In the past, leather clothing was not only very hard to find but also very expensive. It didn’t come on the rack, so you’d have to pay a fortune for something made-to-measure. That’s why leather gear was generally associated with older men because they were usually the only ones who could afford it.

I remember buying my very first leather –  a really hot pair of chaps which cost (and gave) me a pretty packet – in the early pre-internet 90s when I was about 24, and my friends said I looked ‘old’ in them! In those days, the leather bars were packed solid only with full-leather guys, but they were basically all aged over 30 (which is, like, really old when you are 24). Youngsters, who didn’t have the money for expensive leather, couldn’t get in, so logically, leather gear equalled “old man”.

A lot has happened in these thirty years since then. Well, first of all, businesses like Mister B have made leather – in addition to a wide variety of other fetishes – more accessible and affordable for guys on smaller budgets, such as students or career starters. This has completely changed the social dynamics in our fetish community. Not only have we come to realise that you’re no less of a leatherman in a pair of Nikes than in a pair of boots, but visit any fetish party in Europe and you’re bound to see guys who look like they’ve just turned 18 running around semi-naked in a leather harness or jock. More interesting though is that we’ve also got used to seeing attractive, grey-haired, muscle-pec, older men doing and wearing exactly the same thing, but with a measure of pride, vanity, and self-confidence that, like a good wine, takes years to mature. Our social horizons and expectations have changed and now include a great age diversity.

There’s a simple explanation for this: ‘old’ is actually older than before. According to the scientific concept of ageing (measured according to your likeliness of dying from age within the next twelve months), old doesn’t ‘officially’ begin these days until around 70. As society, in general, is becoming both increasingly fitter and healthier, people are also generally feeling physically younger for longer. That’s why 50 is the new 35, and the age of the leather daddy has dawned. It’s not unusual for ‘kids’ these days to share the club dancefloor with silver-haired baby boomers – who can be a huge turn-on for many younger guys. After all, what’s not to find attractive in some grey hair, a mature mind, and an occasional fancy dinner in a posh restaurant? And let’s not forget about all that extensive sexual experience that comes with a man who knows what he wants and is worth its weight in gold when it comes to certain BDSM practices. But, it’s not enough just to be older; daddies should also be well-groomed, muscular, and professionally and financially successful. Let’s give the daddies a hand for giving us all so much bulged inspiration!

The majority of older, grey-haired guys, however, aren’t out there, swinging their bait to hook a younger lover. We might be living longer than our grandparents, but that doesn’t mean that the body doesn’t age. I don’t want to scare anyone, but male hormone levels generally sink as we grow older, which can lead to excess belly fat, hair loss, thinner skin (i.e., wrinkles), and lower energy levels. And no matter how hard you try, no amount of steroids, hair dyes, or cosmetic surgery is actually going to halt that process forever. In an era and a community in which youth and beauty are given the highest values, losing your looks, physical vigour, and sexual allures can cause serious mental health issues in many ageing gays. This issue has grown so much in recent years and it’s even been given a name: Internalised Gay Ageing (IGA). Especially because most of us don’t have kids, let alone a charming set of grandkids or perhaps even partners, staying at home because you don’t appreciate your mirror image can be the first step on a downward spiral to feeling ignored and excluded. As physical attractiveness is so deeply rooted in our own perception of homosexuality, we often put ourselves subconsciously under pressure to look and seem younger – until we realise it’s too late and not quite working. But there is a remedy: mattering. Making each other feel that we’re all significant and worthy, regardless of our age or looks. Unfortunately, this isn’t an internal solution that every man can fix for himself, but instead, an external counteraction that we need to share with those around us.

That’s why I often get angry when guys in their mid-twenties self-identify as daddies. Although it’s certainly legitimate at any age to express an interest in sexually dominating younger, legal-aged partners, these whippersnappers have reduced “daddies” into yet another gay chat category like “bear”, “otter”, or “twink”. I recently asked a sparkly-eyed 28-year-old why he calls himself leather daddy, and he said: “Daddy has nothing to do with age. It’s about mentality.” I disagree. Real daddies survived the AIDS pandemic of the 80s and 90s and remember life either locked in a closet or in fear of being “outed” – which is not the same as “free”. They inspire and motivate the rest of us to confront the fear of ageing with little more hope. And I’d rather see these young guys spending time with their older counterparts who don’t fulfil the daddy criteria and are perhaps feeling lonely and devalued. We’re a community after all, and communities are supposed to look after each other.

Here’s some food for thought: a sizzling hot friend of mine, the same age as myself, once showed up at an event wearing the sexiest leather clothes I’d ever seen. He’d got them as a present from an older friend of his who he’d been hanging out with, “mattering”. His older friend had tons of expensive leather clothing that didn’t fit anymore. Some of it was about thirty years old – as old as my first pair of chaps would have been today if I hadn’t sold them on eBay years ago – but it had been very well-tended and it looked even better than new. Mattering, therefore, can sometimes come with an unexpected leather reward, even though that should never be the reason for supporting others in our community. And if you care for yourself and others just as you care for your leathers, it won’t be long before you will be asking someone literally old enough to be your son:

“Who’s your Daddy?”