The Leather Pride flag, a symbol for the BDSM and fetish subculture.
The Leather Pride Flag is a symbol used by the leather subculture since the 1990s. It was designed by Tony DeBlase in 1989, and was quickly embraced by the gay Leather community. It has since become associated with Leather in general and also with related groups.
The flag was designed by Tony DeBlase. He first presented the design at the International Mr. Leather event in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. on May 28, 1989.
Initial reaction to the flag was mixed. According to DeBlase's article A Leather Pride Flag,
"Some, particularly on the east coast, reacted positively to the concept, but were quite concerned, some even offended, that I had not involved the community in helping to create the design."
The original flag is on display at the Leather Archives and Museum.
Creator DeBlase consistently refused to explain explain the colors and design, insisting that each person could do that for themselves.
In DeBlase's own words:
"The flag is composed of nine horizontal stripes of equal width. From the top and from the bottom, the stripes alternate black and royal blue. The central stripe is white. In the upper left quadrant of the flag is a large red heart. I will leave it to the viewer to interpret the colors and symbols."
Although the flag is common in the gay leather community, it is not an exclusively gay symbol and represents the entire leather community.
Furthermore, while designed as a symbol for the Leather subculture, it is also widely used within the BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) subculture.
Although DeBlase is quoted as saying the design is copyrighted, there is no formal copyright filing under his name at the U.S. Copyright Office's searchable online records. However, United States Copyright Law does not necessarily require registration in order to ensure protection. Under the doctrine of laches, however, inaction by DeBlase to protect his proported copyright would negate future copyright claims.
Various groups have adapted the design and sold it commercially. Examples include a proposed BDSM Rights Flag which combines a BDSM Emblem over stripes identical to those on the Leather Pride flag.