Brüt is New York City’s monthly leather party, which also hosts regular events in San Francisco and Los Angeles (Atlanta in July). Its popularity is sky-rocketing: the tickets for the New York event sell out within hours , and it was featured in the New York Times, quickly establishing itself as an essential part of the city’s nightlife. The promoters have aspired to attract a whole new generation of men, offering an evolved and inclusive approach to the scene. Regardless of age or socioeconomic status (they offer cheaper drink prices), they encourage men to come in their sexiest — be it singlets, jockstraps or rubber shorts. In a city that can be overpriced and cliquey, perhaps this refreshing approach is what has made the party such a massive success?
Event co-producer Dan Darlington spent much time at the original Manhole in Chicago when he was younger. It was a seedy, dark hole-in-the-wall, with incredible DJs and music. “It was everything to me,” Darlington says. “I wanted to recreate that but I wanted it to be a leather party and I wanted it to be even seedier. I was kind of trying to bring a little bit of what was going on in Germany to New York, which I felt New York was also lacking: that kind of freedom to be sexual . . . to an extent. You can’t get away with as much as they get away with in Germany, but you can still have that feeling.”
Darlington describes Manhattan today as “disinfected,” a result of ex-mayor Rudy Giuliani’s campaign to scrub the city clean of the very thing that used to drive young people to the city in the first place. “The artists can’t survive here, the sex clubs aren’t here anymore, the strip clubs aren’t here anymore — so it’s a different place.”
Much of the older crowd have experienced the joys of the leather scene with the permission to be sexy, but Darlington feels that the younger gay men have been deprived such experiences. “As a party promoter myself I really want this younger generation to have this connection to something and I felt that I could start with this — I could start by letting them feel confidence and feel sexy,” he says.
Even in today’s world with the progress that we’ve made, the leather scene is still perceived as deviant by many, which makes it more difficult for some young gay men to explore and accept this side of their sexuality. It requires a sort of second “coming out,” which Darlington hopes his party will help. “It is getting past that deviant outlook that they have — it is a negative outlook that they have at first or they’re scared,” he says. “They’re kind of my main target because I want so badly for them to feel that — to experience it. At least to go and say, ‘It’s not for me.’”
“The thing I do hope comes out of it, more so, is that the leather community benefits from it,” Darlington says. They’d partnered with the Leather Man, who noticed an increase in sales around the time of each party. Nasty Pig contacted them too, claiming to experience similar spikes in sales, which Darlington is particularly happy about. “We want to help everybody else,” he explains. “We’re DJs first and foremost before we’re party promoters. For us, we want the nightlife in New York to do really, really well.”
Brüt began as an underground party in the basement of the Santos Party House in lower Manhattan. Darlington describes the space as a punk venue, which fits the dirty, masculine vibe they’ve created. The party then expanded to both the upstairs and down, offering the perfect alternative to the tired circuit scene in Manhattan. The techno, tech-house and nu-disco sounds have kept the underground feeling, despite its ever-growing popularity and success. Coupled with the freedom to be one’s self despite age or income — not to mention the raw sexuality the event brings — and you have yourself a hit.
“People are wanting to experience this leather world that they were afraid of before and that Brüt popping their cherry was just that kick in the ass that they needed to actually go and realize that yeah, this is for me. This is where I want to be.”