service and hope you will enjoy your shopping experience with us. We appreciate your business.

The title of best and largest selection as well as deep history within our community will go to Mr. S Leather in San Francisco. Just like with The Leather Man, they are experts in the field, hold decades of knowledge, have a strong membership within the community and have crafted a stellar reputation.

Welcome to Mr. S Leather, the biggest and best selection of BDSM, bondage and kink gear you’ll find anywhere!We’ve been producing exceptional bondage gear and clothing for kinky guys since 1979. All of our leatherneoprene, “FuckGear” and rubber gear is made right here in the heart of San Francisco so we keep a close eye on every stitch, rivet, and snap. We also work with the best names in the fetish and sex toy business so we can bring you the hottest male sex toys on the market — including cock ringsbutt plugsdildos, and more. Whatever your scene, we’ve got you covered. Into getting hogtied, pup play, or chastity? You’ve found your new favorite toy shop. Internet orders ship quickly and we have a no-hassle return policy. And remember, you get 2% back on every purchase as store credit. We want your experience to be the best — both during your shopping and well after. Questions about what we carry? Please contact us anytime. Whether you visit our huge adult storecall or email us, we’ll deliver the superior customer service to make your dreams a reality. We work hard to get you off!

We believe that supporting the businesses that support us is not only logical but the best way to keep our community growing and going strong. These men know our needs and wants because they have them too. You can see many of their employees manning boths inside the leather markets at Mid Atlantic Leather, International Mr. Leather, Folsom East,and Folsom. Some companies are even starting to make inroads into events all around Europe!

Rule Number Two

This might seem beyond obvious, considering the topic of this article, but the second rule is all about the company website. This is your window to the organization as well as the products they want to sell you. Basic questions you might ask yourself when viewing a website will being with:

  • Is it easy to navigate
  • Can you find what you are looking for
  • Are the photos clear and easy to view
  • Do the product detail notes provide you with enough info to make a choice
  • Can you compare products and pricings easily
  • Is the selection large, specialized, or limited
  • Do they list the details of their history within our community
  • Does the site show you the product but also a model wearing/using it and possible accessories
  • Can you create an account and or receive extra benefits for doing so

Rule Number Three

Now we get to what this process is all about; the product you want to buy. Sometimes we see something and don’t look beyond the nice photograph. You must resist your impulse to do this with online shopping. Here is where you need to look past that and go to the “details” section to find out what you will be really getting for your money.


A truly reputable merchant wants to provide you with the most information about its product that it has. This includes important distinctions for usage. For example. With dildos there is the ACTUAL or TRUE length but also the INSERTABLE length. This is information you would want to know before buying.


Gear Essentials, which has an amazing reputation within the gay male leather/fetish community, goes so far with its metal products to not only list the full measurements, but also the WEIGHT. If you are purchasing a ball weight, you really want to make sure you know just how much you are asking your boys to hold.
They also have a great ADULT blog, that you can access from their main website, that gives more product information, how to use it as well as extra information and tips!


When websites provide you with low amounts of information it proves that they have no idea what they are selling, how to use the product, or care about your happiness with the item. They want to grab your money and go!

Rule Number Four

It’s all about that customer service BABY! There are two major times when you will need to speak to someone in customer service at an online merchant. Both times are significantly important and tell you a lot about the company, their products and how much they value and respect their customers.


A: When you are still in the deciding portion of your purchase but need a bit more information about it, shipping costs, returns or anything else you might wonder about, customer service should be a lifeline to help you. We believe that it is best when you are able to call and speak with a real life person until all of your questions are answered to your satisfaction. If a company only has email services, this should be a red flag.


Email is not useful for customer service because there could be an excessive amount of back-and-forth to get your answers, possibly speaking to multiple people, with varying levels of knowledge, not to mention the wait time between return correspondence. Companies that work this way are usually simply middle men for the products they sell. They are not members of our community, do not have physical stores anywhere and are only reading product descriptions from a catalogue.


Your first contact with a new company must be a positive experience. If it is not, they surely will not provide better service in the future. For this reason we prefer to speak with people that know about the products but also use them. This way we can gain the most amount of information, as quickly as possible from someone who has been on our side of the counter.


B: If you have an issue with the product, a return, a shipping issue or even payment problem, then you will need to speak with customer service. As we stated above, this is why being able to converse with a live person is so important. Do you really want to detail all of your issues with someone via email for this? Probably not.


This is also the time when many companies show their true faces. At this point, they have your money, so their incentive to provide you with proper customer care can be limited. For these types of businesses it is all about getting the quick dollar and moving on to another sucker. Many complain about no responses to inquiries, misinformation as well as a team of individuals that have fast “I am so sorry” but never any ways to solve your concerns.

Shipping, Returns & Reviews

These three categories can be misleading and be the stuff of shopping nightmares.

Shipping

Unless you have the option to pick up your purchase in one of the merchant’s brick and mortar shops, you will need to choose an option for shipping. Some companies will provide “free shipping” which may or may not come with additional fees for those living out of the country or wish to have their gear expedited.

Whatever you do, always make sure to choose the option with TRACK and TRACE. This way you will know not only when your package is being delivered but also if there are any concerns within the transit route.

Returns

Before giving any company money, make sure that you have read their return policy. Some items can be returned within a 30-60-90 day period but certain types of gear such as jockstraps cannot be returned once the package has been opened.


