The 13 Best Songs About Leather
Like your parents when you’re not around, rock music has a thing for leather. Whether it’s the substance’s luster, its animal origins, or the fact that it’s associated with bikers and dominatrices, metal and rock fans have always been really into leather jackets, pants, boots, gloves, and gauntlets. But it wasn’t until punk and metal in the ’70s and ’80s merged ’50s greaser culture, outlaw road warrior attitude, and S&M gear, that leather became the ultimate fashion accessory for the aggressive outsider.
Today marks the beginning of this year’s International Mr. Leather, an annual convention in Chicago, Illinois, that honors those who have made leather the guiding force of their lives. And given how huge a cultural event this gathering is — 2019 marks its 40th year — we thought it would be foolish for us not to offer the attendees a soundtrack for their good times. This list ranks songs spanning all across rock’s many genres — from modern synthwave to snarling street metal — that celebrate a life spent wrapped in a comforting cocoon of shining black.
Here are the 13 best songs about leather…
13. Carpenter Brut - Leather Teeth (2018)
Though the name presents what is overall a gross concept, the title track from Carpenter Brut’s 2018 release certainly earns the concept. The song is a brooding, filthy synth-rock track that channels both glam metal excess and house party grime. Though more chaps than jacket, this banger definitely deserves its place on this list.
12. Deftones - Leathers (2012)
It’s rare to hear a rock song take a psychological approach to leather. But Deftones found a way, focusing on the concept of leather as cured flesh and singing about shedding skin to reveal one’s true self. Though not quite as satisfying as the idea of Chino Moreno in a black police hat and aviator shades, the track’s nuance adds some much-needed thematic diversity to this line-up.
11. Absu - Swords And Leather (1997)
Now we’re talking! Texan occult metallers Absu create a total barbarian hesher fantasy with this rabid speed metal track about every metalhead’s dream. The song is so fast and furious that it feels like a tribute to all the great satanic leather-worshippers who came before Absu. Also, it contains the lyric, “Black fucking leather is my way of life,” so you really can’t go wrong here.
10. 3 Inches Of Blood - Leather Lord (2012)
Raise your claw and scream! Canadian trad-metal shredders 3 Inches Of Blood’s homage to leather is all about a supreme heavy metal figurehead, wearing the leathers of beasts and traitors he’s actually killed. There’s even commentary about his process — “Tanning and crusting and dyeing their flesh” — for those of you looking to do some DIY fashion design at home.
9. Carpathian Forest - Black Shining Leather (1998)
If this list wasn’t sexual before, it is now. The title track of the debut full-length by Norwegian black metal perverts Carpathian Forest opens with a porno sample and doubles down with lyrics about practicing BDSM in the cold wastes of Scandinavia. This one isn’t exactly the most informed depiction of bondage, but it definitely sounds like it was written by someone with a FetLife profile.
8. Gama Bomb - Give Me Leather (2018)
Irish thrashers Gama Bomb take a bit more of a late-night scrambled-channel approach to BDSM with Give Me Leather. Rather than focus on sadism or perversion, the band pays tribute to the high-booted low-budget S&M queens of the ‘80s. While some might find this hilarious and nostalgic approach a little cheesy, the rollicking speed metal riffs at its core make this anthem a hard one to hate.
7. Judas Priest - Leather Rebel (1990)
If any song sums up how metalheads feel when they first slide on a leather jacket, it’s this one from Judas Priest’s 1990 album Painkiller. Leather Rebel is equal parts realistic inner monologue and comic book fantasy, but it’s entirely awesome, and immediately makes one want to wear leather from head to foot. Meanwhile, if you’re Rob Halford, this track is just a description what it’s like to get dressed every day.
6. Midnight - Prowling Leather (2014)
In the ‘80s, the metalhead as monster or villain was a theme found in most mainstream movies, and few songs sum up that archetype like Midnight’s Prowling Leather. Chock full of sneering back-alley menace, this track paints the metalhead as a footsoldier of the post-apocalypse, living and dying by his switchblade. Hopefully, the song’s protagonist get killed by the plucky jock lead.
5. Guns N’ Roses - Black Leather (1993)
Yes, we’re aware that this is a Sex Pistols cover, but we all know this track better suits G’N’R. The brooding, mid-paced stomp and nihilistic swagger of Black Leather sounds like it was made for Axl and Slash, and the haunting backing wails channel the everyday thoughts of an urchin living under the street. This one is darker than you might think, so definitely don’t expect Paradise City when you throw it on.
4. Metallica - Hit The Lights (1983)
The opening track of Metallica’s 1983 debut Kill ‘Em All doesn’t have ‘leather’ in the title, and isn’t necessarily all about metal’s favorite fabric. But it does open with the line, “No life till leather” (also the name of their infamous demo), proclaiming the high spot leather holds in the band’s list or priorities. Besides, few bands pushed the leather jacket lifestyle in metal quite as hard as these dudes did.
3. Venom - Women, Leather, And Hell (1984)
The three food groups! In classic fashion, British black metal forefathers Venom don’t waste time with poetry and nuance on this rager from 1984’s At War With Satan. The song concerns practicing black magic, being turned on by women, and…well, does there need to be anything else? Somehow, Venom took a tawdry topic and made it dirtier, leaving a legion of burgeoning satanists with unrealistic expectations about their first sexual experiences.
2. Saxon - Denim And Leather (1981)
“Where were you in ‘79, when the damn began to burst?” Metal was young in 1981, but NWOBHM legends Saxon were already writing its history. Intrinsic to that culture were denim vests and leather jackets, adopted by the warlike biker hippies of the early ‘70s. For the slowly-growing community of headbangers rising to rock’s forefront in Britain at the time, this bouncing, jaunty tune was a joyous battle cry.
1. Judas Priest - Hell Bent for Leather (1979)
No contest: Judas Priest’s steely anthem to outlaw badasses is easily the greatest leather song of all time. It wasn’t enough that Rob Halford used a mixture of biker garb and S&M gear to completely redefine metal’s wardrobe — he had to write a track about a motorcycle-riding renegade who cuts down all of his competitors and rivals in a flash of black and chrome. The ultimate track for anyone who’s unironically worn a pair of fingerless leather gloves.
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