The Boot Company (BootCo.) is a men’s-only leather club based in Brisbane, Australia. Established in 1990, it is the longest continually operating men’s-only leather club in Australia. BootCo organises monthly club nights in Brisbane, hosts an annual Leather Dinner, and administers the Mr Queensland Leather and Queensland Leather Boy competitions. BootCo maintains relationships with local community organisations through fundraising and event support, and is an Incorporated Association under the Associations Incorporation Act 1981 (Qld).
The Boot Company was established in 1990 following the success of the inaugural Mr Queensland Drummer competition that year. Proprietors of Kedron-based M&J Leather Max Le Marchand and John Cupitt together with manager of Fortitude Valley’s Terminus Nightclub Stephen Claffey desired to create an inclusive social environment for men celebrating leather, denim, and uniforms, and distributed a survey to gauge community interest in the formation of a local leather club. Prior to the club’s establishment, men interested in leather had gathered at the Alliance Hotel in Spring Hill, attended private parties, or met at camps organised by the Ranger’s Motor Club, which had been operating since 1980.
The first BootCo club meeting was billed as a Sunday afternoon ‘recovery session’ at the Terminus Hotel following the Queen’s Birthday Ball that had been hosted the previous night. Club meets were initially monthly before progressing to fortnightly, then returning to the original monthly format by 1991. Despite the fact that homosexual acts were not yet decriminalised in Queensland (the relevant sections of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) were amended on 29 November 1990), Over 190 men joined the club in the first year alone. The club was registered as an Incorporated Association under the Associations Incorporation Act 1981 (Qld) in 1991.
After the unexpected cancellation of the Mr Australian Drummer competition in 1993, BootCo established the Mr Queensland Leather (MQL) competition. The same year, a number of men connected to BootCo formed their own club, BrisBears, aimed at serving the local Bear community. This organisation still operates today.
By the late 1990s, club participation was in decline due to changing fashions and negative attitudes towards the leather and fetish communities. In response, dedicated members reinvented the club strategically. The monthly club newsletter was expanded into Corium magazine, complete with raunchy stories, racy illustrations and safe sex messages. A younger audience was encouraged to explore leather and fetish, and the club established regular workshops promoting safe and risk aware sexual practices. BootCo members marched in the 2000 and 2001 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
In the late 2000s the club again faced stagnation, and responded by promoting its activities among the wider community. While remaining a men’s-only space, in 2009 the club collaborated with other pansexual local leather organisations to present the inaugural Brisbane Leather Pride Festival. Successive club committees placed new focus on kink and fetish, and the club operated a variety of workshops on various kink topics.
In 2014 BootCo donated a quantity of archival material to the State Library of Queensland and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives. The same0 year, the club’s connection with young members was reinvigorated with the establishment of Boot Youth, which encouraged members under 30 and those new to the local leather community. This group continues to meet fortnightly for social events and short discussions or workshops. In 2015 Queensland Pups and Handlers (Q-PAH) was established independently of BootCo, however maintains a close connection to the club through membership and the annual pup-play night ‘Howl’ and Leather pup competition hosted by BootCo.
As per the requirements of the Associations Incorporation Act 1981 (Qld), BootCo is governed by a Constitution, to which all members are required to abide by.
The objects of the association are:
- To provide an environment for men interested in collecting, wearing or displaying Leather, Denim and Uniforms in a social atmosphere, while promoting an interest in Leather, Denim and Uniforms through community activity.
- To provide a safe space for men to explore and learn about the Leather, Denim and Uniform scene and its traditions and customs.
- To promote fellowship and interchange amongst club members.
- To promote good public relations while encouraging a general public acceptance and understanding of the Leather, Denim and Uniform lifestyle.
- To conduct events throughout the year, including an annual Mr Queensland Leather competition, in furtherance of the above purposes, either by itself or in conjunction with other invited organisations, with a view to providing community service for people in need.
- To promote interest in the preservation of our Leather heritage and the sustainability of the Leather environment.
- To liaise with other similar groups in the community and engage in all activities which assist in achieving these objects.
The Club Logo
The official BootCo logo was adopted in 1990. It consists of three boots, symbolic of the three core aspects of BootCo – leather, denim and uniform. The club also uses a reduced logo consisting of an imprint of a boot sole with the text BOOT Co. BRISBANE on the arch.
Competitions and Titles
The Mr Queensland Drummer and Qld Drummer Boy competition was first held in 1990 prior to BootCo’s establishment, however this competition was operated under the auspices of BootCo until its cessation in 1992. Winners were eligible to enter into the Mr Australia Drummer and Mr Australian Drummer Boy competition, which in turn permitted entry into the Mr South Pacific Drummer and International Mr Drummer competitions.
After the unexpected cancellation of the Mr Australian Drummer competition in 1993, BootCo established the Mr Queensland Leather (MQL) competition, Queensland’s longest running annual leather event. Several MQL winners have competed nationally and internationally, including 2000 Mr Queensland Leatherboy Chris Nield, who became the first BootCo representative at the International Mister Leather (IML) competition in 2001. In 2008 Mr Queensland Leather Pierre Brand claimed the Australian and New Zealand Leather title and competed in the 2009 IML competition. In 2014, BootCo awarded the Mr Queensland Leather sash to Max Mack, the first Australian male title holder of a lived trans experience, and the Queensland Leatherboy title to 13 Bootblack. Max and 13 represented BootCo in the 2015 IML and IMBB competitions respectively. 2015 Mr Queensland Leather recipient David Eisentraut competed in the 2016 IML competition, and 2016 titleholder Benjamin Bullivant was first runner-up in the inaugural Australian Leatherman Contest, held in Sydney in February 2017.
Each year, the recipient of Mr Queensland Leather is custodian of a perpetual sash for formal dress events. Manufactured by Lucrezia & De Sade, the leather sash features a leather flag emblem, the words Mr QLD Leather, and an embroidered BootCo logo. Other prizes are also included in the winner’s package.
In addition to the Mr Queensland Leather and Queensland Leather Boy titles, BootCo administers a number of other smaller competitions, namely Leather pup and Leather Daddy. Of these titles, only Mr Queensland Leather and Queensland Leather Boy are subject to several rounds incorporating an interview, formal and minimal attire, and stage presence, making these the two premier titles administered by the club.
Since its establishment, BootCo has committed to supporting the local GLBTIQ+ community, most notably through sponsoring the activities of community aid organisations. In its early years, BootCo established and administered BootAIDS, a charitable fund supporting Queenslanders affected by HIV-AIDS. Later fundraising efforts concentrated on local organisations that provided support for mental illness, HIV and youth work. By 2017, contributions totalling over $60,000 had been dispersed to charitable groups including The Gay and Lesbian Welfare Association, St Luke’s Nursing Service, Open Doors Youth Service, The Queensland Aids Council, Queensland Positive People, Spiritus Positive Directions and Wattlebrae.