Be wary of those companies that refuse to give you a full refund of your purchase price, charge you a restocking fee, or flat out only provide store credit. Once you have their products, essentially they have you by the balls. Many times trying to return a product and get a store credit is so much hassle that guys just walk away from their money to avoid the stress and continued trauma.


Also those stores with a store credit policy are much less likely to value your business, treat you with respect, respond to your concerns in a timely manner or provide a customer oriented service experience because they already have your money!

Reviews

Once upon a time you could put a small amount of faith in customer reviews. Companies like YELP! helped to establish the review process become an important business tool for the masses but unscrupulous companies soon caught on and began having staff write positive reviews, pay others to do the same, and even created review pages on their own website that they had total control over and never. They never publish critical ones.


Because of this, we put no stock in online reviews. What you can do is ask your friends for recommendations but always remember that we each will have different experiences with the same company. Over time, you might start out with a positive experience with one, but it may deteriorate. This is how too many business operate now.

Our Experiences

We decided to make a few online purchases to see how three separate companies were able to handle our orders. The companies did not know that we would be reviewing them or their products. None of the three have ever done business with our non-profit, donated any money or even attempted to advertise on our site. These are our experiences, and yours may differ.

Fort Troff

Fort Troff may be one of the newer of the large leather/fetish gear companies but they also have one of the largest selections of products. They prove their commitment to our community by showing up at all of the large leather events and man a VERY LARGE and interactive booth.

“It all started with a sex party. A dark, warehouse-style sex party where anything could happen. To better serve the men who came back every month to play hard, our founder opened a shop inside selling the basics — quality cock rings, dildos, and lube. Today, our team still road-tests every single product, ensuring unparalleled quality and performance. We are 100% committed to you, our loyal customers, and have been since day one. Come play at the Fort.”

We purchased one of their cock pumps. The Banshee Cock Pump is a high tech electric pump designed to “get you swole”.

Company member of our community Yes 
Efficient Website Yes 
Quality Product Yes 
Excellent Customer Service Yes 
Full Product Price Refund Yes 

Mr. B

Mr. B is one of the larger leather/fetish suppliers in Europe. They have a flagship store in Amsterdam but also shops in Belgium and Berlin.

“The company of Mister B began with the opening of its first shop in the Warmoesstraat, Amsterdam on the 2nd of March 1994. At that time the range of stock we were able to offer was limited, but with an energetic enthusiasm for fetish leather and rubber clothing also SM accessories and toys for men, began the foundation for the ongoing development of our exciting company. Our workshop for making the leather clothes was then situated on the second floor of the shop premises, and we were at that time able to offer the service of making leather pants and chaps in one day . Nowadays our stock and range of leather goods is very extensive, but we are still pleased to offer the service of custom made to measure leather clothing to clients personal requirements. In 1998 the year of an extremely successful Gay Games here in Amsterdam Mister B began the process of building up our Wholesale and Internet services for our clients and customers. Due to the success and popularity of these services offered we then acquired still within the Warmoestraat the office and warehouse space required to deal with clients orders. Having outgrown these former premises our current offices and warehouse which we relocated to in 2007 is now big enough to offer a larger range of products and services to satisfy the ever increasing requirements of our valued customers. We are now situated within the Amstel Industrial Area close to Amsterdam. Mister B Wholesale and Internet BV delivers to customers and over 500 shops worldwide daily.”

From Mr. B we purchased two dildos. They have a large selection so we had to remember the adage, The longer you look at the dildo, the smaller it gets. We decided on the Fucktools Drilling Don Dildo and the Dark Crystal Knunth Black Dildo.

Company member of our community Yes 
Efficient Website Yes 
Quality Product Yes 
Excellent Customer Service Yes 
Full Product Price Refund Yes 

The Chain Gang

The Chain Gang has been in business for over 25 years. They are located in Florida, in the United States. They do not have a physical store that you can visit but their website does possess a significant amount of products. They sell many items that our community would be interested in such as cock rings and ball weights but essentially, they are for body piercing jewelry. They do not sell clothes, toys or other items you would find in any of the other discussed shops.

Of note about the Chain Gang is that they are not members of our community, are not owned, managed or staffed by gay male leather/fetish employees or attend any of our major events. They do not have a customer service number but you many contact them via their email.

They also do not have a full price refund policy, only providing store credit.

“Having been in the business for over 25 years now, we offer a huge selection of a variety of body piercing jewelry pieces as well as the best customer service backed by a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. We only sell body piercing jewelry that is manufactured from the finest quality materials. We are very selective in our products and display designs by some of the best body jewelry designers in the world along with our own private line. The USA, the UK, and Canada make up about 99% of our body jewelry line and nothing is from China!”

From them we purchased the Rounded Oval Ball Stretcher and the Weighted Rounded Oval Ball Stretcher.

Company member of our community  No
Efficient Website  NO
Quality Product Yes 
Excellent Customer Service  NO
Full Product Price Refund  NO

Buyer Beware

If you only remember one thing from this article it should be that you are the customer but must also do your homework before handing over your hard earned cash to an online merchant. Not every company that wants to do business with our community has your, or any of our collective, best interests at heart. We have more than enough of our own companies that have not only been there for us over the decades but in essence helped create the culture we all lovingly enjoy, that need our support, now more than ever!

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