What do black leather armbands mean?
February 2, 2009 7:20 AM   Subscribe

In the gay leather subculture, what do those black leather bands around a bicep mean (if anything)?

Very NSFW: example. Is it like a hanky code or something? Does the side the person wears it on tell sexual position? Or is it just decoration?

My googling hasn't worked very well.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (10 answers total)
Not an export on the gay leather scene, but professional athletes wear them too, purely for vanity. There was an article in the Times recently about this- pretty funny, actually.

The main explanation is that it makes the muscles of the upper arm stand out- and emphasizes that it is muscle, and not pudge.
posted by charmcityblues at 7:40 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

In general, left is top; right is bottom.

This is true for keys, hankies, nipple rings, and a number of other things.

I am not sure if this is true for all arm band wearers or the specific arm band wearer you have seen.
posted by hworth at 7:44 AM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

In general, left is top; right is bottom.

Interesting. Do guys really separate into two camps and just choose just one or the other? If so, why?
posted by caddis at 8:49 AM on February 2, 2009

Some guys choose top; some choose bottom. Others choose both. The term for that in the gay world is "versatile"; it is congruent with "switch" in the BDSM subculture. It's a bit more awkward to flag both but there are definitely guys around with two armbands.
posted by jet_silver at 9:06 AM on February 2, 2009

What they said, about left/top, right/bottom, but in my experience it also often means: "Look at me, I've got big muscles."
posted by Robert Angelo at 9:39 AM on February 2, 2009

Basically, what hworth said. Left=top, right=bottom. Wearing both could mean "versatile," or it could mean the wearer isn't really thinking about the traditional signals and just thinks it looks good.

(It's actually also possible that some guys may just put an armband on to look "hot" without realizing or caring which side its on and what that supposedly means - this is more likely to happen at something like a "circuit dance party." If you're at a place or event that is in any way part of the leather scene, then you can expect the wearer to know that the choice of side is a signal.)

The only other meaning it might carry is if the armband is colored in any way, in which case the colors refer to the same things on the "hanky code." (and to that, I must add that the only colors that anybody really uses are black, grey, red, yellow, light blue, dark/navy blue, hunter green, orange.)
posted by dnash at 10:11 AM on February 2, 2009

Also of note, caddis, is that some separate into NEITHER camp. For some, buttsecks =/= sex.
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:16 AM on February 2, 2009

Also, some men are versatile so may wear bands around both biceps.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:06 PM on February 2, 2009

In sports (soccer specifically) black armbands are often worn as a sign of mourning, after a death. Generally the whole team will where them together; they're sort of part of the uniform for that match.
posted by cmyr at 2:36 PM on February 2, 2009

cmyr: that is undoubtedly completely not relevant to this.

dmash has the most accurate answer.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:12 PM on February 3, 2009

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