Walking into the Leather Man, I immediately felt out of place. Although an adorable woman stood behind the counter, everything on the first floor of the shop was catered to men. The vast majority of it, as you’d imagine, was leather gear. From leather pants to harnesses and briefs, they had it all. The store had a distinct smell of leather, which I’ve been conditioned to love from years of practicing kink.
The woman behind the counter welcomed us while we poked around. An older gentleman suggested we check out the “dungeon” downstairs. I was obviously curious to see more than leather attire, since there were no toys to be seen on the main level. However, I immediately pulled back from the staircase when I looked down into it.
The black iron spiral staircase gave the dungeon character, but it was old, creaky, and very confining. Now, I’m not afraid of heights or anything, but there was something terrifying about this tight staircase. My friends, all much smaller in size than I, reluctantly descended downstairs. I stayed and made conversation with the staff upstairs instead.
I observed as a few customers went in and out of the front door. All were men, and all seemed like regular patrons. They addressed the older gentleman behind the counter by name, and one even asked for his usual order. It seemed that the Leather Man had an active, loyal customer base.
I leaned against the glass counter by the door, peering down the death-stairs to get the best look of the dungeon below. A customer came in and purchased two vials from the counter I was touching. I watched the employee remove them from the glass case but I could not for the life of me figure out what was inside. When a friend of mine came back up and also could not identify the vials, I decided to ask the woman working there.
“They’re poppers,” she said.
Poppers, a slang term for a substance containing alkyl nitrites, is a recreational drug used to relax the muscles of the throat and anus. It has been commonly used among the gay community in the US for many years, although several countries like Australia and France have outlawed their recreational use. Several customers came in to purchase them in the short time I spent inside the store, making them seem like a very popular feature of the Leather Man.
When my friends returned from the dungeon, they described what I had missed out on. The dungeon was very focused on large insertables and heavy-duty bondage. It featured steel shackles, a large metal cage, as well as sounding and other medical equipment. From what I saw, the color scheme downstairs was much like the main level: full of black leather, silver metal gear, and dark, dull, “manly” colored dildos. It was a far cry from the feminist sex shops like Good Vibes that I was used to.
Not all of the toys downstairs were body safe, but when asked about the materials of specific toys the female employee was honest and upfront about their safety. In fact, both employees I interacted with were friendly and helpful. Even though I was clearly out of my comfort zone in the store, the employees were warm and welcoming.
Would I go back to the Leather Man? Probably not. But that’s largely due to my own anxieties about tight spaces and the fact that I am not a gay leather Daddy. I would, however, recommend it to my queer masculine friends or men into heavy kink. While I personally gravitate to more feminine sex shops, I’m glad the gay men of New York have a safe space that very clearly caters to their needs.
Address: 111 Christopher Street, New York, NY. 10014
Open 12:00pm – 8:00 pm, 7 days a week