SAN FRANCISCO—The 31st annual Folsom Street Fair whipped up a good time for leather and fetish enthusiasts today in San Francisco, as over 400,000 people gathered across 13 blocks to celebrate the leather subculture.
The Folsom Street Fair, also referred to as “Folsom,” takes place between 8th and 13th Street in the city’s South of Market district. Since it’s first festival in 1984, it has remained the world’s largest leather exposition, featuring over 200 fetish booths. The festival has been known as a celebration for men and women to embrace their sexual identity and exotic interests.
According to Queerty’s brief history of Folsom, the festival was started to celebrate the leather scene forming in the gay community, a subculture that was rapidly expanding after its initial foundations in the late 1930s. The first leather bar to open was Sailor Boy Tavern, where Navy boys could convene to meet other males.
In the early 1940s, thousands of Navy men were being discharged for homosexual activity. Upon discharge, they were released in major port cities, such as San Francisco. The city’s South of Market district became a central hub for working-class, and primarily single men. In the mid-1960s, the South of Market population merged with the gay leather scene to create the foundation of the liberal community it is known as today.
Over the decades, the Folsom Street Fair has evolved to become a major philanthropy event. This year, the event is said to have raised over $325,000 last year, and will be supporting 16 local and national non-profit LGBTQAII and community organizations this year.