Sydney Bootblack Jon is giving back


Sydney Bootblack 2023 Jon Nguyen. Photo: Sydney Leather Men

Jon Nguyen has raised over $4000 for ACON and other causes during his time as Sydney Bootblack 2023 and will pass on the mantle during Sydney Leather Week in July.

The leather community is one that has a rich and complex history, with many aspects being unfamiliar to the wider LGBTQIA+ community, let alone the general public.

In Sydney, there is a large and active leather and kink community, who meet at recurring events along Oxford Street and Sydney’s neighbouring queer districts.

They are often seen as protectors of our community, as seen during this years’ Mardi Gras celebrations.

Jon Nguyen currently holds the title of Sydney Bootblack 2023, a prominent role in the Sydney leather community.

He explains what exactly that role is, and its importance to the community in an exclusive interview with QNews.

For those who don’t know, what is a bootblack?

In the leather and kink community, a bootblack is someone who cares for and maintains leather: clothing, footwear, gear, basically anything you can imagine that’s made out of leather. Some bootblacks will attend LGBTQ+ events and help their community look their best by shining their boots, most commonly.

On a typical bar night, I can expect to condition a leather motorcycle jacket to prevent cracking and mould build-up, or cleaning and shining a punk knee-high leather boot. I also take certain projects home from time to time.

While you have to be reasonably able-bodied to provide leather care, there is no modern stereotypical image of a bootblack. Just like people who are into leather and kink can be in all shapes and sizes, not just cis and male, provided they’re of legal age.

What role does a bootblack play in the leather community?

That’s entirely up to the bootblack. I started caring for leather because I wanted to make friends and connections in the community and see less leather go to waste. I believe that helps with sustainability and shows respect to the planet.

Generally, leather is an expensive investment and bootblacks help protect that investment.

As bootblacks, we provide a support role within the leather and kink community. Some bootblacks I know are charity fundraisers, and keepers of knowledge past and present, who really know the story of their community.

Some are multi-disciplinary, some run events and provide advice for anyone that needs it. We’re spread across the globe!

How did you go about earning the title of Sydney Bootblack? Can you explain the process of how that is chosen each year?

Each individual competition is organised differently. For my competition, which was held in March of 2023, we practised at kink events beforehand where we received feedback from patrons. On the competition date, we got on stage and demonstrated our bootblacking skills in front of an audience.

A few months before the competition date, I was practising my speech skills and looking up techniques to get up to speed and optimise my routine. We were graded on many criteria and I fortunately edged out the winning score.

What does the title mean to you?

I’ve had the opportunity to create a voice for a sector within the kink community that’s traditionally been overlooked, for which I’m extremely grateful. The title is also open to all genders – both cis and trans – which I’m more than happy to support.

You’ve done some significant fundraising for ACON during your time as Sydney Bootblack. Can you tell us why that organisation in particular was appealing to you?

Growing up, there was a lot of fear surrounding STDs and HIV. I remember the fear and anxiety the first time I had sex, and I don’t want anyone to feel alone without help and resources. I’m also quite passionate about mental health and positive representation for people of colour. So, I feel like ACON really aligns with that.

What else stands out as a highlight for you since you’ve been given the title?

Working with my Sydney title year siblings – Sydney Mr Leather 2023, Coach Jura and Sydney Ms Leather 2023, Iz Bear, has been nothing short of amazing. I’m very inspired by them and humbled by the outpouring of support from not just Sydney but Australia as a whole.

I’ve also had the pleasure of travelling to different states to do workshops for other kink organisations. It’s a joy to see so many diverse people interested in learning bootblacking.

Meeting other Aussie titleholders and the communities they represent, really makes you feel we’re so connected and intertwined.

Is there anything in particular that you hope to see in your successor to the title?

As a titleholder, there are things you’re expected to do for the community. Preparing for a title competition can also be very intense and nerve wracking.

At the same time, it can be a lot of fun! You get to support a cause or charity you really believe in. Also, there will be support from your community and other titleholders, past and present, who you can reach out for help or collaboration.

For my successor, whoever it is, I hope you are ready and I can’t wait to meet you.

SYDNEY LEATHER WEEK 2024 HIGHLIGHTS

Sydney Leather Week is between 19 July and 28 July this year and a plethora of events have already been announced, with more to come.

July 18th- Arts & Photography Exhibition

The grand launch of Sydney Leather Week 2024, featuring an Art & Photography Exhibition at Studio Kink. Come and show your support for SLW24 and our talented artists! Artwork displayed during the exhibition will be sold for charity. Starts at 6pm.

July 19th- Meat Rack

Meat Rack is a men’s only BDSM play party, held at 8pm on Friday, July 19. The event spans across three levels, and is at Our Secret Spot in Annandale.

July 19th- Dark ‘N’ Stormy

Held at the Rose of Australia in Erskineville, this event is hosted by Iz Bear, Sydney Ms Leather 2023. This event is a social for women in the fetish community, designed to complement the Meat Rack event that’s happening on the same night. Starts at 7pm.

July 20th- Eagle SYD

The Eagle BAR Sydney will be kicking off with another one of their renowned gatherings at the Burdekin Hotel from 8pm. We expect the night will be similar to past events, but undoubtedly bigger and better given the celebrations.

July 25th- BLUF Sydney Social

The BLUF (Breeches Leather Uniform Fan) Sydney Social is an opportunity to connect, socialise, and form bonds with leather men within a welcoming and accepting environment. The event is at the Burdekin Hotel from 7pm on July 25 and is presented by SLM Inc.

July 27th- Sydney Mr & Ms Leather 2024

At the end of Sydney Leather Week, the titles Sydney Mr Leather 2024 and Sydney Ms Leather 2024 will be chosen at the Paddington RSL from 7pm. The night promises to celebrate and recognise those in the leather community.

-For more information and the full list of Sydney Leather Week events go to https://linktr.ee/sydneyleatherweek

For the latest LGBTIQA+ Sister Girl and Brother Boy news, entertainment, community stories in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

Andrew M Potts

Andrew has been covering LGBTQIA+ issues for a range of publications in Australia over two decades and was the Asia-Pacific correspondent for global LGBTQIA+ news website Gay Star News.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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